What is microdosing and does it work?

Much of the early research on microdosing was anecdotal, consisting of enthusiastic survey responses from users who experienced improved attention and cognition, feelings of well-being, and relief from anxiety and depression. Laboratory studies with psilocybin and LSD microdoses appear to support these claims and show improvements in mood, attention and creativity. But these studies were generally small and did not compare a microdose with a placebo.

“You’re probably only going to participate in a microdosing trial at this point if you’re truly convinced it could help you,” says Dr. David Erritzoe, clinical director of the Center for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London. And when people expect to benefit from a drug, they usually do.

The two largest placebo-controlled microdosing studies were published last year, and they both suggest that the benefits people experience stem from the placebo effect. In the studies, volunteers used their own medications to participate and, what they didn’t know, were given active doses or a placebo packaged in identical capsules. After a few weeks, almost everyone’s mood and well-being had improved, regardless of what they had taken.

“I was initially surprised, but also a bit disappointed by the results, because when we set up the study, we were quite optimistic that microdosing could have an effect,” says Michiel van Elk, an assistant professor of cognitive psychology at Leiden University. . in the Netherlands who led one of the processes.

dr. Erritzoe, who led the other study, found that the drug’s efficacy was related to users’ expectations. If they took a placebo but thought it was a microdose, they felt better, and if they had an active dose but mistakenly suspected it was a placebo, they didn’t.

A third placebo-controlled study, published earlier this month by the University of Chicago, attempted to circumvent users’ expectations by giving participants four microdoses of LSD over the course of two weeks, but without telling them the purpose of the study or not. even what they took. Again, there was no difference between the LSD and placebo groups.

Still, some scientists point to evidence showing that microdosing has a direct impact on the brain to argue that its benefits are real. Using neuroimaging technology, researchers have shown changes in brain activity and connectivity after some small doses of LSD that are similar to what is seen with larger amounts of the drug. And a study in Denmark found that a microdose of psilocybin activated nearly half of the specific type of serotonin receptors that psychedelics act on to produce their hallucinogenic effects.

This post What is microdosing and does it work?

was original published at “https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/28/well/mind/microdosing-psychelics.html”