Author: Charles Frank

The popularity of microdosing of psychedelics: What does the science say?

what is microdosing

Plus, there are inherent risks if you’re driving, operating machinery, parenting, and doing other activities that require alert attentiveness. With all of that in mind, here’s what some experts and research presume about the possible health benefits of microdosing — though again, this could change. Getting started with microdosing is not only legally difficult, but these drugs are also unregulated, meaning you can’t always be sure of the dosage and potency of the substance. If you’re worried about your mental health, you may have tried several things when it comes to feeling better and happier—whether that’s exercise, meditation, behavioral health therapy, prescription medications or a combination. We don’t know as much about safety as we might have learned if not for the War on Drugs, which curtailed much of the research into psychedelics starting in the late 1960s.

  1. The dataset supporting the conclusions of this article is available on the Open Science Framework (
  2. Some advocates of decriminalization are looking forward to a safer product, and wider access that could include not having to see a medical professional to get a prescription or be under medical supervision when using psychedelics.
  3. While more than a thousand early studies linked psychedelic use with beneficial effects [12], there was a 40-year pause on psychedelic research following the prohibition of these substances [13].
  4. Microdosing, or consuming minimal amounts of an intoxicating substance, is a growing trend nationwide.

However, aspects like tolerance, potency and how long it takes an individual to “sober up” are less conclusive and vary from person to person. Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more. Energy healing, or energy medicine, can come in many different forms, including reiki, acupuncture, and forms of movement, and can involve touch or not…

Microdosing research complements the full-dose literature as clinical treatments are developed and neuropharmacological mechanisms are sought. This framework aims to inform researchers and clinicians as experimental microdosing research begins in earnest in the years to come. There isn’t a single, clearly recognized definition of microdosing for any psychedelic drug, and this complicates attempts to perform consistent research.

More People Are Microdosing for Mental Health. But Does It Work?

In this setting, healthcare professionals can respond in an emergency, and you know exactly what you’re taking and the dose. “The whole idea is you’re taking a very small dose – like a tenth of what you would use to feel anything. It is important to mention that the use of all psychedelic drugs should be undertaken with utmost caution — if they should be used at all — in patients with major mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. For safety reasons, these patients are typically excluded from studies involving psychedelic drugs. Many people share the idea that microdosing with psychedelics enhances one’s mood, creativity, concentration, productivity, and ability to empathize with others. This means that most people who take a daily pill that they fervently expect will help them feel happier and smarter will feel like they are happier and smarter — just from taking the pill, regardless of what’s in it.

Fundamentally, more research is needed, and it’s crucial to take the excitement surrounding psychedelic therapy with a grain of salt until we know more. It has also piqued the interest of physicians and researchers, as more evidence is emerging that microdosing can improve mental health. A recent study found psilocybin may help cancer patients with depression and anxiety.

The most common negative effects are headaches, stomach issues, increased anxiety, worsening mood and the risk for serious harm to oneself. Qualitative research is, by its nature, biassed by the research team and their coding decisions. MDBCs were processed by two interdependent coders (TA and AC) that iteratively constructed the agreed-upon codebook. Hypothesis-driven coding was avoided to maintain code-integrity [36] and, supporting transparency and re-analysis, both the coded and raw data have been made available [41]. Another taxonomy could emerge from different investigators pursuing more targeted research questions, so these MDBCs should not be taken as definitive. The present taxonomy offers a foundation from which future focal research can be built.

While necessarily inconclusive due to their exploratory nature, these results point to potential therapeutic effects warranting future placebo-controlled microdosing research. To determine if microdosing has the potential to improve mental health and well-being, Dr. Kuhn noted that there needs to be randomized controlled trials to compare the effects of microdosing with that of a placebo, the gold standard of research. “However, these types of studies take time, money and rigor—and don’t always pan out,” he said. While parallelism emerged, not all categories were equally reported on both sides of the benefit/challenge divide (Fig. 3). These categories may provide especially promising starting points for future microdosing research.

And microdosing — in theory, a method of taking psychedelics in nonhallucinogenic doses — may deliver some psychological benefits. That said, it is vastly underresearched in the already complex field of psychedelic therapy and, in many cases of certain psychedelics, is illegal in the United States. Overall, the research cited here has found that microdosing (as it pertains to LSD) is generally safe for most people.

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It’s important to note that this article serves only as an informational resource about what we know on microdosing to date. Everyday Health is not in any way condoning the illegal use of psychedelic drugs for therapeutic or recreational purposes. Explore the growing popularity of ketamine therapy for mental health treatment. For Devenot’s part, they note that microdosing trials “have not stood up to the test of evidence-based science. However, there are several downsides to psychedelic therapy, including legal complexities, potential side effects, adverse psychological challenges, and the extent of treatment, which requires lengthy and multiple sessions to possibly take effect.

what is microdosing

In a survey targeting participants that had at least one challenging experience (“bad trip”) with psilocybin mushrooms, 39% of respondents rated their full-dose experiences as among the top 5 most psychologically difficult/challenging experiences of their lives [32]. Griffiths et al. [20] used both “high” (22 mg/70 kg) and “low” (1 or 3 mg/70 kg) doses of psilocybin as experimental and control conditions, respectively. A dose-response effect could be seen such that in the high-dose condition, 32% of participants reported physiological discomfort whereas only 12% reported the same in the low-dose condition; likewise, 26% reported anxiety in the high-dose condition versus 15% in the low-dose condition [20]. Delayed-onset headaches are another possible side-effect of full-dose psilocybin [33].


Skeptics are worried that uncontrolled access to these drugs might affect patients with mental illness, or might even precipitate mental illness such as psychosis in people that are vulnerable. Drug Enforcement Administration as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Still, legislative efforts to decriminalize psychedelics (on local and state levels) are growing, according to research. Esketamine (Spravato), a form of ketamine delivered via a nasal spray, was approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 2019 for treatment-resistant depression when used under supervision in a medical setting, and it is the only substance considered a psychedeliclike medicine that’s federally legal. There are risks when you take any drug or medication, however, microdosing is safest when it is done under the guidance and supervision of a healthcare professional.

About this article

These findings accord with other findings that microdosers have higher creativity than non-microdosers [8, 11] and with full-dose research showing increased openness after full-dose psilocybin [24]. Early psychedelic research preliminarily investigated creativity enhancement and problem-solving [48], and this exciting topic could again be subject to study. Divergent thinking, convergent thinking, insight [8, 11, 49, 50]—to inform more focal investigations on how microdosing may affect creativity. After reporting open-ended outcomes, participants answered targeted questions concerning behavioural improvements and substance-use reductions (Fig. 2). Respondents reported improved mood (92.9%), anxiety (59.2%), meditative practice (49.1%), exercise (49.1%), eating habits (36.0%), and sleep (28.8%).

Indeed, even in non-pathological participants, top-down interpretations of interoceptive events could cast physiological experiences (e.g. arousal) in a negative light (e.g. restlessness) rather than a positive one (e.g. wakefulness). These different interpretations may be amenable to intervention by preparing participants for certain physiological outcomes [31] whereas the genetic, epigenetic, and psychopathological features could constitute more stable predictors. While psychedelics appear to have considerable potential benefits and low physiological risks [28,29,30], full-dose experiences can put participants under considerable psychological risk [31].

They also indicated reduced use of caffeine (44.2%), alcohol (42.3%), cannabis (30.3%), tobacco (21.0%), psychiatric prescription medications (16.9%), and illicit substances (16.1%). We describe novel findings, both in terms of beneficial outcomes, such as improved mood (26.6%) and focus (14.8%), and in terms of challenging outcomes, such as physiological discomfort (18.0%) and increased anxiety (6.7%). We also show parallels between benefits and drawbacks and discuss the implications of these results. We probe for substance-dependent differences, finding that psilocybin-only users report the benefits of microdosing were more important than other users report. Psychedelic therapy as a possible treatment for conditions like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, and more seems potentially promising.

With these smaller doses of psychedelics, the goal isn’t to get high or “trip out”. The goal is to receive some of the wanted effects without actually feeling high or noticing the signs of intoxication. Some proponents say microdosing can not only boost professional performance and clarity, it can also improve mood and mental health issues like anxiety and depression.