Mental Health And Microdosing?
It sounds too good to be true: a drug where a single dose can positively impact mental health and treat depression, anxiety, ADHD/ADD, substance abuse, PTSD, and more. Yet, that is exactly what psilocybin, the active ingredient in psychoactive mushrooms (commonly known as “shrooms” or “magic mushrooms”), claims to do. And the science is starting to prove it.
A recent study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that under randomized, double-blinded conditions, a single dose of psilocybin produced “substantial and enduring decreases in depressed mood and anxiety along with increases in quality of life.” This is just one in a series of studies spanning back to the 1950s that have investigated the use of psychedelics for mental health and found positive results.
While psychedelics have long been studied, the focus has been on higher doses. Only in the last number of years are we beginning to see clinical studies on microdosing. As expected, these studies are supporting the anecdotal evidence of its benefits, which suggests that microdosing works similarly to a larger dose, but on a smaller level.
Qualitative Research on Microdosing for Mental Health
A qualitative analysis found predominantly positive results covering depression, trauma, addiction, bipolar disorder and anxiety. Therapeutic effects on depression were particularly noteworthy, as were effects on ADHD – to the extent that some users replaced their prescribed medication with microdosing.
Another study analyzed the personal accounts in a large microdosing discussion forum on the website “Reddit.” Improved mental health was identified as the second most common benefit, with posters describing microdosing as being more effective than psychiatric medications and even “life-changing.”
Microdosing vs. higher doses and conventional treatments
A Maastricht University study found that microdosing showed more success than conventional treatments for mental illnesses, including anxiety, ADHD/ADD, depression, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and substance abuse. However, microdosing appeared generally less effective than a higher psychedelic dose for treating depression and anxiety.
But these results don’t seem to be universal. Microdosing could, for some at least, be equally or more effective than a full hallucinogenic experience in terms of psychological benefits. When a Journal of Psychopharmacology study asked respondents whether a microdose or a higher dose was more effective, one-third reported microdosing was more beneficial and one-quarter reported that they were equally beneficial.
Why is microdosing beneficial for mental health?
There is currently no definitive answer to the question of exactly how psychedelics interact with the brain to alleviate symptoms like depression and anxiety.
Similar to traditional antidepressant drugs, psychedelics act on the neurotransmitter system for serotonin, which is known as the “happy chemical” due to its role in regulating well-being and happiness. It is thought that the interaction with serotonin could be one explanation for the relationship between psychedelics and mood.
Compared to traditional medications, psychedelics have fewer unwanted side effects. It is speculated that this could, in part, be because they are not consumed daily.
It’s also worth noting that psychedelics act more quickly than pharmaceuticals, which take time to build in the system. With microdosing, the positive impact may be felt immediately, even after just one administration.
Some speculate that the effectiveness of microdosing could also be due to the placebo effect. With YouTubers, Redditors, and even Silicon Valley entrepreneurs proclaiming microdosing’s benefits, users have strong expectations that hallucinogens will give them the results they want. 
Interestingly, microdosing appears to be most effective when users have a clear intention for doing so. Those who set clear goals of what they want to achieve or what symptoms they want to alleviate seem to notice the best results.
The use of psilocybin for mental health in Canada
The growing evidence that psilocybin can alleviate depression and anxiety has inspired movements for drug law reform in Canada, with advocates filing a court challenge to allow its use to treat terminally ill patients.
Meanwhile, at least two centres in Canada are pursuing studies of psilocybin, including clinical studies on the effectiveness of microdosing with psilocybin for depression and anxiety.
Conclusions on microdosing psilocybin for mental health
Nonetheless, as a third wave of scientific inquiry continues, we are discovering more about the positive effects of psychedelics on mental health. And while the effects vary from person to person, it seems that for many, there could be great mental health benefits.
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