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Mental Health

Taking Less More Often, The Idea Behind Microdosing

The nonprofit digital magazine “Behavioral Scientist” recently explored the “Mythology of Microdosing” and asked the question “Can Science Catch Up?”

It will have to work hard. There’s a lot of microdosing work going on at the street level. The Reddit website’s online group subreddit r/microdosing claims 60,000 subscribers.

Meanwhile, as Behavioral Scientist notes, valid scientific work has been hamstrung by regulations.

“Clinical research on psychedelics, in particular LSD, dried up in the 1970s following the passage of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Although in the 1950s and 1960s scientific research and clinical use of psychedelics was widespread under the CSA, both LSD and psilocybin are classified by the United States government as drugs with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

On the days they took a microdose, they felt better connectedness, creativity, productivity and compassion and absorption in their work.

In those first days of LSD research, Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert at Harvard crossed the line. The researchers began dipping into the product themselves. Eventually Alpert became Baba Ram Dass, a beloved and respected guru. Leary, however, ran into repeated legal troubles that spectacularly culminated in an escape from prison. Needless to say, between the growing political concerns about drugs and Leary’s antics, LSD got a bad reputation.

But now, with Silicon Valley geniuses and Main Street moms exploring the productive use of psychedelics, psychedelics don’t seem so crazy or scary to many.

The change is due to microdosing. By using one-tenth to one-20th the amount needed for a high to achieve, everyday, respectable people are finding real help—without risking bad trips and medical emergencies.

The Behavioral Scientist notes that, “Despite the abundance of detailed, scientific-in-appearance information and forums dedicated to microdosing, almost everything we know about microdosing stems from anecdotal reports …

“While there is a larger body of research suggesting that psychedelics can help in the treatment of depression, end-of-life anxietyPTSD, and addiction, the practice of microdosing psychedelics has not been evaluated according to the same standards. Without conducting controlled, scientific trials, there is no way to evaluate the truth behind the claims. …”

 “When citizen scientists experiment on themselves, they lack all of these methodological controls [such as blinding where the researcher does not know whether subjects got the drug or the placebo, random assignment and an untreated control group for comparison… It seems plausible that the growing media mythology around microdosing could create a cycle of self-fulfilling prophecies.”

But Science is catching up. This year (2019) the journal PLoS One reported a study done with 98 volunteers over a six-week period.

The volunteers used hallucinogens of their choice and turned in daily accounts. On the days they took a microdose, they felt better connectedness, creativity, productivity and compassion and absorption in their work. That was true for most users, no matter which drug they chose. Long-term changes caused by weeks of microdosing, however, weren’t as easy to pin down.

Science still has work to do.

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