The Science Behind Microdosing

You've likely heard about microdosing somewhere. By definition, microdosing is the act of consuming minimal amounts of a psychedelic substance to achieve a benefit while minimizing undesirable side effects. It's a new trend that has emerged from the need for alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs for mental health conditions. For some, it is merely a way to foster more creativity or attain a higher-self. Many individuals have added microdosing to their regular routine (hello, Reddit). They frequently report they are more creative, have more energy, enjoy better focus, and maintain improved relational skills. They also show reduced anxiety, stress, and depression.

With states like Colorado and California decriminalizing the use of these psychedelic substances, we see more and more scientific research. Though most of it currently leaves some efforts to be desired, the potential is clear, and scientists are pushing for further scientific validation. For instance, a study (Beckley Foundation, 2016) done on psychedelics was for those who suffered from treatment-resistant depression (TRD). They discovered that “Psilocybin was well-tolerated and induced rapid and lasting reduction in the severity of depressive symptoms.” Patients in this study reported that they attributed the treatment's effectiveness to “a greater willingness to accept all emotions.” The experience accelerated an emotional “conformation,” a challenging return to old traumas that had led to “emotional breakthrough and resolution.” Another pilot study (Grob, Danforth, & Chopra, 2011) done for anxiety in stage-4 cancer patients yielded the following: “Some of the data revealed a positive trend toward improved mood and anxiety.”

The most recent research from the Netherlands (Prochazkova, 2018) suggests that taking a small dose of the psychedelic substance psilocybin may improve both convergent and divergent thinking in ways that promote cognitive flexibility, creativity, and single-solution problem-solving. As Prochazkova and her co-authors said: “Taken together, our results suggest that consuming a microdose of [psychedelic] truffles allowed participants to create more out-of-the-box alternative solutions for a problem, thus providing preliminary support for the assumption that microdosing improves divergent thinking.”

Other promising research has demonstrated that psilocybin has the potential to help with addiction. In one study (Johnson, Garcia-Romeu, & Griffiths, 2017), over 80% of long-term smokers who took psilocybin for cognitive behavioral therapy quit entirely after six months, outperforming their drug counterparts, which sits at a 35% success rate over the same amount of time. Another proof-of-concept study (Bogenschutz, Forcehimes, & Pommy, 2015) done on alcoholics demonstrated a change in drinking habits and increases in alcohol abstinence. Hallucinogens have even shown benefits for certain types of head discomfort, including extended periods of remission after treatment with the psychedelic substances. (Sewell, Halpern, & Pope Jr, 2006 & Schindler, Gottschalk, & Weil, 2015)

There's also growing evidence that psilocybin and other psychedelics have the potential to rewire the brain. When brain imaging is captured under the influence of a psychedelic, researchers have noted a decreased blood flow to particular areas involved in emotional responses to fear and stress. Contrarily, they also observed increased stability in other brain networks associated with depressive symptoms. Carhart-Harris says, “Based on what we know from various brain imaging studies with psychedelics, as well as taking heed of what people say about their experiences, it may be that psychedelics do indeed ‘reset' the brain networks associated with depression, effectively enabling them to be lifted from the depressed state." (Carhart-Harris, Roseman, & Bolstridge, 2017)

 In terms of what is happening now, there is research underway, funded by the US government, for Phase 2 of a study testing psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression (TRD). It is slated to be fully completed by December 2020. Perhaps, by the time you read this, the research may be available (see https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03775200). Also, there are lots of great resources out there. I only mentioned a handful of the research available. If you’re curious and want to learn more, the world of information is at your fingers.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. The information in this article is solely the opinion of its author and in no way reflects the official stance of RidgeCrest Herbals regarding microdosing or psychedelics. The information in this article has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.


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