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Microdosing of psychedelics. What do we know today?

Paracelsus

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For the past decade, the topic of microdosing has been of concern to people both familiar with the world of psychoactive substances and far from it.

The liberalization of laws opens up new opportunities for researchers. The results of their work form a clearer and more meaningful view of the relationship between our brain and exogenous agents, which logically leads to further relaxation of legislation in countries where judicial systems somehow work. We see here such a rare positive feedback, which sooner or later will lead to the fact that most substances, psychedelics are among the first in this queue, will be legal.

However, the quality of research and the current level of our understanding of many processes are limited. This does not prevent apologists of biohacking, self-development, occultism and radical forms of psychotherapy from boldly declaring the effectiveness and benefits of microdosing.

I believe that such an approach is harmful and microdosing of psychedelics for the common man today is the choice of a blade runner. And here's why:

1. Broad individual tolerance - people react very differently to active dosages, what can we say about subactive use on a regular basis. A gigantic number of factors can interfere in the matter: from set and setting (I think this is also relevant for microdosing) to mutations in the HTR2A gene, which encodes the serotonin 5HT-2A receptor. And if such a practice as meditation has side reactions and is not suitable for everyone, think about introducing actors into the higher nervous system that cause psychotic reactions.

2. The quality of the substance - what the subjects are microdosed in the laboratory or what the CEO of the company from Cupertino accepts, most likely differs in a number of parameters from what an ordinary person can afford in standard conditions.

3. Understanding the process - in my practice, I have met situations when people just want to somehow solve their problems, add new experiences or, even worse, be in the trend. For many, the idea lies on the surface. You can throw mushrooms or lsd, and everything will be fine. Life will get better. Although a person's condition can only get worse, or he\she\it needs to adjust sleep and nutrition regime first.

Other points can be noted, but these three can be the causes of the greatest problems with the mental sphere. Paradoxically, in search of motivation, inspiration and peace, a person can get insomnia, emotional shifts, defocusing and mental dead ends.

But let's end this protracted disclaimer and move on to the interesting.

What do we know about microdosing of psychedelics more or less for sure by the end of 2022?
It will mainly be about taking LSD and/or psilocybin.


Benefits and challenges of microdosing

This point is more about those who are thinking about microdosing. Do not consider this part of the article as a list of effects - they will be below. It contains statistics from people practicing microdosing and their opinion about the pros and cons of this method.

A review article based on an anonymous survey of 278 respodents:
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For more information, you can read about the results of the study here (free access)

Everything looks beautiful and it seems that people really get better with repeated course use of sub-hallucinogenic doses of psychedelics. But what confuses me. Firstly, this is an online survey. It may be short-sighted and even dangerous to draw final conclusions and make serious decisions based on such research.

Nevertheless, sites, groups, subreddits and other places of exchange and consumption of information with pomp meet each such study. People read the information that microdosing can become a panacea and boldly get down to business.

The main advantage of such works is that they lay the foundations of systematics and create a basis for further, adult research. Which, to their credit, specific authors write about.

Microdosing or active dosages. What is better for health improvement?
The answer to this question may seem obvious. But nevertheless, it seems to me important to go through this topic briefly. Another study with a typical microdosing design will help me in this - a giant-sized survey.
This time, the authors collected data from an impressive sample of 4,050 independent microdozers and 4,653 non-microdozers through the Quantified Citizen mobile app. What is noteworthy is that the application only works on iOS, which means that the results apply only to iPhone users. And pcilocybin was the most commonly used microdose substances in this sample (85%). Link to the study (free access).

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Non-microdozers were more likely to confirm any mental health or substance use problems, and were also more likely to show depression, post-traumatic stress disorder/trauma, and tobacco addiction.

What about dosages?

Here and further, until I point out the opposite, I will refer to a fresh and truly gigantic survey study covering works from 1955 to 2021 (free access).

It is hard to give an accurate answer even for a specific substance. The exact amount that makes up a microdose is difficult to determine, and to date there are no generally accepted criteria or consensus among researchers. Including because of the three main points that are described at the beginning of this material.
The most commonly mentioned definition is that a microdose is a dose of about one tenth to one twentieth of a typical recreational dose.


But here we can see plausible dose ranges for microdoses of various substances.
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Proven effects of microdosing

Although there are questions about the extent to which the effects of microdoses can be explained by expectation, there are direct effects of drugs in the microdose range. In particular, numerous studies have shown positive changes in cognitive processing and improved mental health indicators. The most promising data from both laboratory and self-reported studies are summarized below.

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I recommend paying attention to the left column. These are the areas that we have certainly confirmed today and can use for our own purposes.

I would question everything else. In any case, it is worth weighing all the introductory notes very well before interfering with the neurochemistry of your brain.

Bidirectionality of microdosing effects

A phenomenon that is given undeservedly little attention. Microdosing can lead to the opposite effects. That is, in some cases, microdosing was associated with both an increase and a decrease in the same indicators. For example, several variables increased significantly in some participants, but decreased in others depending on the dose of the drug.

Research often showed bidirectional results for indicators such as anxiety, attention, mood, energy level and cognitive functions.

This pattern of outcomes may be an interaction between the effects of the substance and expectation or other contextual factors (for example, anxiety may increase or decrease depending on how favorable the physical environment is), and thus vary within the same personality in different contexts.

Also, the bidirectionality of effects may be associated with subtypes of people who react to the intake of a substance in a specific and consistent way. For example, there are individual differences in enzymatic activity that affect the ability of some people to metabolize LSD.

Placebo
There is an opinion that the effects of microdosing are largely due to the placebo effect. Well, today we can only say for sure that the expectation really affects the overall effect of microdosing, but there is not yet sufficient certainty how strong this effect is and how important it is compared to the pharmacological effects of microdosing. As scientists always write in such cases, more research is needed.

Microdosing is clearly doing something to our neurochemistry. But whether it can be used in therapy, fixed in time and safely optimize our problem areas is still unclear. Regardless of whether the effects of microdosing are based on placebo or pharmacology, there is evidence that microdosing has a significant impact on people's lives.

Unfortunately, the acceleration of work in this direction is hindered by problems with the legislation of most countries, the stigmatization of psychedelics themselves and their consumers, and, frankly, the careless attitude of many people to the consumption of psychoactive substances, their mental and physical health.

What will happen next?
I am watching this area of research with interest and enthusiasm and expect an increase in the number of laboratory longitudinal, well-controlled studies.

As noted, the main tasks at this stage are:
1. Predicting an individual reaction for a particular person.
2. Conditions for conducting truly blind and randomized trials.
3. Safety issues with long-term microdosing.

If we manage this, the rest will connect much faster. And after another decade, we will be able to get substances, algorithms for their use and, for example, methods of administration that will make us and our life a little brighter, more productive and kind. I hope.

If you practice microdosing and want to contribute to the research of this area, check out the site: microdose.me - based on it and the mobile application mentioned above, data is collected for the further work of scientists. Do not forget about security and read the terms of use before sending any data.

As always, thank you for your time and attention. If you have personal experience of any modality, your thoughts or questions on this topic, I invite you to a discussion.
 

cubesquare

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Hello Paracelsus - thanks for this interesting piece.

I am currently practising an LSD-based micro-dosing regime that I started almost three months ago with the intent to give myself a focal shift to allow me to kick a rather unpleasant cocaine addiction.

I have been having around 15µg every three days. I started this in the evening just before going to bed and switched to first thing in the morning about a month ago.

I am fascinated by the amount of energy that has gone into real research (busy reading as much as I can get my hands on) and have been planning a day (tomorrow) for my wife to have a strong dose of LSD and explore her alcoholism. I will be her sitter.

As the micro-dosing has gone so well, I have also elected to start exploring other full psychedelic experiences in order to understand more of both myself and the experiences available to us as humans.

To this end, I have procured a dazzling array of substances to be tried in a very specific setting over the next two years (5-MEO-DMT, NN-DMT, Mescaline, 2CB, MDMA, Ketamine, Psylocibine and more - this is a full psychedelic and dissociative exploration that will be carefully conducted knowing full well the risks)

One thing that your above article doesn't seem to account for that I believe to be of great import is that, as humans, we are CONSTANTLY overdosing on many compounds that we were not biologically evolved to deal with. From caffeine to fish oils, from acetylsalicylic acid to wheat, our bodies just weren't meant for all of these high concentrations of stuff that we are always dosing ourselves with.
When you look at mainstream society's significant micro-dosing techniques, we have been using alcohol for millennia to adjust/adapt, cocaine, cannabis and many more.


Humans are experts at throwing stuff that massively alters their psyche directly into their brains and then moving forward.
This willingness to seek alternate states, to seek augmentation of life quality, this quality of wanting more... I am pretty sure it has something to do with our mental capacity to seek out things that are new, something to do with our massive success as a species.

Humanity has discovered that it can eat just about anything, our sense of taste is far superior to any other species, and the strength of our resistance to so many chemicals designed to kill...


So, yes, micro-dosing may be harmful in the long run to many people, but it is likely FAR less dangerous than nicotine, alcohol, wheat, sugar, salt, vegetable oil, and so many more over-consumed substances if it is managed properly. (As sugar, alcohol and wheat etc., are less dangerous when managed properly - all excess tends to turn out bad)


Anyway, that turned into a lot more of a ramble than I intended; my apologies that it isn't clear/concise; I am focused on other things right now. I will also look to add to the micro-dosing research project you highlighted above.
 

Paracelsus

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Thank you for opinion, cubesquare!

I agree that we have reached unsurpassed heights in stuffing everything into ourselves. This fact has a multifactorial basis and deserves a separate article.

The problem with microdosing is not even that it can cause problems in the long run (after all, we really live with alcohol, sugar and other "legal and safe" substances for most of our history, as you absolutely correctly noted). The problem I see is misinformation, naivety and false hopes that have created a dangerous hype cloud around a new and promising direction.
 

cubesquare

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It is a dangerous hype cloud for sure, not everyone had critical thinking enabled. The direction, while positive, is hardly new :(
 

KokosDreams

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and have been planning a day (tomorrow) for my wife to have a strong dose of LSD and explore her alcoholism. I will be her sitter.
Thanks for opening up here like that! I just wanted to leave a quick 'good-luck' for you and your wife here.
 

cubesquare

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Thanks for opening up here like that! I just wanted to leave a quick 'good-luck' for you and your wife here.
Thanks man - She is very nervous of LSD so we started with a small(ish) hit so that she could get an idea of the fact that it isn't going to kill her. I gave her around 90µg and spent the day with her, talking as little as possible. We had spent several days in the run up, focusing on setting her intent, on making sure she had enough focus to draw attention to her problem.
I kept on telling her that she was fine and everything was fine, turns out that me talking all the time kept on bringing her out of her introspection and while she managed to bring some trauma around the death of her sister and father to the surface (two separate unexpected non-violent events), she didn't feel like she had enough time to explore fully because of my "meddling".

So we are planning another day next month where she will take 200µg and I will just lie with her, holding her hand and being her anchor, silently. (She has asked me to read a book and just be touching her).

I am NOT a psychiatrist ( to @Paracelsus point above) but even as a husband caring for my wife, I can see how powerful these molecules can be when they aren't simply party favours.

Don't get me wrong, I love partying, but my lifestyle doesn't allow for the use of psychelics like that anymore, thats why I fell into the coke hole, too easy to do while pretending to be a functioning adult. Psychedelics require a commitment that my children just cannot allow me to have :) They need a functioning parent so yeah. I have a big stash iof super fun (and powerful) stuff that I get loads of pleasure hoarding, like a dragon with his gold, but only plan on taking things outside of the micro-dosing regime, once a month for a path of self improvement/understanding.

Anyway, the part to getting better starts with knowing you are sick, we are working on this together and we will be just fine :)
 

KokosDreams

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So we are planning another day next month where she will take 200µg and I will just lie with her, holding her hand and being her anchor, silently. (She has asked me to read a book and just be touching her).
I think the small dose you had before was great in terms of her realizing what she's looking for in a sitter, so you can make sure to not overwhelm her when it's time for the big dose. Again, I wish you the best of success on your journey.
Anyway, the part to getting better starts with knowing you are sick, we are working on this together and we will be just fine :)
Well said :)
 
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