Psychedelic Microdosing: Genuine Benefit or Placebo-Fuelled Fad?

Dawn O'Shea

March 08, 2021

Microdosing is the practice of regularly using low doses of psychedelic drugs. It is becoming increasingly popular and has drawn increasing interest from researchers, as anecdotal reports suggest microdosing enhances well-being and cognition.

A new study carried out by researchers at Imperial College London used an innovative 'self-blinding' citizen science approach, where participants were given online instructions on how to incorporate placebo control into their microdosing routine without clinical supervision.

The study was completed by 191 participants, making it the largest placebo-controlled trial on psychedelics to-date.

All psychological outcomes improved significantly from baseline to after the four-week dosing period for the microdose group. However, the placebo group also improved and no significant between-groups differences were observed.

Acute (emotional state, drug intensity, mood, energy and creativity) and post-acute (anxiety) scales showed small but significant microdose vs. placebo differences. However, the authors say these results can be explained by participants breaking blind.

The findings suggest the anecdotal benefits of microdosing can be explained by the placebo effect.

Senior author David Erritzoe, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry at Imperial College London, said: "Accounting for the placebo effect is important when assessing trends such as the use of cannabidiol oils, fad diets or supplements where social pressure or users' expectations can lead to a strong placebo response."

Szigeti B, Kartner L, Blemings A, Rosas F, Feilding A, Nutt DJ, Carhart-Harris RL, Erritzoe D. Self-blinding citizen science to explore psychedelic microdosing. Elife. 2021;10:e62878. doi: 10.7554/eLife.62878. PMID: 33648632.  View full text

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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