Psilocybin, the active compound in “magic mushrooms,” has been shown to be a promising treatment for various mental health conditions. New research published in Scientific reports found that people who microdosed psychedelics showed greater improvements in mental health and mood over a one-month period compared to non-microdosers.
Most research on psilocybin treatment has focused on doses large enough to contribute to substantial impairment of consciousness. However, “microdosing,” or taking a low enough dose of psilocybin that it does not impair cognitive functioning, has become increasingly popular.
“Improvements in mood, emotional well-being, and cognition have been reported among the primary motivations for microdosing, and several cross-sectional studies have identified associations between microdosing and perceived improvements in mood and cognitive functioning. , the reduction of stress, depression and anxiety,” wrote study author Joseph M. Rootman and colleagues.
Relatively fewer studies have investigated the effects of microdosing and these studies did not include a control group without microdosing, which is essential to assess any causal effects of microdosing. To fill this gap, the researchers collected data from respondents participating in a larger study on psychedelic microdosing.
“The study consisted of a baseline assessment performed at the start of the study and a follow-up assessment performed 22 to 35 days later; the evaluation schedules were equivalent for microdosers and non-microdosers. The assessments interrogated psychedelic practices over the past month, mood and mental health, and featured tasks testing cognitive and psychomotor processing.
Each assessment lasted 20 to 30 minutes.
The results show that microdosers were more likely to be older, white, and employed full-time than non-microdosers. All other demographic variables did not differ between microdosers and non-microdosers. Results also show that microdosers showed greater improvements from baseline after 1 month on depression, anxiety, and stress scores compared to non-microdosers.
Similarly, microdosers showed greater increases in positive mood and greater decreases in negative mood over the duration of the study compared to non-microdosers. Microdosers demonstrated a more positive change in psychomotor performance compared to non-microdosers. There was no difference in spatial memory or processing speed between the two dosage groups.
Overall, these findings are generally consistent with previous research demonstrating the positive mental health benefits of using psilocybin in both high and low doses.
“Notably, the subset of respondents who reported mental health issues at baseline showed a mean reduction in depressive symptoms that resulted in a change from moderate to mild depression after approximately 30 days of microdosing psychedelics. Given the enormous healthcare costs and ubiquity of depression, as well as the significant proportion of patients who fail to respond to existing treatments, the potential for an alternative approach to treating this deadly disorder merits careful consideration.
The authors cite some limitations to their work, including the small sample size, the observational nature of the data, and the self-selection recruitment strategy. Perhaps recruitment through venues conducive to psychedelic use influenced the type of participant who would enroll in this study.
The study, “Psilocybin Microdosers Demonstrate Greater Observed Improvements in Mood and Mental Health at One Month Compared to Non-Microdosing Controls,” was authored by Joseph M. Rootman, Maggie Kiraga, Pamela Kryskow, Kalin Harvey, Paul Stamets, Eesmyal Santos-Brault, Kim PC Kuypers, and Zach Walsh.