Psilocybin, the active compound in “magic mushrooms,” has been shown to be a promising treatment for various mental health issues. New research published in Scientific Reports found that people who microdose psychedelics displayed greater improvements in mental health and mood over the span of 1 month compared to non-microdosers.
Most of the research on psilocybin treatment has focused on doses that are large enough to contribute to a substantial alteration of one’s consciousness. However, “microdosing,” or taking a small enough dose of psilocybin to not impair cognitive functioning, has become increasingly popular.
“Improvements in mood, emotional well-being and cognition have been reported among the top motivations for microdosing, and several cross-sectional studies have identified associations between microdosing and perceived improvements in mood and cognitive functioning, reductions in stress, depression, and anxiety, ” wrote study author Joseph M. Rootman and colleagues.
Relatively fewer studies have investigated the effects of microdosing and these studies have not included a non-microdosing control group, which is essential in evaluating any causal effects of microdosing. To address this gap, researchers collected data from respondents participating in a larger study of psychedelic microdosing.
“The study consisted of a baseline assessment completed at the study outset, and a follow-up assessment completed 22–35 days later; the assessment schedules were equivalent for both microdosers and non-microdosers. The assessments queried past month psychedelic practices, mood and mental health, and presented tasks testing cognitive and psychomotor processing.”
Each assessment lasted 20-30 minutes.
Results show that microdosers were more likely to be older, white, and employed full-time compared to non-microdosers. All other demographic variables did not differ between microdosers and non-microdosers. Results also show that microdosers displayed 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 larger decreases in negative mood over the duration of the study compared to non-microdosers. Microdosers demonstrated more positive change in psychomotor performance compared to non-microdosers. There were no differences in spatial memory or processing speed between the two dosage groups.
Overall, these results are generally consistent with previous research demonstrating the positive mental health benefits of psilocybin use, both in large and small doses.
“Notably, the subgroup of respondents who reported mental health concerns at the time of baseline assessment exhibited an average reduction in depressive symptoms that resulted in a change from moderate to mild depression following approximately 30 days of microdosing psychedelics. Considering the tremendous health costs and ubiquity of depression, as well as the sizable proportion of patients who do not respond to extant treatments, the potential for another approach to addressing this deadly disorder warrants substantial consideration.”
The authors cite some limitations to their work including the small sample size, the observational nature of the data, and self-selection recruitment strategy. Perhaps recruiting via venues that are favorable to psychedelic use influenced the type of participant who would sign up for this study.
The study, “Psilocybin microdosers demonstrate greater observed improvements in mood and mental health at one month relative 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.