A new randomized controlled trial of LSD microdosing has found no evidence that psychedelic practice leads to an improvement in mood or cognition. The research was published in the journal Addiction Biology.
Microdosing refers to the practice of consuming small amounts of a psychedelic drug on a regular basis. Preliminary research has shown that microdosing is associated with a number of psychological benefits such as: B. increased productivity and less stress. But these studies did not use randomized placebo-controlled methods – the gold standard for proving causality.
“I’ve seen how widespread the practice of microdosing is, and yet there are few well-controlled studies documenting its apparent benefits,” said study author Harriet de Wit, professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago. “My human psychopharmacology laboratory is well suited to testing the effects of drugs under double-blind conditions.”
In the study, 56 healthy adults were given four low doses (13 or 26 μg) of LSD or placebo at 3-4 day intervals. The participants ranged in age from 18 to 35 years and all reported having used a psychedelic drug at least once in their lives, but had no experience with microdosing. The doses were administered under double-blind conditions, meaning neither the participants nor the researchers knew who was receiving an active dose and who was receiving an inactive placebo.
“We’ve removed any expectations that this is a psychedelic drug,” de Wit explained. “Because in the real world, people’s expectations can greatly influence their reactions.”
After taking their dose, participants completed cardiovascular assessments and hourly mood questionnaires. During the first and last sessions, participants also completed cognitive and behavioral tasks related to emotional processing, working memory, simulated social rejection, and general cognitive performance.
Participants received their dose during five-hour lab sessions. They stayed in a comfortable room and were given access to movies and reading material when no activities were scheduled.
The researchers found that the higher dose of LSD (26 mcg) resulted in a small decrease in false alarm rates when recognizing anxious emotions and a small decrease in feelings of social rejection. The higher dose of LSD also produced an increased sense of power, and some participants receiving the higher dose reported feeling a slight “high” during drug sessions.
But neither the lower nor the higher doses of LSD had a significant impact on other aspects of emotional processing, mood, working memory, or overall cognitive performance. “Under these limited conditions, the effect was no different from placebo. However, future studies are needed to evaluate the effects of repeated doses in different conditions,” de Wit told PsyPost.
Participants also appeared to build up a tolerance to LSD over the course of the study, with the strongest “high” reported at the first session and the perception of a drug effect decreasing at each subsequent session.
“We can’t necessarily say that microdosing isn’t working,” de Wit said in a press release. “All we can say is that under these controlled circumstances, we have not seen a robust effect with these types of participants, these doses and these intervals.”
There is still much that future research needs to address. “Does microdosing have more pronounced effects in people with anxiety or depression or acute mental health issues?” said de Wit. “Would the effects be noticed if other endpoints were used or if dosing was continued beyond 2 weeks?”
The study “Repeated Low Doses of LSD in Healthy Adults: A Placebo-Controlled Dose-Response Study” was authored by Harriet de Wit, Hanna M. Molla, Anya Bershad, Michael Bremmer, and Royce Lee