Preclinical studies exploring the effects of microdosing psychedelics—particularly on biologic and cognitive processes—are needed in light of public interest in the practice and a lack of scientific evidence behind it, an international group of researchers advised in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
“In the past few years, the issue of ‘microdosing’ psychedelics has been openly discussed in the public arena, where claims have been made about their positive effect on mood state and cognitive processes such as concentration,” researchers wrote. “However, there are very few scientific studies that have specifically addressed this issue, and there is no agreed scientific consensus on what microdosing is.”
For the review paper, researchers aimed to put forth questions that future studies should answer. They focused largely on psilocybin since it and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) appear to be among the psychedelics most often microdosed. Psilocybin is also further along the clinical pipeline as a potential treatment.
Researchers highlighted the lack of controlled studies in the current scientific literature, as well as uncertainty about doses, potency, and the origins of substances used in previous trials.
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Evidence regarding the safety of long-term, repeated dosing of psilocybin in animals and humans is lacking, and there is some evidence of cardiovascular risk, the authors said.
Data supporting the supposed behavioral effects of microdosing, such as enhanced creativity and focus, is also lacking, according to the review.
“This review is timely as a lot of hope is generated by positive media reports about alleged effects of microdosing. Patients might feel attracted by those reports to try it but may actually not be helped by it,” said researcher Kim Kuypers, PhD, of Maastricht University in The Netherlands.
“We try to emphasize the lack of scientific proof that microdosing is indeed effective in combating certain symptoms and hope that this will give impetus to new lines of research in this area.”
Kuypers KP, Ng L, Erritzoe D, et al. Microdosing psychedelics: more questions than answers? An overview and suggestions for future research. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 2019 July 14;[Epub ahead of print].