A First-of-Its-Kind Study Discovered Huge Benefits to Microdosing Psychedelics

Sarah Rense
Photo credit: RapidEye - Getty Images
Photo credit: RapidEye - Getty Images

From Esquire

Microdosing psychedelics is a little like taking CBD. It sounds like a cool time, and your best friend's sister's husband said it changed his life for the better, but there's very little real evidence proving it's actually beneficial and healthy for regular consumption. The science just hasn't caught up to the public's perception of microdosing. But it's getting there.

This month, researchers from the University of California, Davis, published a first-of-its-kind study on the mental and physical effects of taking tiny, non-hallucinogenic doses of psychedelic drugs for a prolonged period of time (a.k.a. microdosing). The results were promising-but they were also limited, as the study was conducted on rats, not people. Hey, we'll take what we can get.

The rats were prescribed a microdosing regimen and then put through fear tests meant to mirror the mental states we humans call anxiety and depression. After seven weeks of microdosing, the rats were significantly less fearful in the tests, which the scientists interpreted as reduced anxiety and depression.

What's remarkable is that the researchers found that heightened anxiety, a serious side-effect of hallucination-inducing doses of psychedelics, was not an issue for the rats. That means the researchers gathered actual evidence that the positive effects of psychedelics can be divorced from the negative through microdosing.

"Our study demonstrates that psychedelics can produce beneficial behavioral effects without drastically altering perception, which is a critical step towards producing viable medicines inspired by these compounds," said David Olson of UC Davis, who led the research team.

Although most people microdose with LSD or psilocybin, the compound that makes magic mushrooms magical, the researchers used DMT. DMT is the active hallucinogenic compound in ayahuasca, and it is molecularly similar to LSD and psilocybin. They gave the rats one-tenth of the amount of DMT required to hallucinate once every three days for two months; when people microdose, they usually take one-tenth of a "trip" dose every three days. Essentially, the study mimicked the human microdosing experience, just on a smaller scale. The results were published in the scientific journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience. As a quick reminder, psychedelic drugs are very much illegal.

There was also a downside to the study. Neuronal atrophy occurred in female microdosing rats, while significant weight gain occurred in male microdosing rats.

"This is the first time anyone has demonstrated in animals that psychedelic microdosing might actually have some beneficial effects, particularly for depression or anxiety," said Olson. "It’s exciting, but the potentially adverse changes in neuronal structure and metabolism that we observe emphasize the need for additional studies."

Like the UC Davis team said, there's a lot more research to be done before microdosing is proven to be a totally safe practice. There are negative side effects to contend with, and although studies have been published that claim microdosing can positively affect everything from mood to athletic performance, those are all based on anecdotal storytelling, as the Atlantic points out. So bring on the rats-and eventually, the people. If there's a treatment for anxiety and depression hidden in microdosing psychedelics, it's high time we found it.

('You Might Also Like',)