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Microdosing & Medication: A Brief Look At It’s History, Benefits & Risks

Microdosing with psychedelics like LSD or psilocybin is the practice of taking them in small amounts. Media reports show that microdosing is growing in popularity. However, there is minimal research on this practice in the scientific literature.

Microdosing with mind-altering substances won’t make you hallucinate. Instead, some people say it helps them feel better in other ways, like having less stress, worry, or mood swings.

Scientists are still figuring out if this works or if it’s just people imagining it. Let’s find out.

What is Microdosing?

Microdosing is when you take very small doses of certain substances to make yourself feel better and think better. Some people say microdosing is helpful, but we need more research to understand it better and make sure it’s safe.

The practice of microdosing is becoming popular in Canada. Some studies show it may have benefits for mood, mental health, and cognitive function.

History of Microdosing in Medical Practice

Microdosing has been around for centuries, even though the term itself is recent. Some people think it started accidentally during ancient rituals. Others suggest it played a part in human evolution.

Microdosing gained popularity in the 1960s and recently received media attention, leading to more research. Studies suggest that there may be benefits for mental health and brain function. Espcially in treating depression, anxiety and other mental conditions.

However, the evidence is mixed, and we do not know the long-term safety. You must have an expert guide you when microdosing psychedelics.

Read more: History of Microdosing in Canada

How do Psychedelic Drugs Work?

Psychedelic drugs interact with receptors in the brain. They promote brain plasticity and could offer therapy for mental health disorders.

Moreover, these substances stimulate the growth of dendritic spines. Dendritic spines facilitate communication between neurons. They enhance plasticity by influencing signalling pathways within neurons.

Therapeutic use involves a structured approach with psychological support and integration. This helps to maximize benefits and minimize risks. Further research is needed to fully understand their mechanisms of action and ensure safe and effective use.

Types of Psychedelic Drugs & Their Medicinal Uses

Psychedelic drugs, such as LSD, PCP, Psilocybin, and Salvia, are ancient substances that can profoundly affect human perception and mood. They induce vivid visual images, auditory hallucinations, and sensory distortions, creating an altered state of consciousness.

Here is a brief overview of 4 common Psychedelic Drugs:

Psilocybin (Shrooms)

The chemical that makes hallucinogenic mushrooms work is called psilocybin. It is found in about 190 species of edible mushrooms that are native to tropical and subtropical parts of South America, Mexico, and the United States. Magic mushrooms, mushrooms, shrooms, caps, and boomers are all names for this drug.

Medicinal use of Psilocybin

Psilocybin, found in “magic mushrooms,” has potential therapeutic uses. Some of the medicinal uses of psilocybin include:

  1. Depression: Psilocybin reduces depression severity, even in people with treatment-resistant depression.
  2. Anxiety: Psilocybin can reduce anxiety symptoms when given in controlled settings with supportive therapy.
  3. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): Psilocybin therapy helps relieve symptoms of OCD and other mental health disorders.
  4. Addiction: Psilocybin-assisted therapy has the potential to treat addiction, like nicotine and alcohol dependence.
  5. End-of-life mood disorders: Psilocybin therapy can help people with mood disorders near the end of their lives.

Risks Associated with Psilocybin Use

Magic mushroom is not considered addictive. The risk for physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms appears to be low. However, there are potential risks and adverse outcomes associated with its use.

These include:

  • Disturbing hallucinations
  • Panic
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • And in some cases, violent or aggressive behaviour.

Additionally, the use of psilocybin may trigger psychotic episodes. Individuals with a family history of psychosis may face an increased risk of adverse psychiatric effects.

When taken in controlled settings, single doses of psilocybin have been used without serious side effects. However, using multiple doses or combining it with other substances has been linked to medical emergencies.

Read more: Side effects of Psilocybin

LSD

LSD is one of the oldest known hallucinogens and one of the most powerful chemicals that can change how you see things. It comes from lysergic acid, which is made by a fungus that grows on rye and other grains and is called ergot.

LSD is also called acid, blotter, cubes, microdot, yellow sunshine, blue heaven, cid, dots, mellow yellow, window pane, and many other names.

Medicinal use of LSD

LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide, has potential therapeutic uses. Some of the medicinal uses of LSD include:

  1. Alcoholism: LSD shows promise in treating alcoholism. Some studies suggest that one LSD therapy session could be as effective as other medications.
  2. Anxiety: LSD therapy can help with anxiety, especially when used with therapy.
  3. Depression: LSD is sometimes used to treat depression, but the evidence is not as strong as it is for treating alcoholism.
  4. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Researchers have studied LSD-assisted therapy as a potential treatment for PTSD. However, more research is necessary.
  5. Reducing anxiety in patients with a life-threatening disease: Researchers have studied using LSD-assisted therapy to help lower anxiety in patients who have life-threatening diseases.

Risks Associated with LSD Use

The use of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is associated with various risks and potential adverse effects. These include:

  1. Unpredictable Effects: The danger of LSD lies in its unpredictable effects. Users may experience a “bad trip”. This involves disturbing hallucinations, extreme anxiety, and panic, which can lead to risky behaviour.
  2. Psychosis: Taking LSD can cause psychosis, a common problem among drug abusers. The mental effects of LSD, such as delusions and visual hallucinations, are unpredictable. They can also cause a distorted sense of time and identity, leading to psychosis.
  3. Mental Health: LSD use can trigger or worsen mental health problems such as anxiety, schizophrenia, or psychosis. Individuals with a history of these issues should avoid using LSD.
  4. Flashbacks: It’s possible to experience flashbacks weeks, months, or even years after taking LSD. Flashbacks are when the effects of the drug are felt again, even without using the drug again.
  5. Physical Health: LSD can lead to increased heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and body temperature. It may also cause sleeplessness, loss of appetite, tremors, and sweating. In rare cases, LSD use has been associated with myocardial infarction.
  6. Substance Abuse: LSD does not usually cause drug addiction. But, there have been some reports of psychological dependence. However, there is not much evidence to support this.

PCP (Phencyclidine)

PCP was once used as an intravenous anesthetic, but doctors no longer use it because it has very bad side effects. However, it is often abused because it can cause hallucinations. PCP goes by many names, like “angel dust,” “embalming fluid,” “killer weed,” “rocket fuel,” or “supergrass.”

Medicinal use of PCP

PCP, originally meant for medical use, is now an illegal street drug due to its dangerous effects. It’s known for causing hallucinations and disconnection from reality. PCP is used in different ways. However, it carries serious risks. These include psychosis, mental health issues, flashbacks, unpredictable reactions, and physical harm.

Remember that it’s not used medically anymore. Research is ongoing to understand its full impact and safety risks.

Risks Associated with PCP Use

PCP (phencyclidine) is an illegal street drug that can cause a range of adverse effects. The risks associated with PCP use include:

  1. Psychosis: PCP use can lead to psychosis, which is a common presentation in the emergency department. The mental effects of PCP are unpredictable. They can result in psychosis. These effects include delusions, visual hallucinations, and a distorted sense of time and identity.
  2. Mental Health: PCP use can trigger or worsen mental health problems such as anxiety, schizophrenia, or psychosis. Individuals with a history of these issues should avoid using PCP
  3. Flashbacks: It’s possible to experience flashbacks weeks, months, or even years after taking PCP. Flashbacks are when the effects of the drug are felt again, even without using the drug again
  4. Unpredictable Effects: The danger of PCP lies in its unpredictable effects. Users may experience a “bad trip.” This can involve disturbing hallucinations, extreme anxiety, and panic. It can lead to risky behaviour.
  5. Physical Health: PCP can lead to increased heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and body temperature. It may also cause sleeplessness, loss of appetite, tremors, and sweating. In rare cases, PCP use has been associated with myocardial infarction.
  6. Substance Abuse: PCP is addictive. Its use often leads to psychological dependence, craving, and compulsive PCP-seeking behaviour. Long-time PCP users report memory loss, difficulties with speech and learning, depression, and weight loss. These can persist for up to a year after stopping PCP use.
  7. Overdose: High doses of PCP can cause seizures, coma, and death (often due to accidental injury or suicide during PCP intoxication)

Salvia

Salvia divinorum is a herb in the mint family that can cause hallucinations when it is used wrongly. It hasn’t been changed in any way and looks like small dried leaves.

Salvia is also called shepherdess’ herb, diviner’s sage, seer’s sage, Maria pastora, magic mint, Sally-D, and many other names.

Medicinal use of Salvia

Salvia and salvinorin A have no approved medicinal use. However, ongoing research is exploring their therapeutic potential.

Some of the potential medicinal uses of salvia include:

  1. Anxiety: Salvia has been used to alleviate anxiety in some individuals
  2. Pain relief: Salvia has been used in folk medicine for pain relief. It is used to treat seizures, ulcers, gout, rheumatism, inflammation, dizziness, tremor, paralysis, diarrhea, and hyperglycemia.
  3. Cognitive disorders: Scientists have researched Salvia to see if it can help treat cognitive problems that come with getting older.

Risks Associated with Salvia Use

The risks associated with salvia use include a range of potential adverse effects, such as:

  1. Psychological Effects: Salvia’s effects on the mind can range from mild to intense. They may be frightening, depending on the dose’s strength. Common short-term effects include hallucinations and changes in visual perception. Uncontrolled laughter, mood and emotional swings, and difficulty concentrating are common. A sense of detachment from self and reality, dizziness, lack of coordination, and slurred speech are also common.
  2. Physical Effects: Salvia use can lead to physical effects such as nausea, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, confusion, slurred speech, tiredness, loss of memory, flushing, and spatio-temporal dislocation, which is a sensation that may be disturbing.
  3. Unpredictable Reactions: The danger of salvia lies in its unpredictable effects. Users may experience a “bad trip,” involving disturbing hallucinations, extreme anxiety, and panic, which can lead to risky behaviour
  4. Addiction Potential: Salvia has a low addiction potential, and people have not reported overdoses. However, it is not fully known if salvia can become addictive in the same capacity as other drugs. Nonetheless, substance use disorders involving hallucinogenic and/or dissociative drugs are treatable.

Can You Microdose While on Medication?

substance abuse, illicit substance, other substances

The answer is it depends! It depends on the psychedelic and the medication you’re taking. Some combinations may not be safe. Or might even make your symptoms worse.

However, there are certain categories of antidepressants that may be safely combined with microdosing under professional supervision. While true microdoses of psychedelics may not pose a significant risk, combining them with antidepressants often nullifies the benefits of microdosing.

Combining antidepressants with psychedelics, particularly during microdosing, can be risky and is generally not recommended. The interaction between antidepressants and psychedelics is still not fully understood, and more research is needed to determine their compatibility.

It is crucial to consult with a licensed psychiatrist when considering any changes to antidepressant medication or combining them with mood-altering substances.

Benefits of Microdosing (not recreational doses)

It’s important to remember that microdosing mushrooms may work for some people, but there’s no proof that it’s good for your health.

So, here are 5 possible benefits of microdosing that have been found in early studies:

psychoactive drugs, improve mood disorders, smart drug. cognitive

1. Improved Mental Health

It has been said that microdosing is good for your mental health. Users have found that it helps them feel less stressed, anxious, and depressed. In studies, a large number of people said they used microdosing as a way to treat depression and anxiety.

Even though more research is needed to prove it, anecdotal evidence shows that microdosing may help improve mental health.

2. Enhanced Brain Functioning

Microdosing may help the brain work better by letting people reach their full potential and be more opento new ideas. Some users say that microdosing helps them focus, concentrate, and think better.

But there haven’t been many scientific studies yet, and more research is needed to find out how big thes effects are and how they work.

3. Creativity Boost

Many people who microdose say that it makes them more creative. Even though this benefit is personal and hard to measure scientifically, anecdotal evidence suggests that microdosing may help people be more creative.

This effect might be caused by less stress, better focus, or something else that happens when you take a small dose. Still, more research is needed to prove that these claims are true.

4. Temporary Focus

Microdosing may aid in maintaining temporary focus, allowing individuals to engage in sustained work or projects without distraction. Some studies indicate that microdosing can lead to lower levels of distractibility, helping individuals stay concentrated on tasks.

However, more research is needed to understand the specific mechanisms underlying this benefit and its generalizability across different individuals.

5. Support for Quitting Habits

Some anecdotal evidence suggests that microdosing can help people quit other bad habits, like smoking or drinking too much alcohol.

Even though there isn’t much formal scientific research on this topic, people are still looking into how psychedelics, including microdoses, might help with substance use disorders. More research is needed to figure out how well and safely microdosing works to help people quit bad habits.

It’s important to remember that most of what we know about the benefits of microdosing comes from self-reports and personal experiences. To find out how microdosing really works and how it might work, controlled studies with placebos and larger sample sizes are needed.

Also, microdosing should always be done carefully and with the help of a medical professional since everyone reacts and experiences things differently.

What Are the Risks of Microdosing?

microdosing and medication, psychedelic drugs, microdosing psychedelics

Microdosing, like any form of substance use, carries potential health risks. These risks can be categorized into physical and mental health concerns.

Physical Health Risks

Microdosing may lead to physiological discomfort and undesirable physical effects. While the doses used in microdosing are typically sub-perceptual, individuals may still experience physical symptoms such as nausea, headaches, increased heart rate, or gastrointestinal issues.

These effects can vary depending on the substance used and individual sensitivity. Furthermore, the lack of regulation and purity control of substances used in microdosing poses additional risks.

Illegally obtained substances can be adulterated with other unknown substances, making it challenging to determine their purity, potency, and potential harmful interactions. This lack of quality control increases the risk of unintended physical side effects and adverse reactions.

Mental Health Risks

Microdosing can also affect mental health, and individuals with certain pre-existing mental health conditions should exercise caution or avoid microdosing altogether.

Increased anxiety

People with anxiety disorders may find that microdosing exacerbates their anxiety symptoms. The increased stimulation and altered perception induced by microdoses of psychedelic substances can potentially heighten feelings of restlessness, unease, or nervousness in individuals prone to anxiety.

Increased symptoms

Individuals with a history of psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of microdosing.

The substances used in microdosing can stimulate and alter perception in ways that may destabilize individuals with these conditions, potentially leading to worsened symptoms or triggering psychotic episodes.

Impaired mood

Moreover, microdosing may have an impact on mood regulation. While some individuals report improved mood and well-being, others may experience mood fluctuations, irritability, or emotional instability as a result of microdosing.

FAQs

How Can Microdosing Help You With Treatment-Resistant Depression?

Research suggests that psilocybin microdosing shows promise in relieving symptoms of depression. Brain scans have shown improved connections and cognitive functioning in participants. They underwent psilocybin microdosing trials. Research on microdosing is still in its early stage. And, more research is necessary to understand the implications and safety of microdosing.

Final Thoughts

In Canada, psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin are illegal, but their therapeutic potential is increasingly recognized. The government is open to exploring their medical use, although the risks and benefits are not fully understood.

Microdosing with professional guidance has demonstrated certain benefits, but caution is advised. Further research is necessary to comprehensively understand their effects. It is recommended to consult healthcare professionals for personalized advice.

If you want personalized 1 on 1 help, check out our Microdosing Consultation here: Microdosing Coaching Call.

Author Microdosify

By Rachel Grey

I’m Rachel Grey, a Ph.D. psychologist specializing in psychedelic therapy with psilocybin and natural plant medicines. I obtained my doctorate from the University of Toronto, where I immersed myself in the study of these transformative therapies. With over 10 years of experience, let’s embark on transformative journeys of healing, growth, and self-discovery as we explore the power of psychedelic therapy together.

Updated on November 23, 2022