A Brief History of Microdosing Research

Formerly known only to the underground psychedelic community, the practice of taking microdoses of psychedelic drugs for a variety of purported benefits has made its way to the wider mainstream society. Just for starters, microdosers have reported experiencing elevated moods, increased productivity, and a boost in creativity when following a regular microdosing protocol.

But while there are tons of anecdotal claims about the potential benefits one can achieve from microdosing, so far there hasn’t been a whole lot of quantitative experimental data collected with regard to the cognitive effects of microdosing. This doesn’t mean that there is a complete absence of hard science about this practice, however—a handful of microdosing research studies from the last few years have broken ground in this field.

Existing Microdosing Research

One of the earliest microdosing studies was conducted by James Fadiman, who introduced the topic to a wider audience in his 2011 book The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide.

Over the course of five years, Fadiman collected trip reports from pioneering psychonauts who were already experimenting with microdosing. His research—self-published in January 2016—found that some people were able to successfully treat their drug-resistant depression and anxiety with tiny amounts of psychedelic drugs. Some people also reported work-related benefits, such as increased creativity and productivity.

This was all well and good—research has to start somewhere, after all—but as the study’s name suggests, “without approvals, control groups, double blinds, staff or funding” it was more like an informal survey than a rigorous scientific study.

Flash-forward a couple of years, and last November the journal Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs published a study from the University of Bergen that described data collected from interviews with 21 men about what it was like to microdose. The researchers found that the respondents reported mostly positive effects, including improved mood, cognition, and creativity. Furthermore, these effects “often served to counteract symptoms especially from conditions of anxiety and depression.”

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