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UBCO study finds correlation between psychedelic microdosing and mental health

An international study led by UBC Okanagan researchers suggests that repeated use of small doses of psychedelics, such as psilocybin or LSD, can be a valuable tool for those struggling with anxiety and depression.

The study demonstrated fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, and greater feelings of wellbeing among individuals who reported consuming psychedelics in small quantities, or microdosing, compared to those who did not.

Microdosing involves regular self-administration of psychedelic substances in amounts small enough to not impair normal cognitive functioning.

<who>Photo credit: (Stock) </who> Microdosing involves regular self-administration of psychedelic substances in amounts small enough to not impair normal cognitive functioning.

According to UBCO doctoral student and lead author Joseph Rootman, the results appear encouraging.

“In total, we followed more than 8,500 people from 75 countries using an anonymous self-reporting system—about half were following a microdosing regimen and half were not,” Rootman explained.

In comparing microdosers and non-microdosers, Rootman said “there was a clear association between microdosing and fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress—which is important given the high prevalence of these conditions and the substantial suffering they cause.”

The study also systematically examines the practice of stacking, or combining microdoses of psychedelics with other substances like niacin, lion's mane mushrooms and cacao.

Rootman works with Dr. Zach Walsh, a psychology professor in UBCO’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

Dr. Walsh said these findings highlight adults microdosing to treat their mental health conditions and enhance their wellbeing, as opposed to simply getting high.

“We have an epidemic of mental health problems, with existing treatments that don’t work for everyone," noted Walsh. "We need to follow the lead of patients who are taking these initiatives to improve their wellbeing and reduce suffering."

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, one in five Canadians personally experience a mental health problem or illness each year. This is one of the reasons Walsh says conducting innovative psychological research is imperative.

“These cross-sectional findings are promising and highlight the need for further investigation to better determine the impacts of factors like dosage and stacking,” explained Walsh.

“While the data is growing to support the use of psychedelics like psilocybin in large doses to treat depression and addiction—our data also helps to expand our understanding of how psychedelics may also help in smaller doses.”

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