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Microdosers Report Less Anxiety and Substance Abuse

Online Study: Microdosers Report Less Anxiety and Substance Abuse
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Study finds microdosers are less likely to have suffered with anxiety or substance addiction.

Microdosing a sub-perceptual dose of a psychedelic substance is becoming ever more popular.  Microdosing LSD and psilocybin mushrooms are the most common choices of substance to microdose but in recent years people have also begun to experiment with microdosing DMT, ketamine and MDMA. A wide range of benefits have been reported, from reductions in the symptoms of depression, anxiety, migraines and fatigue, to increased creativity and concentration.  The scientific community is taking notice, and now scientists have been able to study this legally problematic phenomenon by using online anonymity to their advantage.  

Researchers on Reddit

Researchers recently took to Reddit in order to collect data on the mental health history of microdosers for one of the largest studies on the topic conducted to date [1]. Almost a thousand participants were recruited from forums at the centre of online psychedelic and microdosing communities and were asked to complete a survey compiled by the researchers.  A previous study from the same group found that people who currently microdosed, or had microdosed in the past, showed psychological differences from non-microdosers [2].  Microdosers were less likely to hold “dysfunctional attitudes” (beliefs that have a negative impact on the individual), had less negative emotionality and were more open-minded, creative, and wiser than those who did not microdose.

Microdoser Findings

Participants responded to a questionnaire in which they were asked to report any diagnoses they had received for any psychiatric disorders.  The results showed that, while there were no significant differences in the prevalence of most psychiatric diagnoses between microdosers and non-microdosers, microdosers were less likely to report having had a diagnosis for any anxiety disorder (26.1% vs. 35.2%).  Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social phobia or any other phobia.  Microdosers also had a lower prevalence of anxiety disorders (26.1%) than the general US population (33.7%) [3,4].

The researchers were surprised to find that microdosers were also less likely to report having previously been diagnosed with substance use disorder (1.2%), that is, any addiction to a substance, compared to the non-microdosers in the study (6.6%) and also to the US population (5.9%) [5].  The study also found that recreational substance use was far higher amongst microdosers, who were roughly 5 times more likely than non-microdosers to have taken a substance recreationally in the previous year.  One hypothesis that could be drawn from this is that microdosers tend to have a particularly healthy relationship with mind-altering substances, opting to use them rather than abstain but tending to not develop unhealthy addictive dynamics that would lead to a diagnosis of substance abuse.  On the other hand, it is possible for people to suffer with unhealthy addictive patterns of behaviour but to be in denial and, as a result, to not seek out the kind of support that would lead to a diagnosis.  

The inability to distinguish between these scenarios is one of the main limitations of self-reporting studies of this kind.  Despite this limitation, these findings provide an exciting jumping off point for the scores of studies that are bound to emerge over the coming decades, as the decriminalization efforts make it easier to recruit participants for more tightly controlled studies.

To learn more about microdosing, check out our guides on individual substances: microdosing lsd, microsdosing psilocybin, microdosing ketamine, microdosing dmt, and microdosing MDMA.

References:

  1. Rosenbaum, D., Weissman, C., Anderson, T., Petranker, R., Dinh-Williams, L.A., Hui, K. and Hapke, E., 2020. Microdosing psychedelics: Demographics, practices, and psychiatric comorbidities. Journal of Psychopharmacology, p.0269881120908004.
  2. Anderson, T., Petranker, R., Rosenbaum, D., Weissman, C.R., Dinh-Williams, L.A., Hui, K., Hapke, E. and Farb, N.A., 2019. Microdosing psychedelics: personality, mental health, and creativity differences in microdosers. Psychopharmacology, 236(2), pp.731-740.
  3. Alegria, M., Jackson, J.S., Kessler, R.C. and Takeuchi, D., 2001. National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiology Surveys (CPES), 2003.
  4. Kessler, R.C., Berglund, P., Chiu, W.T., Demler, O., Heeringa, S., Hiripi, E., Jin, R., Pennell, B.E., Walters, E.E., Zaslavsky, A. and Zheng, H., 2004. The US national comorbidity survey replication (NCS‐R): design and field procedures. International journal of methods in psychiatric research, 13(2), pp.69-92.
  5. Coccaro, E.F., Fanning, J.R. and Lee, R., 2017. Intermittent explosive disor- der and substance use disorder: Analysis of the national comorbidity survey replication sample. The Journal of clinical psychiatry, 78(6), p.697.

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