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New Study Suggests Expectations May Drive Effects of Microdosing Psilocybin

According to a double-blind, published study by University of Buenos Aires researchers, microdosing psilocybin may have positive effects.

Study authors, published in the journal last month The Translational Psychiatry.Microdosing of psilocybin is gaining popularity. Microdosing, where you take small amounts of magic mushrooms’ psychoactive compound, can have several health benefits. Many microdosing psilocybin users claim that it can enhance concentration, mood and creativity. There has not been much scientific evidence on microdosing of psilocybin and other psychedelic substances.

“Ample anecdotal evidence suggests that microdosing can improve mood, well-being, creativity, and cognition, and recent uncontrolled, open-label observational studies have provided some empirical support for these claims,” the authors wrote. “While encouraging, these studies are vulnerable to experimental biases, including confirmation bias and placebo effects. This is especially problematic in the case of microdosing, since users make up a self-selected sample with optimistic expectations about the outcome of the practice.”

The researchers recruited 34 individuals who were already planning to use their own mushrooms for psilocybin. Participants agreed to follow the protocols and adapt their dosages.

The participants were monitored for two weeks. Two half-grams of dried Psilocybin mushroom mushrooms were administered to participants in one week. The other week saw participants receive a placebo with the exact same preparation as the original. Double-blind design meant that neither participants nor researchers could tell which preparation contained psilocybin or which placebo.

The questionnaires asked participants to report any immediate effects that they felt with the dose. Participants also had to complete tasks that measured creativity, perception and cognition. EEGs were used to assess brain activity. Participants also shared their hopes and fears about how their mental health might change, including in areas such as anxiety or positive emotions.

There are more effects among people who know they’re taking mushrooms

Results of self-reported questionnaires showed significantly greater acute effects than the placebo. Participants who accurately identified the placebo or psilocybin as their drug of choice had a significant effect. This suggests that participants’ expectations might have affected the outcome.

Even though EEG testing showed brainwave rhythms that were not normal, the study did not show any effects of psilocybin. However, it was found no positive impact on creativity or cognition. In fact, a trend identified in the data suggested that taking psilocybin may have hampered the participants’ performance on certain cognitive tasks. This trend was consistent with prior research which found high levels of serotonergic psychotropic drugs could cause cognitive impairments such as poor attention or decision-making.

The authors discussed the findings of their study and noted that people’s perceptions about microdosing may be impacting the experience of users who use low doses of psilocybin.

“The reported acute effects were significantly more intense for the active dose compared to the placebo, but only for participants who correctly identified their experimental condition,” they wrote.

These findings don’t support the widely-reported evidence of microdosing Psilocybin enhancing well-being or creativity. Researchers identified several weaknesses in the research, such as the shorter-term duration of the two week dosing schedule. The researchers also pointed out that only healthy participants were included in the study, and microdosing may have the greatest effect on people with mental disorders. Further research is needed to establish if microdosing of psilocybin can have mental health benefits. This includes the effects that a prolonged microdosing regimen may have on participants.

The study, “Microdosing with psilocybin mushrooms: a double-blind placebo-controlled study”, was published in July by the peer-reviewed journal Translational Psychiatry