Taking LSD every morning ‘could be beneficial’, say scientists
Chewing up blotters of powerful synthetic hallucinogens for breakfast could actually be beneficial, scientists have concluded after dosing some rats. ‘Microdosing’ – taking small doses of LSD in the morning – is popular among Silicon Valley types, who claim it boosts creativity. But the new rat study is the first to show that microdosing could have ‘beneficial’ effects on anxiety and depression, researchers from UC Davis say.
David Oldson of UC Davis said, ‘This is the first time anyone has demonstrated in animals that psychedelic microdosing might actually have some beneficial effects, particularly for depression or anxiety.’ Olson and his team dosed rats with the powerful hallucinogen DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine), which is found in ayahuasca tea.
The researchers say that DMT’s molecular structure is embedded within the structures of popular microdosing drugs such as LSD and psilocybin. The rats were dosed with a tenth of a ‘trip’ dose every three days – and the researchers found that the animals overcame their ‘fear response’ in tests, and also seemed to be less immobile in a test related to antidepressant effects. Olson said, ‘Prior to our study, essentially nothing was known about the effects of psychedelic microdosing on animal behaviors.
Olson said, ‘Our study demonstrates that psychedelics can produce beneficial behavioral effects without drastically altering perception, which is a critical step towards producing viable medicines inspired by these compounds.’ The team documented some potential risks: the dosing regimen significantly increased bodyweight in male rats, for example. It also caused neuronal atrophy in female rats. Olson said, ‘‘It’s exciting, but the potentially adverse changes in neuronal structure and metabolism that we observe emphasize the need for additional studies.’
Canadian scientists investigated people who ‘microdose’, and found they actually score higher on mental health and well-being measures. Thomas Anderson of the University of Toronto and Rotem Petranker of York University, Canada say, ‘We found that microdosers scored higher on measures of wisdom, open-mindedness and creativity. The researchers say, ‘Microdosers also scored lower on measures of dysfunctional attitudes and negative emotionality, which is very promising.’ The researchers recruited ‘microdosers’ from Reddit communities – and point out that further research (in the form of trials using placebos) is needed to fully validate the result. But psychological tests on the microdosers (and a group of non-users) found that people using the drugs were more creative, wiser and less vulnerable to stress and depression. The researchers write, ‘As promising as they seem, we don’t know whether microdosing actually caused any of these differences. ‘Maybe people with better mental health were more likely to experiment with microdosing, or perhaps there is some unknown cause that made people both more likely to microdose and to be creative.’