It’s possible that when you hear the phrase “psychedelics,” you think of hallucinatory and mystical experiences. However, psychedelics are much more than that. Psilocybin-containing magic mushroom Canada and N-dimethyltryptamine (ayahuasca’s spiritual medicine) are all examples of psychedelics that can produce profound psychological experiences known popularly as “journey.” A growing movement among the scientific community is to explore these recreational substances as therapies for mental disorders since they may be more effective and have fewer adverse effects than standard medicines.
No one is surprised that psychiatrists are now interested in psychedelics for therapeutic purposes. Thousand of people were given psychedelics in the 1950s and 1960s to cure alcoholism and other mental problems. The US Controlled Substances Act of 1971 put an end to much of this study, although it wasn’t until then. After an almost 40-year break, scientists are again resuming their study in this area. LSD and psilocybin have been found to improve mood and anxiety in patients with various life-threatening diseases for up to a year after treatment in landmark experiments from 2014 and 2016, with many more investigations underway.
Along with this newfound interest in psychedelics, microdosing is becoming increasingly popular. For example, 5-10% of a typical dose is considered microdosing for psychedelics. Some studies have shown that microdosing can still generate many of the same advantages as full-dose therapy, but without generating the intense and often unpleasant hallucinatory experiences that are associated with full-dose therapy. Although some experts believe that these results are incorrect or, even worse, that microdosing may be hazardous, others believe that they are correct.
The possible mechanisms of microdosing.
Serotonin, a chemical messenger that lets nerve cells connect with other cells in the body, is believed to be the primary target of psychedelics. Although serotonin is often represented in the media as being responsible for happiness, it has a far more nuanced and wide-ranging role. Even physiological processes such as vomiting are linked to serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter involved in mood and cognition.
There are molecular areas termed serotonin 2A receptors distributed throughout the central nervous system since serotonin is so vital in the body. To activate or inhibit the serotonin system, chemicals can attach to these receptors and bind to them. Even though this process is not entirely known, psychedelic drugs are thought to target these receptors. In one theory, serotonin 2A-binding medicines stimulate cerebral cortex activity and cause hallucinations and other side effects by activating the cerebral cortex responsible for cognition, sensory perception, and motor activities. The use of psychedelics has even been linked to an increase in neuroplasticity, which leads to the formation of additional connections between neurons and might explain the novelty of these powerful psychological experiences. As a result, microdosing is believed to function in a similar way, but to a lesser extent.
Microdoses, according to some studies, may also function by reducing inflammation in the body. Anti-infective immunity causes inflammation, but when the immune system is engaged without genuine risk, it can cause harm. A multitude of ailments, such as autoimmune diseases and even mental health issues such as depression, are linked to chronic inflammation. In animal experiments, microdosing has been found to have anti-inflammatory benefits, prompting some scientists to believe that this might hint at another potential mode of action.
The first research on microdosing
Microdosing research is still in its infancy, and as a result, there are only a few studies accessible to understand its effects on humans. Microdosing as a therapy for mental health disorders will be the subject of clinical studies in 2020. As long as the results aren’t out yet.
However, most of the outcomes of this poll have been favorable. 79 percent of respondents in a recent worldwide study said that microdosing had improved their mental health. Another poll found that people were happier and more productive as a result of the change. These results are encouraging, but they should be taken with care. We can’t confirm or verify the dose, timetable, or kind of psychedelic taken because these are questionnaires, and several studies have previously highlighted that experiences may differ based on these variables. Additionally, these outcomes are sensitive to the so-called placebo effect, whereby knowing you are taking a therapy might lead you to experience advantages, even if the treatment is not directly causally connected to those effects. If this is the case, then microdosing may have nothing to do with the claimed changes in the patient’s condition.
These survey findings are backed up by animal studies. Scientists at UC Davis microdose rats with DMT in a well-publicized study and found that their reactions were comparable to those of antidepressants. They were placed in a pool with no leaks, and the microdose rats swam after the untreated rats had given up, in an attempt to escape. This suggests some degree of improved resilience and optimism in microdose rats. Another study microdose some rats with psilocin (another psychoactive component of magic mushrooms) and others with a different psychedelic called ketamine and found that both slightly alleviate anxiety in rats experiencing a stressful maze.
Naturally, the outcomes of the animal study cannot be directly applied to people. As a result of these findings, additional clinical trial study into psychedelics is warranted.
To be sure, microdosing is not only effective but also safe. We won’t have a definitive answer until clinical studies are complete, although there is some evidence that certain people may be more susceptible to unpleasant side effects. Psychotic episodes or other mental health problems can occur in certain persons who have taken psychedelics in the past, or who have a pre-existing risk of significant psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. The negative effects of micro-dosing are still conceivable, despite the fact that the medication is administered in a considerably lower dose.
Microdosing has also been linked to particular adverse effects, according to a recent survey. Unwanted effects such as headaches, overstimulation, difficulty sleeping, physical pain, and even anxiety have been reported by some persons despite the medicines’ claim to alleviate these problems. The specific relationship between these symptoms and the exact amount, timing, and kind of drug used is not yet fully known, but they do demonstrate that detrimental consequences can occur when some medications are taken.
Still, it’s too early to tell if microdosing is a feasible approach to harness the promise of psychedelics for mental health therapy yet. In order to fully understand how it works, as well as any negative effects, additional study is needed. A new therapeutic option for mental health could emerge if scientific trials demonstrate the safety and usefulness of psychedelic microdoses.
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