If you follow one of the many online communities of anxiety sufferers, it won’t take you long to find an advert for micro-dosing. It will probably be hidden in the comments – someone will tell you what a great thing micro-dosing is. So what is micro-dosing and does it really help? Is it a great cure for anxiety or over-hyped nonsense?
What is micro-dosing?
Micro-dosing, or more strictly “psychedelic micro-dosing”, is the practice of taking regular small quantities of a psychedelic drug such as psilocybin – the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms (or sometimes Lysergic acid diethylamide – LSD). The quantity taken is small, maybe a tenth of the dose usually taken for recreational purposes, so that any psychedelic effect is so small as not to be noticeable.
Advocates of micro-dosing say that it has a positive mental effect on anxiety as well as other mental issues. They say, for example, that it will increase your focus and energy, helps you be ‘in the moment’, increases empathy, increases your sense of wellbeing, helps you come off and stay off medications such as anti-depressants, and reduces cravings. As someone who has never tried micro-dosing, I cannot tell you whether or not these benefits are real, but there are many advocates who report positive mental effects anecdotally.
What is the evidence for micro-dosing having a positive impact on anxiety?
The studies that have been carried out have mixed results. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that micro-dosing has a positive effect on mental well-being (that is, people tell you it has had a positive effect, without being part of a controlled experiment). There are many advocates who are convinced that it has a positive impact. The scientific studies do, however, come up with mixed results.
The gold standard for clinical trials of any drug is known as RCD – a Randomised Control Trial – in which a group of people are randomly split into two groups. One group takes the drug and the other takes a placebo, and no-one know which group they are in. In an RCD it is possible to compare the effects of taking the drug with that of not taking it without any inherent bias to the experiment. I find it difficult to find any reported RCD trials of micro-dosing.
There have been studies that look at people who have decided to take up micro-dosing that have shown a positive mental impact. But be wary of this result, as it could be that the positive mental impact was simply down to expectation – the subjects believed they were going to feel better, and that belief made them feel better.
Is micro-dosing for anxiety safe?
Micro-dosing is an unregulated market in the UK. This means that if you order any online, there are no standards to which suppliers have to conform, and no external checks as to what you will receive. You will get different strengths of psilocybin from different suppliers, and there will be no external checks as to their safety. (Which is a concern as psilocybin comes from a fungus, and some other fungii are poisonous.)
There are no studies on the long-term impact of micro-dosing, so there is no scientific evidence that tells us whether it is safe in the long-term, or that it causes long-term difficulties. It is known that some people take it long-term and appear to be fine doing so, but there is no evidence to help us understand if this is always the case with everyone.
What is the legal status of micro-dosing?
In the UK psilocybin – magic mushroom – is classified as a class A drug, and it is illegal to possess, grow or sell it. So, if you do try micro-dosing psilocybin to help your anxiety, you will be breaking the law. Wikipedia provides a handy chart that explains the legal status of magic mushrooms in many countries.
The jury is still out. There is no scientific evidence that micro-dosing can help with anxiety. However, there is no scientific evidence to show that is does not help, indeed, there are many advocates who say they have experience of it working well.
In the UK and many other countries, micro-dosing is illegal and unregulated, so I do not recommend you try it (unless, of course, the local laws where you live permit and regulate it).
If you are only just coping with anxiety and you want some help, you might consider hypnotherapy. I help people with anxiety and stress to get their lives back on track using hypnotherapy in my clinic here in Fleet in Hampshire.
A few articles and sources of information
Photo by Tania Malréchauffé on Unsplash