Laura Kaertner, MSc
Imperial College London
A Prospective Study of Microdosing
Microdosing refers to the regular ingestion of sub-threshold or threshold level perceptible doses of classic psychedelic substances (5-HT2A receptor agonists) with the objective of causing subtle changes in mood and cognition. Results of first scientific observations and anecdotical evidence suggest that microdosing induces minimal to no acute subjective drug effects while promoting positive mood, creative thinking and well-being. However, published scientific literature on microdosing is presently sparse and consequently little is known about its efficacy and possible risks. The present study prospectively collected web-based data tracking individuals planning to microdose over a period of four weeks. State and trait variables and dosing parameters were assessed at multiple time-points before, during and after individuals engaged in a microdosing protocol. Principal components, correlational and partial correlation, analysis of variance and independent samples t-tests were all employed. 147 participants completed the baseline measure and 48 completed the key-endpoint measure at four weeks. In line with our main hypotheses, we found elevations in psychological well-being and reductions in state anxiety and depressive symptoms after four weeks of microdosing compared with baseline. Furthermore, we found increases in the personality trait emotional stability (the inverse of neuroticism), improvements in the ability to cope with stress (resilience), increases in social connectedness and nature relatedness and no increase in delusional ideation. Microdoses seemed to induce mild but noticeable subjective drug effects which were associated with the changes in well-being. However, we also found evidence of a potential expectancy bias (placebo effect), as expectancy scores at baseline predicted the subsequent well-being changes over time. This is one of the first quantitative and prospective studies on microdosing. While mindful of design limitations such as the high rates of attirition, these results suggest microdosing may indeed promote positive mental health outcomes, and lay the foundations for more rigorous placebo-controlled studies.
Laura Kaertner is a research assistant at the Centre of Psychedelic Research, Imperial College London. She recently finsihed her degree in Psychology (M.Sc) at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg in Germany, with main focus on Clinical and Behavioural Psychology. She completed a research internship at ICL during her M.Sc. programme. In her Master’s project, she investigated the subjective effects of microdosing psychedelic substances using a large scale web-based survey, with the main focus on identifying potential risks and therapeutic benefits of this practice. Furthermore, she is involved in welfare and harm reduction work with PsyCareUk. In the near future, she will be working within psychedelic retreat centers, supporting personal growth, spiritual development and creative breakthroughs and focus on her future career as a psychologist/psychotherapist.