Does Microdosing Help Depression?

By Victoria Kim 06/28/19

A new study examined whether there were any medical benefits to microdosing. 

woman microdosing LSD for depression
ID 100580590 © Alexander Pokusay |

You may have heard of microdosing. Some profess that consuming near-imperceptible doses of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) boosts productivity and creativity. Some are skeptical.

There has not yet been an in-depth study of this practice, but new research published in the journal Biological Psychiatry has taken the first step in this direction.

In four sessions, 20 young adults were given either 6.5, 13 or 26 micrograms of LSD or a placebo in random order. A usual dose of LSD is around 100-200 micrograms.

During the sessions, participants were evaluated for effects on mood and cognition. The findings showed very little effect across mood, cognition or physiological impact.

Study authors reported that at the highest dose given, 26 micrograms, the drug “increased ratings of ‘vigor’ and slightly decreased positivity ratings of images with positive emotional content.”

They concluded that, “It remains to be determined whether the drug improves mood or cognition in individuals with symptoms of depression.”

“Microdosing” was first introduced to the popular discourse by James Fadiman, author of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, according to Rolling Stone. The practice has also been explored with psilocybin, cannabis, ketamine and more.

Some claim that microdosing LSD is an effective tool for everything from increasing focus to quitting antidepressants. Study author Harriet de Wit was curious about these hefty claims.

“I have studied effects of psychoactive drugs for many years, including drugs that have traditionally been considered recreational, but may also have therapeutic potential,” said de Wit, a professor at the University of Chicago. “Therefore, I became curious about the widespread claims that low doses of LSD might improve mood and cognition.”

This study was a first step toward future research. “This type of study may improve our understanding of the psychological and neural processes that underlie negative mood states and depression,” said the study authors. “We are seeking support to fund additional studies.”

One example of an area needing further study is frequent and repeated microdosing, which the recent research did not cover. According to Fadiman, microdosing every fourth day yields the best results.

“The effects of low doses of LSD should be investigated when the drug is administered repeatedly, and in individuals who report negative affect,” say the study authors. “Individuals who report microdosing in their everyday lives take the drug every 3-5 days, and it is possible that the beneficial effects emerge only after repeated administration.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr