Microdosing – a promising way to improve creativity and treat depression or a placebo effect?

From the self-reports of psychonauts (experimenters with altered states of consciousness), including a number of researchers and IT specialists from Silicon Valley in the USA, there are indications that psychedelics may have a positive effect on creativity and mood. Microdosing is synonymous with repeated use of very low doses of psychedelics. These are about 10-20 times smaller than the full psychedelic dose, and are used repeatedly for longer periods of several weeks to months. Czech researchers at NUDZ also deal with the mechanisms of microdosing as part of a project supported by Václav Dejčmar. In a series of long-term experiments, they are studying the effects of microdoses of psilocybin, ketamine and LSD on rats. They are monitoring the behavioral parameters that may be interpreted in the context of creativity and antidepressant effects. In the event that microdoses are shown to have effects in animal models, this may be used as a basis for initiating clinical trials on healthy volunteers or patients with depression.

Microdosing is synonymous with long-term administration of non-psychoactive doses of psychedelics, so small that it is 1/10 or 1/20 of a normal psychoactive dose. Doses are typically administered over two or three days (with each dose being followed by at least one day without the drug). This use has gained in popularity, which has been greatly promoted by the American psychologist James Fadiman. Microdosing came to prominence, among other things, because many experts in Silicon Valley began to proclaim this use as a way to increase creativity. Recently its possible antidepressant or anxiolytic effects are also broadly discussed.

At the time of project designing, information on whether microdosing is effective or not was based mainly on users´ reports, and there was no significant evidence of whether it was a placebo effect or not and how much it was a biologically based mechanism.

In order to understand the mechanisms behind microdosing, researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health in Czech Republic decided to compare the effects of microdosing LSD psychedelics, psilocin (the active metabolite of psilocybin) and ketamine in a rat animal model. The aim is to evaluate whether long-term intermittent administration of microdoses of these psychedelics (3 times a week for 6 weeks) will lead to a change in selected parameters of animal behavior with special focus changes in depressive-like symptoms, anxiety and exploration. At the same time, the treatment is compared with the effect of a commonly used antidepressant and the effect of a single administration of a high doses of the same psychedelics.

The assumption is that if there are pharmacological mechanisms causing effects in humans, analogous changes should be found in animal models with a certain degree of probability. At the same time, if these changes are present in the animal model, it is with a high probability that the biological basis of the effect of microdosing is demonstrated. Due to the fact that the study is very time consuming, its duration take several years.


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