The practice of microdosing psychedelics involves consuming sub-hallucinogenic doses of a psychedelic substance, such as magic mushrooms. The practice has surged in popularity following a hailstorm of media reports spotlighting its various benefits in recent years. While techies at Silicon Valley were far from the first to microdose psychedelics, they are certainly credited for bringing it into the mainstream. Today, the benefits of full-dose psychedelics for conditions like depression, anxiety and PTSD are continuously being unraveled in the clinical research setting. This has led many to wonder whether microdosing these compounds can offer them similar benefits. 

 

In particular, many are wondering if microdosing magic mushrooms can help their anxiety. This evidence-based review will explore the current state of scientific data around the reported benefits and potential drawbacks of microdosing magic mushrooms for anxiety.

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Little Clinical Trial Data on Microdosing Requires Gleaning From Full-Dose Data

The revival of psychedelic science has offered us incredible insights into the beneficial effects of full-dose psychedelic experiences. Despite decades of prohibition halting research into these compounds, scientists have amassed an enormous amount of evidence linking psychedelic use with beneficial effects. With respect to magic mushrooms alone, leading institutions such as NYU, Johns Hopkins and the Imperial College of London have shown remarkable results in using psilocybin, the active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushroom species, to treat end-of-life anxiety in terminal patients. Other studies have also shown the extraordinary capability of full-dose psilocybin experiences to radically address treatment-resistant depression, alcoholism and addiction

Many are gleaning from this research, as well as mounting anecdotal data in hopes of applying the benefits of microdosing mushrooms to their own lives. But what does the research say about anxiety specifically? It turns out the findings are a little complex.

Can Microdosing Magic Mushrooms Help My Anxiety? An Evidence-Based Review

New Studies Offers Initial Insights on Microdosing Magic Mushrooms & LSD

While high-quality clinical data investigating the effects of microdosing mushrooms for anxiety is limited, one BMC study, “Psychedelic microdosing benefits and challenges: an empirical codebook” offers some insights. Through sampling 278 real-world microdosers, the researchers identified both beneficial and challenging outcomes. As expected, microdoser’s reported the classic cognitive benefits attributed to microdosing, such as “improved mood (26.6%) and focus (14.8%)”. However, this study also noted challenging outcomes, including “physiological discomfort (18.0%) and increased anxiety (6.7%).” 

It is also worth noting that in this study there were microdosers who used only psilocybin, only LSD or both. The psilocybin-only users reported “the benefits of microdosing were more important than other users report.” While this study certainly provides preliminary grounds to draw upon, further evidence is needed to truly gain a clinical understanding of how efficacious magic mushrooms could be for anxiety.

A more recent October 2020 study published in European Nueropsyhopharmacology also found, “Low dose of LSD increased anxiety (5 and 20 mcg) and confusion (20 mcg).” A Profile of Mood States (POMS) self-assessment mood questionnaire with 72 adjectives describing specific mood states was used for this evaluation. While numerous positive effects were also noted in these studies, the presence of adverse reactions strongly calls for further research into the full spectrum of potential effects caused by microdosing mushrooms.

Can Microdosing Magic Mushrooms Help My Anxiety? An Evidence-Based Review

Anecdotal Reporting on Internet Forums Like Reddit Provides Deeper Insights

 

The intersection of the digital age with the popularization of microdosing has provided a unique trove of anecdotal evidence in online communities such as Reddit. At the time this article is being published, almost 127,000 members are subscribed to the r/microdosing subreddit. The thriving community has engaging threads about microdosing, drawing everyone from new CEO’s microdosing for focus to recovering opiate addicts seeking to enrich their journey through recovery. 

Following a search for “anxiety” in the r/microdosing subreddit, a cursory review of the results clearly shows that reviews spectrum from glowing reports of anxiety relief to reports stating microdosing magic mushrooms indeed causing anxiety. Indeed, such variability in user reporting and lack of clinical data around the therapeutic and possibly adverse reactions to microdosing may make it difficult for the novice user to begin their microdosing journey.

Can Microdosing Magic Mushrooms Help My Anxiety? An Evidence-Based Review

Possible Mechanisms for Microdosing-Induced Anxiety & Overstimulation 

It is worth noting that traditional serotonergic psychedelics, such as LSD and psilocybin, exhibit a powerfully stimulating and excitatory mechanism of action over the pyramidal neurons in the brain, directly activating them. Indeed, those seeking out the practice for its purported boost in energy, creativity and uplifting properties are likely seeking these specific properties of the traditional psychedelic compounds. However, while such drugs don’t stimulate the brain in the same way as a cup of coffee, they are still powerful stimulants nonetheless. Given the widely varying dosages used for microdosing and lack of established schedule, it is not improbable to assume dosing too frequently or too much (or both) at a time could possibly induce anxiety instead of relieving it.   

In a Microdose original article spotlighting the unique dissociative psychedelic, ketamine, Dr. Jeffrey Becker of Bexson Biomedical further illustrates this mechanism:  

“Essentially, if our thoughts and the electrochemical signals responsible for them in our brains can be thought of as water flowing through an aperture, then serotonergic drugs like LSD increase the amount of water (information) going through the same sized hole. The inhibitory component maintaining scope of consciousness, known as the GABAergic Interneuron net, is mostly left intact to fight for control over the increased flow of information.” ~Dr. Jeffrey Becker, Chief Scientific Officer, Bexson Biomedical

Read Ketamine: The Uncommon Hallucinogen Poised to Revolutionize Post-Operative Pain Management

Can Microdosing Magic Mushrooms Help My Anxiety? An Evidence-Based Review

Essentially, this increase of information can result in an increase in psychic pressure, manifesting as intense anxiety during the “come up” exhibited by traditional psychedelics. In this model, one might imagine the normally “laminar flow” of water through the pipe can become “turbulence” as the pressure increases, sometimes resulting in tremendous anxiety. Considering the varying species of psilocybin-containing mushrooms contain widely differing amounts of psilocybin and hits of LSD differ at least as widely as well, ensuring a dose is truly sub-perceptual and spaced out far enough apart is likely the best way to maximize benefit while minimizing potential risks.  

 

Psychedelics are indeed powerful compounds that involve various factors that may be overwhelming for the new user at first. Luckily, there are plenty of valuable resources available today to guide you on your path. Finally, when in doubt, always remember the golden rule of harm reduction: start low and go slow! 

Want more deep insights about magic mushrooms, medicinal mushrooms and more from leading mycology experts, scientists and prominent thought leaders? Join us at The Mushroom Conference: A Molecular Masterclass on Nov 20-22nd.  

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The Golden Rule of Harm Reduction: Start Low and Go Slow

While psychedelic drugs generally have an established safety profile and do not risk serious abuse or overdose potential, there is still incredible value in adhering to the golden rule of harm reduction: start low and go slow. Whether you’re embarking on your microdosing journey solo, with expert coaches, or with the support of an online community, you will be well served by following these guidelines. Remember, you can always take more but not less. Since microdosing is regarded as the consumption of sub-perceptual, sub-hallucinogenic doses of psychedelic compounds, it is important to understand what the accepted dosage ranges are for the compound you are working with. As mentioned, the amount of psilocybin in magic mushrooms can vary greatly depending on the strain, growing conditions and a host of other factors. Therefore, it is important to be responsible, start low and go slow when you microdose. 

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Closing Thoughts on Microdosing Magic Mushrooms for Treating Anxiety

Currently, over 40 million adults in the U.S. aged 18 and older are reported to suffer from anxiety. Perhaps even more concerning is the fact that this is 18.1% of the population but less than 37% actually receive treatment. Clearly, the need for more effective mental health solutions for conditions like anxiety is greater than ever. Countless online reports certainly suggest microdosing magic mushrooms has incredible promise in helping anxiety–even in mothers struggling with postpartum depression. While the jury is still out as far as double-blind clinical microosing trials go, it is our hope this research gap is quickly filled so the best microdosing practices/techniques are available to everybody.    

Works Cited

  1. Anderson, T., Petranker, R., Christopher, A. et al. Psychedelic microdosing benefits and challenges: an empirical codebook. Harm Reduct J 16, 43 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12954-019-0308-4
  2. Carhart-Harris, R.L., Bolstridge, M., Day, C.M.J. et al. Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: six-month follow-up. Psychopharmacology 235, 399–408 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-017-4771-x