Study shines new light on therapeutic use of LSD


LSD, the infamous psychedelic hippie drug of the ’60s, is finding new use in treating today’s mental health issues.

Microdosing is the process of taking small of amounts of psychedelic drugs, not to produce a ‘high’, but to provide beneficial side effects — improved mood, sharper focus and enhanced creativity.

There has yet to be a scientific study that verifies these traits, until last year.

Rotem Petranker, graduate student of psychology at York University. (Photo courtesy of Rotem Petranker)

Rotem Petranker, a graduate student of psychology at York University and his colleague, Thomas Anderson from University of Toronto, ran the first ever pre-registered scientific study on microdosing with LSD and “magic mushrooms”. They are studying how microdosing with psychedelic drugs can improve a person’s attitude and emotions, but also able to improve their mental wellness.

“In our study, the microdose was about 10 per cent of what is considered to be a standard dose of LSD,” says Petranker. “It was between 10 and 20 micrograms of LSD and for ‘magic mushrooms’ that contain psilocybin was between point 0.1 and 0.3 grams.”

Petranker was inspired to pursue the study because of the lack of attention to the subject.

“It was needed. No one was doing the research, but a lot of people are microdosing and that could be potentially dangerous. People aren’t doing it in an optimal way. So, we wanted to give that contribution to both science and the community,” says Petranker.

Petranker and Anderson collected surveys over a span of a year from social media sources to gain information on the benefits and drawbacks of microdosing. They received hundreds of responses. The data they gathered was to help describe the connection with these drugs and the effects on people’s mental health and well-being. There are several microdosing communities online, such as Reddit.

“The most common benefits were the improved mood, increased focus and increased creativity. The most common drawback was the illegality, though that is not a drawback of the substance,” says Petranker. “People reported having a hard time finding their dosage or have to deal with drug dealers and being anxious about how they’re partaking in an illegal activity.”

Other drawbacks that Petranker reported was physical discomfort and the results of microdosing not what people expected it to do. But everyone is different. Some will react different than others.

“People are taking it under like different circumstances. So, if you’re taking it at work you may feel more anxious but if you’re taking it at home you may feel less anxious,” explains Petranker.” People are individually different.

“So, something like 7 per cent of the people reported increased anxiety and about 5 per cent of the people reported reduced anxiety. Or 13 per cent reported increased focus, but about 10 per cent reported reduced focus,” says Petranker.

Ayelet Waldman, author of A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life, is a real-life example of the effects of microdosing as she takes readers on her journey.

Day by day she describes her mindfulness, how and what she feels and her thoughts. In her book, Waldman writes, “When I began this experiment, I wanted to find a solution to an intractable mood problem, and in many ways I have. Microdosing with LSD worked–in the short term, at least. I have no idea if the positive effects would continue with consistent use, if in fact microdosing would be a permanent solution to the problem of my mental health.”

According to Petranker, the idea is to be able to go about your day normally without any perceptual changes.

The researchers are still collecting information for the study.


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Alyssa Parkhill is a journalism student at Sheridan College. She is an avid reader, and displays a strong passion for writing and all things literature.