About one-half of individuals who microdose and reported taking prescription medicine for mental health conditions said they had reduced or stopped using the prescribed drugs, according to the latest edition of the world’s largest drug survey, The Global Drug Survey 2021.1
The 27-page Global Drug Survey (GDS) report presents data from 32,022 individuals from 22 countries. Findings include how individuals utilized safety practices during COVID-19 and emergency medical treatment. It provides an update on psychedelic microdosing, which has seen rising academic interest for its use in the healing of sadness, anger, and agitation, according to a Nature Scientific Reports article2 published in November 2021. Mindful of this interest, we are focusing on the microdosing data in this article.
Most participants (62.4% men) were from Germany (36%), New Zealand (11%), or the United States (6%). They were predominantly aged 25 or more years (31.8% aged 25 to 34 years, 19.2% aged 35 to 44 years, 19.3% aged at least 45 years). About half (50.9%) worked full-time, and the majority (66.6%) had at least a college certificate or diploma. Mental health conditions included depression (28.2%) and anxiety, panic attacks, or phobias (21.6%).
The researchers found that the majority of individuals who said they had microdosed with either LSD or psilocybin had also taken normal or large doses of it in the last 12 months, but the portion of individuals who took normal or large doses of the drugs in the past year did not also microdose.
About one-third of the individuals who microdosed with LSD or psilocybin have microdosed with other substances as well, such as MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine/Ecstasy), ketamine, 1P-LSD, and the hallucinogen DMT (N-dimethyltryptamine). About 1 out of every 4 people who microdosed experienced undesired or adverse effects in the past year. About 10% said they experienced adverse physical or psychological effects. Individuals taking the microdoses frequently attributed unwanted effects to a dose that was too high. Less than 5% of individuals reported tolerance to the physical or psychological effects they were seeking.
“For 20-40% however these unwanted/negative effects led to them stopping the practice altogether so, contrary to the overwhelmingly positive media spin, microdosing is not tolerated or accepted by all,” the researchers said.
About one-half of individuals microdosing who reported taking prescription medicine for mental health conditions (about 75%) said they reduced or stopped taking their prescribed medications. The researchers recommended doctors ask their patients to disclose other methods that they use to improve their mental health.
Past 12-month use of illegal drugs dropped from 75.3% in the 2020 survey to 66.6% in the 2021 survey. Past 12-month legal use of drugs increased from 81.5% to 95.6%. The percentage of people who reported that they only used legal drugs more than doubled, increasing from 12.3% in the 2020 survey to 30.1% in the 2021 survey. From 2020 to 2021, there was a decrease in respondents who reported past 12-month use of alcohol, cannabis THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), cannabis CBD (Tetrahydrocannabinol), tobacco cigarettes, and prescription opioids.
Limitations of the survey data report include generalization challenges because the participants are from a nonprobability sample.
“GDS suspects microdosing may ultimately be easier to incorporate into mainstream psychiatric practice and more acceptable to patients than high dose assisted therapy that would require long periods under supervision and more training for staff,” the investigators said.
1. Winstock AR, Maier LJ, Zhuparris A, et al. Global Drug Survey 2021 key findings report. Global Drug Survey. December 2021. Assessed January 3, 2022. https://www.globaldrugsurvey.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Report2021_global.pdf
2. Rootman JM, Kryskow P, Harvey K. et al. Adults who microdose psychedelics report health related motivations and lower levels of anxiety and depression compared to non-microdosers. Sci Rep. 11, 22479 (2021). doi:10.1038/s41598-021-01811-4