Microdosing Psychedelics and the Placebo Effect

April 23, 2021

Computational neuroscientist and biomedical software engineer Balázs Szigeti, PhD. is on the podcast this week to talk about the science behind the increasingly popular practice of microdosing. Microdosing is broadly defined as the regular use of low-dose psychedelic substances such as LSD or psilocybin mushrooms. Distinct from psychedelic therapy or common recreational use, microdosing involves using only around 10% of a typical dose of the drug. Balázs has collaborated with the Global Drug Survey to quantitatively study drug use patterns, and most recently he designed and led the Imperial College self-blinding microdose study published in the open-access journal eLife Sciences.

On this podcast, Balázs discusses the results of his study that examined whether psychedelic microdosing can improve cognitive function and psychological well-being. He reviews the existing clinical research on the topic and describes the innovative study design that enabled him to run the largest placebo-controlled study on psychedelics to date. Balázs also reveals the surprising results of the study, which suggest that expectation may play a significant role in feeling better.

Here’s the outline of this interview with Balázs Szigeti:

[00:00:17] Imperial College London Centre for Psychedelic Research.

[00:02:47] The current science on microdosing.

[00:04:12] Paper: Szigeti, Balázs, et al. "Self-blinding citizen science to explore psychedelic microdosing." ELife 10 (2021): e62878

[00:04:18] Citizen Science and self-blinding.

[00:16:26] Results of the study.

[00:21:39] Sourcing LSD and LSD analogues.

[00:22:24] Book: American Kingpin, by Nick Bilton.

[00:24:35] Existing clinical studies on microdosing: 1. Yanakieva, Steliana, et al. "The effects of microdose LSD on time perception: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial." Psychopharmacology 236.4 (2019): 1159-1170; 2. Hutten, Nadia RPW, et al. "Mood and cognition after administration of low LSD doses in healthy volunteers: A placebo controlled dose-effect finding study." European Neuropsychopharmacology 41 (2020): 81-91; 3. Bershad, Anya K., et al. "Acute subjective and behavioral effects of microdoses of lysergic acid diethylamide in healthy human volunteers." Biological psychiatry 86.10 (2019): 792-800.

[00:27:53] The key to a strong placebo response.

[00:29:36] Acute and post-acute outcomes.

[00:41:44] Book: Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body by Jo Marchant.

[00:44:01] Hamilton Depression Scale

[00:52:13] Future directions and testing additional substances.

[00:54:44] examine.com.

[00:55:03] labdoor.com.

[00:55:52] mydelica.com for Balazs’ self-blinding microdose study 2.0.

[00:57:27] Limitations of the study.

[01:07:27] Selfblinding-microdose.org.


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