The pandemic has seen a shift toward recreational drug users taking small doses of psychedelics, such as LSD and magic mushrooms, to improve your well-being and mental health, said a leading addiction expert.
While the study showed that more people used psychedelics in search of improved well-being, overall recreational drug use dropped during the pandemic, as did social drinking habits.
People were microdosing to self-medicate instead of following the trend, popularized in Silicon Valley, of consuming small amounts of psychedelics to enhance creativity, said Professor Adam Winstock, founder and director of the Global Drug Survey.
The 2021 survey found that among respondents who microdosed and took psychiatric medications, almost half reported reducing or stopping prescribed medication.
Winstock, a London-based consultant psychiatrist and addiction medicine specialist, said lThe findings suggested that people had been experimenting with microdosing during the pandemic, perhaps due to increased wait times for mental health services.
The report also found that people were experimenting with a wide variety of psychedelics. About a third of those who took a microdose of LSD or magic mushrooms (psilocybin) reported that they also tried other substances, including ecstasy (MDMA), ketamine, a dissociative anesthetic, and ayahuasca, a strong hallucinogenic plant cocktail revered by the indigenous religious healers.
While a LSD shot dose is about 100 micrograms, lAmbitious Silicon Valley tech workers have praised the effect of taking 10 to 20 micrograms every few days on their creativity and productivity, and people in the UK report doing so for similar reasons.
“In the past, people used microdoses to improve performance and creativity,” Winstock said. “Now, I think people are shifting to microdosing to improve well-being and address mental health issues.”
Of the fifth of the microdosers who said they were taking psychiatric medications, about a quarter reported that they stopped taking their medications completely and another quarter reduced their intake.
“For me, this is a shift from microdosing to mental health treatment,” added Winstock, who is an honorary clinical professor at the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care at University College London.
More than a fifth of the respondents who had used LSD and magic mushrooms in the past 12 months reported taking a microdose of either drug during that period.
Three-quarters of them reported no side effects, while around 10% reported unwanted mental effects and 8% physical effects.
Winstock was cautious of the findings, noting that most psychedelic and mental health research involved full doses of the drugs.
He said he hoped the survey would encourage mental health services, the psychiatric facility and legislators to positively engage with microdosing, and He added that if the practice remains illegal, vulnerable people could be exploited or accidentally take harmful, hallucinogenic doses.
The largest placebo-controlled trial of psychedelics to date by researchers at Imperial College London found that the improved mood reported by microdosers could simply be the placebo effect.
The 2021 Global Drug Survey, based in London, received responses from more than 32,000 people from more than 20 countries between December 2020 and March 2021, highlighting the impact of Covid, with a slight drop in recreational drug use.
While psychedelic use declined slightly during that period, Winstock said data for the previous six years showed an upward trend in their use.
Many people also reported that they had taken more precautions when using drugs socially during the pandemic.
Of the 14,000 respondents who reported using cannabis, 42% said they shared a joint, vaporizer, pipe or bong less frequently with other people during the pandemic.
Just under a quarter (24%) said they were more likely to use joints, pipes, and bongs made just by themselves, while a fifth reported that social distancing increased when using cannabis.
Of those surveyed who reported using cocaine, 26% said they were less likely to share a straw or snort with another person, while a fifth said they were less likely to inhale a line accumulated by someone else.
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