Going to work after taking magic mushrooms

Going to work after taking magic mushrooms

UM research on psychedelics

10-02-2022 · Background

Microdosing: taking miniportions of LSD or magic mushrooms to feel better, to be more productive, more creative. The trend is not new, but continues to be popular, also during the pandemic. A team of Maastricht psychopharmacologists is doing a lot of research into this. Does it work? It seems so. Is it safe? Yes.

In the sixties, hippies swore by the hallucinogenic LSD. After a worldwide ban on the mind-expanding drugs, also called psychedelics, it has been on the up-and-up for a number of years now, initially among tech nerds in Silicon Valley. They don’t take LSD or magic mushrooms in the amounts that the hippies consumed, but in microdoses, often a tenth of a full portion. It doesn’t make them trip, but according to them it makes them happier, more creative and more productive. 

Microdosing has not just been limited to the tech world for some time. On the American forum of social news website Reddit, about 90 thousand members share their experiences, most of which are jubilant. A recent British addiction survey showed that a considerable number of respondents started to microdose during the pandemic. Some even swapped their antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs for psychedelics.

There are no figures about the popularity of microdosing, says Jan Ramaekers, professor of Psychopharmacology at Maastricht University. But there are indicators. "We see that a lot of people respond to the surveys that we send out about this subject. As one of the few groups that researches psychedelics, we receive a lot of requests from students for work placements or to do research. From all over the world."

Associative thinking

The godfather of the microdosing trend is the American Psychology professor James Fadiman (82). He wrote the book The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide (2011), set up a weekly schedule and a standard protocol, and collected almost two thousand stories about experiences from more than thirty countries. His conclusion was that the general well-being improves, as well as concentration and creativity, and a number of depression symptoms are reduced. There are also negative experiences: symptoms of anxiety may worsen.

An analysis of stories about experiences doesn’t make research. The latter is scarce, although a study carried out in Leiden among 38 healthy test subjects showed that microdosing with magic mushrooms - or psilocybin – enhanced creativity, especially problem-solving and associative thinking.


A control group was lacking in the study from Leiden, but not in the Maastricht study from the end of 2020. In it, the researchers from the department of Psychopharmacology and Neuropsychology showed that microdosing with LSD had a favourable influence on mood and cognition. 

"The test subjects were more at ease and were better able to maintain their attention," says researcher Kim Kuypers. "I do have to say that we only looked at the acute effects. We didn’t follow the participants, so we don’t know how long they felt better. Then there is the placebo effect. To what extent does imagination play a role? We don’t know enough about this either."

The same applies to the influence of microdosing on mental health. Some studies, such as the one from the University of British Columbia (with Kuypers as co-author), show that microdoses of LSD and psilocybin lessen the symptoms of depression and anxiety. "We know from a questionnaire completed by a few thousand respondents that psychiatric patients are satisfied with it, but we are waiting on clinical studies." 

Kuypers is about to conduct an experiment in which patients with ADHD take small doses of LSD. "It could strongly improve their attention span."


This also applies to the use of microdoses of LSD in the controlling of pain. Following the first experiments in the nineteen-sixties, Ramaekers set up a study with 24 healthy test subjects, who participated in a so-called cold pressor test. This is where they have to hold their hand in cold water for three minutes. "Most people give up after one and a half minutes, but they manage to do it for longer after a microdose of LSD. Why? Because they feel less pain."

The effect, says Ramaekers, was just as great as that of opiates such as morphine and oxycodone. "Except that the latter substances are extremely addictive, while LSD is not. Also, a microdose does not impede you in your daily life, and it seems to work for twelve hours. So, if you take a dose in the morning, you won’t be in pain for the rest of the day."

The follow-up research has recently been submitted for assessment by the UM’s medical ethics committee. "We want to do the same test together with Leiden on patients suffering from fibromyalgia. They are affected by chronic pain in muscles and connective tissue." 


How safe is microdosing? "Very safe," says Ramaekers. "Psychedelics are not toxic, they don’t take effect on vital organs."

Kuypers: "Agreed, but it still has to be proven whether LSD and psilocybin are also safe in the long term."

Ramaekers: "Yes, that is something that we don’t know about a lot of medicines. Let me just say, there are no signs from the field that psychedelics are unsafe. So that is, at any rate, not a reason to ban them."




Photo Pixabay

Categories: news_top, Science
Tags: psychedelics,lsd,magic mushrooms

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