Anxiety and depression are serious mental health problems, both of which are severely disruptive at the best of times and incredibly dangerous to the individual at the worst of times. There are a dizzying array of available treatments for both, each with wildly varying degrees of effectiveness depending on the individual. However, it may surprise you that some researchers have recommended treating these conditions with small quantities of hallucinogenic drugs, as reported by Motherboard.
Although it may seem counterintuitive to take a powerful hallucinogen in order to reduce the symptoms of anxiety, taking a small dose of LSD – one-tenth of a normal dose (10-20 micrograms, as opposed to 100-200 micrograms) – every four days is apparently an effective treatment. If this is done correctly, the user will not experience hallucinations, have any traumatic experiences, and won’t notice a slowdown in their cognitive abilities – based on admittedly rather limited research.
James Fadiman, a psychologist known for his extensive research into psychedelic drugs, is a proponent of this treatment, also known as “microdosing.” He told Motherboard: “People do it and they're eating better, sleeping better, they're often returning to exercise or yoga or meditation. It's as if messages are passing through their body more easily.”
Five years ago, Fadiman conducted an experiment. He sent out microdosing instruction sheets to interested parties, so long as they procured their own psychedelic drugs – which, of course, were illegal. He then requested that they document their experiences, not only in how their day-to-day life changed, but how they interacted with others.
Image credit: The evidence for treating depression with LSD is, at the moment, fairly anecdotal. Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley/Shutterstock
These “trip reports” were sent back in their hundreds, and the responses were overwhelmingly positive. “This is total guesswork, but so many different conditions that I've seen are improved, it looks like it rebalances those pistons which are not in balance,” he added. “This may be in your central nervous system, it may be the brain stem, it may be that it's improving function of mitochondria.” Only five of the returned reports noted a negative experience. In addition, others say that after a period of microdosing, they switch back to being depressed or severely anxious.
Fadiman published a pioneering study on the purported benefits of hallucinogens back in 1966, specifically investigating the effects they have on creative problem solving – he’s certainly an expert on microdosing. However, this research field is quite limited, not least because experiments on people with illegal drugs is a notoriously hard sell. Fadiman hopes that, sooner rather than later, proper scientific trials – as opposed to his “field studies” – will be conducted on microdosing, with the long-term goal of gaining approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
It cannot be stressed enough that the self-administration of psychedelic drugs to treat mental health disorders, particularly without having any peer-reviewed studies to support this method, could be considerably dangerous. Users are at risk of taking an accidentally powerful dose of a drug like LSD, and the current evidence of their effectiveness as a treatment for these conditions is somewhat circumstantial and anecdotal.
“The scientific basis is pretty shaky right now,” said Matthew Johnson, a researcher of hallucinogenic drugs at Johns Hopkins University, as reported by Motherboard. “Its benefits are plausible and very interesting, but the claims of 'everything fits together and goes right and you're in a good mood and in the flow,' well, we all have those types of days regardless of any pharmacological intervention.”