Video | Can Psychedelics Like LSD Help Treat Mental Health Issues?

Can microdosing LSD, mushrooms help treat mental health disorders like depression and PTSD? Here's what to know.

Mind It
3 min read

Producer: Anoushka Rajesh

Video editor: Prashant Chauhan

In 1938, Swiss chemist Albert hoffmann created LSD.

Short for lysergic acid diethylamide, LSD is a psychoactive drug that causes the taker to have hallucinations, and is often known to have a profound impact on the taker’s psyche, ego and can cause also cause a permanent psychological shift.

LSD is a popular recreational drug, but Dr Hoffman spent his life, all the way to his 100th birthday, trying to convince the world of the therapeutic benefits of the drug.

Since its discovery, researchers have explored the potential of psychedelic drugs for the treatment of mental health.

Do Psychedelic Drugs Hold the Key to Treating Mental Health Illnesses Like Depression and PTSD?

Dr Manoj Doss, post doctoral research fellow, Johns Hopkins centre for psychedelic consciousness and research tells FIT, "it’s still the beginning, I think it’s important to say that."

"They are showing some efficacy in the treatment of certain disorders, especially depression, even with addiction - seems like they work for cigarette smoking, but who knows if they work for other addictions."
Dr Manoj Doss, post doctoral research fellow, Johns Hopkins centre for psychedelic consciousness and research

"But the evidence at least for depression is pretty good now, because it’s been shown across many labs across the world, with many different sites in clinical trials," he added.

Dr Doss says that it’s still unclear if these treatments are better than existing treatments.

One reason for this was that psychedelics like LSD can be very dangerous,and even lethal in large doses. Moreover, even a regular dose can make a person go into a catatonic state, making them incapable of being productive and carrying out their daily.

"If you take full doses of psychedelics and try to walk around in your everyday life, you’re not going to get along very well. You’re gonna have very awkward social interactions. You might get a bunch of anxiety. You’re going to have potential stomach problems."
Dr Manoj Doss

But what if we reduced the dose by a lot?

Like 30 times lesser than a regular dose? Enter micro dosing, a concept introduced and popularised by Dr James Fadiman.

In his book, “the psychedelic explorer’s guide: Safe, therapeutic, and sacred journeys,” Dr Fadiman wrote about how you can incorporate micro dosing into your daily life without the debilitating effects of macro dosing or its associated risks.

"For example, with LSD, a standard dose is maybe a 100 μg. With psilocybin, a standard dose maybe 12 μg," says Dr Doss.

"The way that some people initially did it was one day on a microdose, and two days off of it," he adds.


According to Dr Doss, here you are just getting subtle effects that people think improve mood and cognition.

"It is true that mood a lot of times does get better to some degree."

This concept of micro-dosing caught on and gained popularity, not only as a subject of research but also among professionals who started self treating with micro-doses of psychedelics, mainly LSD

Feel good drugs that help you treat mental health issues without any side effects?

Sounds Too Good to Be True, Right?

That may be because it is.

A recent study conducted by the university of Chicago in the US suggests that micro-dosing doesn’t really have any therapeutic effects.

"What’s interesting as far as improvements in cognition are concerned it doesn’t seem to be the case that micro-dosing improves cognition," says Dr Doss.

"Those trials didn’t allow their participants to drink coffee that day, so, that’s why you’re not seeing an enhancement in cognition you’re seeing a lack of impairment in cognition."
Dr Manoj Doss

"They also bind to the serotonin 2B receptor. That is the receptor that is in your heart and too much binding to that receptor can be cardiotoxic," he adds.

According to Dr Doss, it’s unclear right now if micro dosing is worth it, really.

"What’s worth mentioning about LSD and psilocybin is that they all do bind to serotonin receptors and what it could be is that over time micro dosing might do something similar to what SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are doing by you know binding to that serotonin receptor over and over and over again. Across let’s say a month, and you might then maybe get improvements in mood. That has maybe a longer-term effect," he says.

However, he goes on to warn that it is unclear if what we’re doing is really Just the drug or is it psychotherapy. Is that resulting in a placebo effect?That’s not something we can determine."

Research in the field of psychedelic treatment is ongoing with scientists exploring new avenues every day, so who knows where it will take us.

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Topics:  Mental Health 

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