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More People Are Microdosing Psychedelics, World Drug Survey Finds

Published: Dec 03, 2021   

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More People Are Microdosing Psychedelics, World Drug Survey Finds

Leo Bear-McGuinness
Science Writer & Editor

Around the world, it seems people are microdosing psychedelics more, and consuming other drugs like cocaine, alcohol, and cannabis less.

The findings come from the Global Drug Survey (GDS), a London-based research company that aims to detail the drug habits of people around the world through anonymous surveys. Its latest survey, published on Thursday, December 2, collected the responses of over 32,000 people from over 20 countries between December 2020 and March 2021.

It found that, for most substances, rates of drug use have fallen in the past year. Compared to the survey results from 2020, respondents consumed less alcohol, cannabis, cigarettes, MDMA, cocaine, LSD, ketamine, nitrous oxide (laughing gas), and poppers.

However, while overall rates of drug use were down, rates of microdosing psychedelics (such as LSD and psilocybin mushrooms) seemed to be up.


More microdosing

Popularized by Silicon Valley stereotypes, microdosing is the practice of taking small amounts of psychedelic substances – not enough to get high, just to boost creativity.

“Our findings suggest that the [microdosing] practice may be on the increase among those who use psychedelics with 1 in 4 reporting this practice in the last months with LSD/psilocybin,” the GDS authors wrote in their recent report.

The survey also found that many microdosers were now opting for more novel substances; around a third of those who had microdosed LSD and psilocybin had also experimented with microdosing other drugs, such as MDMA, DMT, and ayahuasca.

Regardless of which drug was used, microdosing appears to be well tolerated by most who practice it. However, around 10 percent of survey respondents reported unwanted effects, some of which were so extreme they caused 20-40 percent of the subgroup to stop microdosing altogether.

“Contrary to the overwhelmingly positive media spin - microdosing is not tolerated or accepted by all,” the GDS authors wrote.

According to the authors, these unwanted microdosing effects were likely related to the dose and frequency of timing.

While microdosing may be more popular, the purported benefits of the practice have recently come into question. In a paper published earlier this year, researchers at Imperial College London reported their results from “the largest placebo-controlled trial on psychedelics to-date.” They found that participants who took placebos often claimed to experience the same beneficial effects as those that actually microdosed psychedelic substances. Likewise, those who believed they had taken a placebo, even when they had actually taken a psychedelic drug, experienced fewer improvements to their wellbeing.


Other drugs

Elsewhere in the 2021 GDS report, the fall in other forms of drug use was detailed.

Compared to the results of the 2020 survey, annual use of alcohol had fallen from 94 percent of respondents to 92.8 percent, cannabis (high in THC) use had dropped from 64.5 percent to 57.4 percent, MDMA use fell from 37.6 percent to 26.3 percent, and cocaine use was down from 31 percent to 23.5 percent.

According to the report’s authors, these reductions in drug use could reflect the social restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic – fewer opportunities for social gatherings has likely led to fewer drugs (especially stimulants like MDMA and cocaine) being taken.

The report also broke down the alcohol drinking habits by country. French respondents claimed to drink the most regularly, as measured by the average number of days they had an alcoholic drink (132 days out of 365), while Australians had the highest proportion of “drunk days” (an average of 26.7 out of 365).

 

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