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Creativity

The therapeutic potential of microdosing psychedelics in depression

Abstract

Microdosing psychedelics is the repeated use of small doses of, for example, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin, typically for a few weeks. Despite the popular and scientific attention in recent years, and claims by users that it has therapeutic value in affective disorders like depression, little scientific knowledge is available to back this. The purpose of this review was to investigate whether there are scientific grounds to state that this practice could be helpful in the treatment of affective disorders, and safe to use repeatedly. To that end, the literature (PubMed, MedLine) was searched, looking for (controlled) experimental studies with low doses of LSD and/or psilocybin, in healthy volunteers and patient samples. After a selection process and the addition of relevant articles, 14 experimental studies entered this review. Findings show that both LSD (10-20 mcg) and psilocybin (<1-3 mg) have subtle (positive) effects on cognitive processes (time perception, convergent and divergent thinking) and brain regions involved in affective processes. Besides the pleasant experience, increased anxiety and a cycling pattern of depressive and euphoric mood were also found. With regard to safety, it was demonstrated that low doses are well tolerated (in healthy volunteers) and have no-to-minimal effects on physiological measures. While it is yet unclear whether psychedelic microdosing is of therapeutic value for depression, the aforementioned effects on selective processes suggest that low doses of psychedelics could play a role in depression by inducing some kind of cognitive flexibility, which might lead to decreased rumination. While previous studies were conducted mostly in small samples of healthy volunteers, future placebo-controlled clinical trials in depressed patients are required to understand the therapeutic value of microdosing psychedelics, how this differs from therapy using full psychedelic doses, and whether different psychedelics have different effect patterns. The proposed research will give new insights into the potential of future alternative psychiatric treatment forms that are fiercely needed.

Kuypers K. (2020). The therapeutic potential of microdosing psychedelics in depression. Therapeutic advances in psychopharmacology, 10, 2045125320950567. https://doi.org/10.1177/2045125320950567

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The Viability of Microdosing Psychedelics as a Strategy to Enhance Cognition and Well-being – An Early Review

Abstract

Psychedelic substances are currently experiencing a renaissance in interest for both therapeutic as well as recreational applications. It has been proposed that microdosing, i.e., ingesting sub-perceptual doses of a psychedelic, could confer some of the benefits of these substances to users while minimizing the risks associated with full-dose use. This review aimed to summarize and examine the extant literature on psychedelic microdosing. Exploratory evidence published to date indicates a variety of benefits reported by microdosers including improvements in mood, focus, and creativity, with some null reports, and a minority of people reporting selective negative consequences such as increased anxiety and physiological discomfort. Methodological limitations of current evidence, however, make definitive conclusions hard to draw. Recommendations for future research are given.
Bornemann, J. (2020). The Viability of Microdosing Psychedelics as a Strategy to Enhance Cognition and Well-being-An Early Review. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 1-9., https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2020.1761573
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Ayahuasca's 'afterglow': improved mindfulness and cognitive flexibility in ayahuasca drinkers.

Abstract

RATIONALE:
There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca for treating depression and anxiety. However, the mechanisms of action involved in ayahuasca’s therapeutic effects are unclear. Mindfulness and cognitive flexibility may be two possible psychological mechanisms. Like other classic psychedelics, ayahuasca also leads to an ‘afterglow’ effect of improved subjective well-being that persists after the acute effects have subsided. This period may offer a window of increased therapeutic potential.
OBJECTIVE:
To explore changes in mindfulness and cognitive flexibility before and within 24 h after ayahuasca use.METHODS:
Forty-eight participants (54% female) were assessed on measures of mindfulness (Five Facets Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ)), decentering (Experiences Questionnaire (EQ)), and cognitive flexibility (Cognitive Flexibility Scale (CFS)), and completed the Stroop and Wisconsin Picture Card Sorting Task (WPCST) before drinking ayahuasca, and again within 24 h.
RESULTS:
Mindfulness (FFMQ total scores and four of the five mindfulness facets: observe, describe, act with awareness, and non-reactivity) and decentering (EQ) significantly increased in the 24 h after ayahuasca use. Cognitive flexibility (CFS and WPCST) significantly improved in the 24 h after ayahuasca use. Changes in both mindfulness and cognitive flexibility were not influenced by prior ayahuasca use.
CONCLUSIONS:
The present study supports ayahuasca’s ability to enhance mindfulness and further reports changes in cognitive flexibility in the ‘afterglow’ period occur, suggesting both could be possible psychological mechanisms concerning the psychotherapeutic effects of ayahuasca. Given psychological gains occurred regardless of prior ayahuasca use suggests potentially therapeutic effects for both naïve and experienced ayahuasca drinkers.
Murphy-Beiner, A., & Soar, K. (2020). Ayahuasca’s ‘afterglow’: improved mindfulness and cognitive flexibility in ayahuasca drinkers. Psychopharmacology, 1-9., https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-019-05445-3
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Ayahuasca’s ‘afterglow’: improved mindfulness and cognitive flexibility in ayahuasca drinkers.

Abstract

RATIONALE:
There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca for treating depression and anxiety. However, the mechanisms of action involved in ayahuasca’s therapeutic effects are unclear. Mindfulness and cognitive flexibility may be two possible psychological mechanisms. Like other classic psychedelics, ayahuasca also leads to an ‘afterglow’ effect of improved subjective well-being that persists after the acute effects have subsided. This period may offer a window of increased therapeutic potential.
OBJECTIVE:
To explore changes in mindfulness and cognitive flexibility before and within 24 h after ayahuasca use.METHODS:
Forty-eight participants (54% female) were assessed on measures of mindfulness (Five Facets Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ)), decentering (Experiences Questionnaire (EQ)), and cognitive flexibility (Cognitive Flexibility Scale (CFS)), and completed the Stroop and Wisconsin Picture Card Sorting Task (WPCST) before drinking ayahuasca, and again within 24 h.
RESULTS:
Mindfulness (FFMQ total scores and four of the five mindfulness facets: observe, describe, act with awareness, and non-reactivity) and decentering (EQ) significantly increased in the 24 h after ayahuasca use. Cognitive flexibility (CFS and WPCST) significantly improved in the 24 h after ayahuasca use. Changes in both mindfulness and cognitive flexibility were not influenced by prior ayahuasca use.
CONCLUSIONS:
The present study supports ayahuasca’s ability to enhance mindfulness and further reports changes in cognitive flexibility in the ‘afterglow’ period occur, suggesting both could be possible psychological mechanisms concerning the psychotherapeutic effects of ayahuasca. Given psychological gains occurred regardless of prior ayahuasca use suggests potentially therapeutic effects for both naïve and experienced ayahuasca drinkers.
Murphy-Beiner, A., & Soar, K. (2020). Ayahuasca’s ‘afterglow’: improved mindfulness and cognitive flexibility in ayahuasca drinkers. Psychopharmacology, 1-9., https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-019-05445-3
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100 years of mescaline

Abstract

In the hundred years since Ernst Späth’s synthesis of mescaline, it has been used in clinical research for many purposes, including the study of hallucinations, creativity, and schizophrenia. After Aldous Huxley described his experience with it in The Doors of Perception, it became a public sensation. During the 1960s it was largely replaced as a research compound by LSD. Today its scientific use is subject to strict controls, but the synthetic phenethylamines developed from it are widely used.

Jay, M. (2019). 100 years of mescaline. Monatshefte für Chemie-Chemical Monthly150(5), 957-959., https://doi.org/10.1007/s00706-019-02425-3
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Sub-Acute Effects of Psilocybin on Empathy, Creative Thinking, and Subjective Well-Being

Abstract

Creative thinking and empathy are crucial for everyday interactions and subjective well-being. This is emphasized by studies showing a reduction in these skills in populations where social interaction and subjective well-being are significantly compromised (e.g., depression). Anecdotal reports and recent studies suggest that a single administration of psilocybin can enhance such processes and could therefore be a potential treatment. However, it has yet to be assessed whether effects outlast acute intoxication. The present study aimed to assess the sub-acute effects of psilocybin on creative thinking, empathy, and well-being. Participants attending a psilocybin retreat completed tests of creative (convergent and divergent) thinking and empathy, and the satisfaction with life scale on three occasions: before ingesting psilocybin (N = 55), the morning after (N = 50), and seven days after (N = 22). Results indicated that psilocybin enhanced divergent thinking and emotional empathy the morning after use. Enhancements in convergent thinking, valence-specific emotional empathy, and well-being persisted seven days after use. Sub-acute changes in empathy correlated with changes in well-being. The study demonstrates that a single administration of psilocybin in a social setting may be associated with sub-acute enhancement of creative thinking, empathy, and subjective well-being. Future research should test whether these effects contribute to the therapeutic effects in clinical populations.

Mason, N. L., Mischler, E., Uthaug, M. V., & Kuypers, K. P. (2019). Sub-Acute Effects of Psilocybin on Empathy, Creative Thinking, and Subjective Well-Being. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 1-12., 10.1080/02791072.2019.1580804
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A systematic study of microdosing psychedelics

Abstract

The phenomenon of ‘microdosing’, that is, regular ingestion of very small quantities of psychedelic substances, has seen a rapid explosion of popularity in recent years. Individuals who microdose report minimal acute effects from these substances yet claim a range of long-term general health and wellbeing benefits. There have been no published empirical studies of microdosing and the current legal and bureaucratic climate makes direct empirical investigation of the effects of psychedelics difficult. In Study One we conducted a systematic, observational investigation of individuals who microdose. We tracked the experiences of 98 microdosing participants, who provided daily ratings of psychological functioning over a six week period. 63 of these additionally completed a battery of psychometric measures tapping mood, attention, wellbeing, mystical experiences, personality, creativity, and sense of agency, at baseline and at completion of the study. Analyses of daily ratings revealed a general increase in reported psychological functioning across all measures on dosing days but limited evidence of residual effects on following days. Analyses of pre and post study measures revealed reductions in reported levels of depression and stress; lower levels of distractibility; increased absorption; and increased neuroticism. To better understand these findings, in Study Two we investigated pre-existing beliefs and expectations about the effects of microdosing in a sample of 263 naïve and experienced microdosers, so as to gauge expectancy bias. All participants believed that microdosing would have large and wide-ranging benefits in contrast to the limited outcomes reported by actual microdosers. Notably, the effects believed most likely to change were unrelated to the observed pattern of reported outcomes. The current results suggest that dose controlled empirical research on the impacts of microdosing on mental health and attentional capabilities are needed.

Polito, V., & Stevenson, R. J. (2019). A systematic study of microdosing psychedelics. PloS one14(2), e0211023., 10.1371/journal.pone.0211023.
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Microdosing psychedelics: personality, mental health, and creativity differences in microdosers

Abstract

RATIONALE:

Microdosing psychedelics-the regular consumption of small amounts of psychedelic substances such as LSD or psilocybin-is a growing trend in popular culture. Recent studies on full-dose psychedelic psychotherapy reveal promising benefits for mental well-being, especially for depression and end-of-life anxiety. While full-dose therapies include perception-distorting properties, microdosing mayprovide complementary clinical benefits using lower-risk, non-hallucinogenic doses.

OBJECTIVES:

This pre-registered study aimed to investigate whether microdosing psychedelics is related to differences in personality, mental health, and creativity.

METHODS:

In this observational study, respondents recruited from online forums self-reported their microdosing behaviors and completed questionnaires concerning dysfunctional attitudes, wisdom, negative emotionality, open-mindedness, and mood. Respondents also performed the Unusual Uses Task to assess their creativity.

RESULTS:

Current and former microdosers scored lower on measures of dysfunctional attitudes (p < 0.001, r = – 0.92) and negative emotionality (p = 0.009, r = – 0.85) and higher on wisdom (p < 0.001, r = 0.88), openmindedness(p = 0.027, r = 0.67), and creativity (p < 0.001, r = 0.15) when compared to non-microdosing controls.

CONCLUSIONS:

These findings provide promising initial evidence that warrants controlled experimental research to directly test safety and clinical efficacy. As microdoses are easier to administer than full-doses, this new paradigm has the exciting potential to shape future psychedelic research.

Anderson, T., Petranker, R., Rosenbaum, D., Weissman, C. R., Dinh-Williams, L. A., Hui, K., … & Farb, N. A. (2018). Microdosing Psychedelics: Personality, mental health, and creativity differences in microdosers. Psychopharmacology, 1-10., 10.1007/s00213-018-5106-2
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Microdosing psychedelics: personality, mental health, and creativity differences in microdosers.

Abstract

RATIONALE:
Microdosing psychedelics-the regular consumption of small amounts of psychedelic substances such as LSD or psilocybin-is a growing trend in popular culture. Recent studies on full-dose psychedelic psychotherapy reveal promising benefits for mental well-being, especially for depression and end-of-life anxiety. While full-dose therapies include perception-distorting properties, microdosing mayprovide complementary clinical benefits using lower-risk, non-hallucinogenic doses.
OBJECTIVES:
This pre-registered study aimed to investigate whether microdosing psychedelics is related to differences in personality, mental health, and creativity.
METHODS:
In this observational study, respondents recruited from online forums self-reported their microdosing behaviors and completed questionnaires concerning dysfunctional attitudes, wisdom, negative emotionality, open-mindedness, and mood. Respondents also performed the Unusual Uses Task to assess their creativity.
RESULTS:
Current and former microdosers scored lower on measures of dysfunctional attitudes (p < 0.001, r = – 0.92) and negative emotionality (p = 0.009, r = – 0.85) and higher on wisdom (p < 0.001, r = 0.88), openmindedness(p = 0.027, r = 0.67), and creativity (p < 0.001, r = 0.15) when compared to non-microdosing controls.
CONCLUSIONS:
These findings provide promising initial evidence that warrants controlled experimental research to directly test safety and clinical efficacy. As microdoses are easier to administer than full-doses, this new paradigm has the exciting potential to shape future psychedelic research.

Anderson, T., Petranker, R., Rosenbaum, D., Weissman, C. R., Dinh-Williams, L. A., Hui, K., … & Farb, N. A. (2019). Microdosing Psychedelics: Personality, mental health, and creativity differences in microdosers. Psychopharmacology236(2), 731-740., https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-018-5106-2
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Exploring the effect of microdosing psychedelics on creativity in an open-label natural setting

Abstract

INTRODUCTION:

Taking microdoses (a mere fraction of normal doses) of psychedelic substances, such as truffles, recently gained popularity, as it allegedly has multiple beneficial effects including creativity and problem-solving performance, potentially through targeting serotonergic 5-HT2A receptors and promoting cognitive flexibility, crucial to creative thinking. Nevertheless, enhancing effects of microdosing remain anecdotal, and in the absence of quantitative research on microdosing psychedelics, it is impossible to draw definitive conclusions on that matter. Here, our main aim was to quantitatively explore the cognitive-enhancing potential of microdosing psychedelics in healthy adults.

METHODS:

During a microdosing event organized by the Dutch Psychedelic Society, we examined the effects of psychedelic truffles (which were later analyzed to quantify active psychedelic alkaloids) on two creativity-related problem-solving tasks: the Picture Concept Task assessing convergent thinking and the Alternative Uses Task assessing divergent thinking. A short version of the Ravens Progressive Matrices task assessed potential changes in fluid intelligence. We tested once before taking a microdose and once while the effects were expected to be manifested.

RESULTS:

We found that both convergent and divergent thinking performance was improved after a non-blinded microdose, whereas fluid intelligence was unaffected.

CONCLUSION:

While this study provides quantitative support for the cognitive-enhancing properties of microdosing psychedelics, future research has to confirm these preliminary findings in more rigorous placebo-controlled study designs. Based on these preliminary results, we speculate that psychedelics might affect cognitive metacontrol policies by optimizing the balance between cognitive persistence and flexibility. We hope this study will motivate future microdosing studies with more controlled designs to test this hypothesis.

Prochazkova, L., Lippelt, D. P., Colzato, L. S., Kuchar, M., Sjoerds, Z., & Hommel, B. (2018). Exploring the effect of microdosing psychedelics on creativity in an open-label natural setting. Psychopharmacology235(12), 3401-3413., 10.1007/s00213-018-5049-7
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