OPEN Foundation

R. Petranker

Psychedelic Research and the Need for Transparency: Polishing Alice's Looking Glass

Abstract

Psychedelics have a checkered past, alternately venerated as sacred medicines and vilified as narcotics with no medicinal or research value. After decades of international prohibition, a growing dissatisfaction with conventional mental health care and the pioneering work of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Science (MAPS) and others has sparked a new wave of psychedelic research. Positive media coverage and new entrepreneurial interest in this potentially lucrative market, along with their attendant conflicts of interest, have accelerated the hype. Given psychedelics’ complex history, it is especially important to proceed with care, holding ourselves to a higher scientific rigor and standard of transparency. Universities and researchers face conflicting interests and perverse incentives, but we can avoid missteps by expecting rigorous and transparent methods in the growing science of psychedelics. This paper provides a pragmatic research checklist and discusses the importance of using the modern research and transparency standards of Open Science using preregistration, open materials and data, reporting constraints on generality, and encouraging replication. We discuss specific steps researchers should take to avoid another replication crisis like those devastating psychology, medicine, and other fields. We end with a discussion of researcher intention and the value of actively deciding to abide by higher scientific standards. We can build a rigorous, transparent, replicable psychedelic science by using Open Science to understand psychedelics’ potential as they re-enter science and society.

Petranker, R., Anderson, T., & Farb, N. (2020). Psychedelic research and the need for transparency: Polishing Alice’s Looking Glass. Frontiers in psychology11, 1681.; https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01681
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Microdosing psychedelics: Demographics, practices, and psychiatric comorbidities.

Abstract

RATIONALE:
Microdosing psychedelics – the practice of consuming small, sub-hallucinogenic doses of substances such as LSD or psilocybin – is gaining attention in popular media but remains poorly characterized. Contemporary studies of psychedelic microdosing have yet to report the basic psychiatric descriptors of psychedelic microdosers.
OBJECTIVES:
To examine the practices and demographics of a population of psychedelic microdosers – including their psychiatric diagnoses, prescription medications, and recreational substance use patterns – to develop a foundation on which to conduct future clinical research.
METHODS:
Participants (n = 909; Mage = 26.9, SD = 8.6; male = 83.2%; White/European = 79.1%) recruited primarily from the online forum Reddit completed an anonymous online survey. Respondents who reported using LSD, psilocybin, or both for microdosing were grouped and compared with non-microdosing respondents using exploratory odds ratio testing on demographic variables, rates of psychiatric diagnoses, and past-year recreational substance use.
RESULTS:
Of microdosers, most reported using LSD (59.3%; Mdose = 13 mcg, or 11.3% of one tab) or psilocybin (25.9%; Mdose = 0.3 g of dried psilocybin mushrooms) on a one-day-on, two-days-off schedule. Compared with non-microdosers, microdosers were significantly less likely to report a history of substance use disorders (SUDs; OR = 0.17 (95% CI: 0.05-0.56)) or anxiety disorders (OR = 0.61 (95% CI: 0.41-0.91)). Microdosers were also more likely to report recent recreational substance use compared with non-microdosers (OR = 5.2 (95% CI: 2.7-10.8)).
CONCLUSIONS:
Well-designed randomized controlled trials are needed to evaluate the safety and tolerability of this practice in clinical populations and to test claims about potential benefits.
Rosenbaum, D., Weissman, C., Anderson, T., Petranker, R., Dinh-Williams, L. A., Hui, K., & Hapke, E. (2020). Microdosing psychedelics: Demographics, practices, and psychiatric comorbidities. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 0269881120908004., https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881120908004
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Psychedelic microdosing benefits and challenges: an empirical codebook.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:
Microdosing psychedelics is the practice of consuming very low, sub-hallucinogenic doses of a psychedelic substance, such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or psilocybin-containing mushrooms. According to media reports, microdosing has grown in popularity, yet the scientific literature contains minimal research on this practice. There has been limited reporting on adverse events associated with microdosing, and the experiences of microdosers in community samples have not been categorized.
METHODS:
In the present study, we develop a codebook of microdosing benefits and challenges (MDBC) based on the qualitative reports of a real-world sample of 278 microdosers.
RESULTS:
We describe novel findings, both in terms of beneficial outcomes, such as improved mood (26.6%) and focus (14.8%), and in terms of challenging outcomes, such as physiological discomfort (18.0%) and increased anxiety (6.7%). We also show parallels between benefits and drawbacks and discuss the implications of these results. We probe for substance-dependent differences, finding that psilocybin-only users report the benefits of microdosing were more important than other users report.
CONCLUSIONS:
These mixed-methods results help summarize and frame the experiences reported by an active microdosing community as high-potential avenues for future scientific research. The MDBC taxonomy reported here informs future research, leveraging participant reports to distil the highest-potential intervention targets so research funding can be efficiently allocated. Microdosing research complements the full-dose literature as clinical treatments are developed and neuropharmacological mechanisms are sought. This framework aims to inform researchers and clinicians as experimental microdosing research begins in earnest in the years to come.
Anderson, T., Petranker, R., Christopher, A., Rosenbaum, D., Weissman, C., Dinh-Williams, L. A., … & Hapke, E. (2019). Psychedelic microdosing benefits and challenges: an empirical codebook. Harm reduction journal16(1), 43., https://doi.org/10.1186/s12954-019-0308-4
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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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