Is microdosing a placebo? A rapid review of low-dose LSD and psilocybin research


Some recent research and commentary have suggested that most or all the effects reported by people who microdose psychedelics may be explained by expectations or placebo effects. In this rapid review, we aimed to evaluate the strength of evidence for a placebo explanation of the reported effects of microdosing. We conducted a PubMed search for all studies investigating psychedelic microdosing with controlled doses and a placebo comparator. We identified 19 placebo-controlled microdosing studies and summarised all positive and null findings across this literature. Risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane risk-of-bias tool for randomised trials. The reviewed papers indicated that microdosing with LSD and psilocybin leads to changes in neurobiology, physiology, subjective experience, affect, and cognition relative to placebo. We evaluate methodological gaps and challenges in microdosing research and suggest eight reasons why current claims that microdosing is predominately a placebo are premature and possibly wrong: (1) there have been only a small number of controlled studies; (2) studies have had small sample sizes; (3) there is evidence of dose-dependent effects; (4) studies have only investigated the effects of a small number of doses; (5) the doses investigated may have been too small; (6) studies have looked only at non-clinical populations; (7) studies so far have been susceptible to selection bias; and (8) the measured impact of expectancy is small. Considering the available evidence, we conclude that it is not yet possible to determine whether microdosing is a placebo.

Journal of Psychopharmacology, pp. 02698811241254831,