Placebo or panacea? Expectations and experiences of people who microdose psychedelics


After a long period of absence from the scientific literature, experimental studies involving psychedelic substances are reappearing. High profile research teams are publishing findings in top journals showing that psychedelics can be used to better understand cognition, perception, neurobiology, psychopathology and wellbeing. In parallel there has been increasing interest in these substances from the general public. One topic of growing interest in online substance use communities is the phenomenon of “microdosing”. Microdosing refers to consumption of an extremely low dose of a psychedelic substance, most typically LSD or psilocybin. Due to the very low dose users do not usually report the marked cognitive and perceptual alterations that typically characterise psychedelic experiences, rather immediate effects are reported to be very subtle and sometimes barely noticeable. Despite this users make a wide variety of claims for the benefits of microdosing with various substances. Are the claims justified or are microdosers’ experiences shaped by their beliefs and expectations about these substances? I will present results of a systematic observational study showing the immediate and long term effects of microdosing, and compare the reports of genuine microdosers with individuals’ expectations about the outcomes of this practice..

Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia

This talk was part of the symposium Beliefs Beyond Rationality with Stephanie Howarth (Macquarie) and Colin Klein (ANU).