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It turns out the high from microdosing LSD and 'shrooms might be a placebo effect

A recent study shows microdosing psychedelics may create a placebo effect

  • Dave Turner
  • 11 March 2021
It turns out the high from microdosing LSD and 'shrooms might be a placebo effect

It turns out microdosing LSD and magic mushrooms might not be making you feel good after all.

A trial taken out by scientists at Imperial College London saw 191 active LSD and 'shroom microdosers put a small amount of their psychedelics in capsules. These then had to be sent off to a lab where scientists mixed the capsules actually containing psychedelics with placebo capsules. Each participant was then provided with either the capsules containing drugs, capsules with nothing in and a mix of both.

As expected, those who were actually microdosing had a boost in mood, felt good in general and experienced less paranoia. Strangely, though, those with the placebo capsules also experienced similar feelings.

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These were all recorded through online surveys throughout the trial, in which those taking part also had to do cognitive tasks.

Balázs Szigeti, a research associate at Imperial College London Centre of Psychedelic Research, said: “Microdosing did increase a lot of these psychological variables. But so did taking placebos for four weeks.

"Many participants who reported that they experienced positive effects while taking the placebo were shocked to learn after the study that they hadn't been taking the real drug."

However, Szigeti did say the microdosers probably wouldn't be too bothered if they did have a placebo effect. “I think most microdosers don't care that much whether it's a pharmacological or placebo effect. They’re just going to enjoy the effects that they get.”

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One placebo-taker clearly had a positive experience, saying: “It seems I was able to generate a powerful 'altered consciousness' experience based only the expectation around the possibility of a microdose.”

Another said: “You put spirituality into an empty pill here...wow!”, while another commented “colours were more vivid."

It's worth noting that the trial - which launched in 2018 - wasn't undertaken in a lab, while those taking part sourced the drugs themselves, raising questions over the credibility of the trial.

Dave Turner is Mixmag's Senior Project Manager, follow him on Twitter

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