LSD, Yoga, and the Therapeutic Process of ‘Ego Dissolution’
Photograph courtesy of Anya Berkut/Getty Images/iStockphoto Yoga and acid use were once considered countercultural diversions, but the medical establishment has recently shifted its focus to mind expansion: Every month, it seems, a new research is published on the topic of how hallucinogens can help people who are anxious or depressed. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University discovered that the use of psilocybin assisted patients who had been smoking for decades to stop with double the success rate of the finest pharmacological therapies last year.
There has been some recent research showing that “classical” hallucinogens such as LSD and psilocybin are the most beneficial to the state, which is undoubtedly a good thing.
Contemplative activities produce comparable results, but without the use of any substances.
As a result, he directed me to a research conducted among ashram dwellers who characterized their mystical yogi periods as similar to being high on LSD, but without the sensation that they were losing control.
While there is still much more study to be done on the issue, based on my conversations with researchers, it appears that the reason ego dissolution is beneficial originates from the way these experiences rejigger the way you react to the world around you.
Enzo Tagliazucchi, a postdoctoral researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, co-led a brain-imaging study published in Current Biology last year that discovered that LSD-induced ego breakdown was related with enhanced connectivity between various brain regions.
He went on to say that the dissolving process itself appeared to play a direct role in the instance of anxiety in terminal cancer patients.
According to the author, “in a typical ego-dissolution experience, the user feels the borders between his or her body and the rest of the world disintegrate, and becomes ‘one’ with the surrounding environment.” “This may cause patients to have thoughts of transcendence or permanence, allowing them to comprehend that they will continue to be a part of something ‘bigger’ even after their deaths,” says the author.
That is consistent with the findings of the Johns Hopkins University study on smoking cessation: All that was found was a significant correlation between decreases in cotinine, a nicotine byproduct that is linked to personal meaning; there was also a significant correlation between “mystical-type psilocybin effects,” in which users reported having “acute feelings of unity and sacredness, as well as an ethereal quality.” The last of these characteristics, not coincidentally, is one of the characteristics by which William James defined mysticism in The Varieties of Religious Experience, stating that the mystical state is also a state of knowledge for the person who is experiencing it.
The states of insight he described were “states of insight into depths of reality unplumbed by the discursive mind.” As a rule, they come with a peculiar sense of authority for afterlife, as if they were illuminations or revelations that were full of significance and importance despite the fact that they were entirely inarticulate.
The possibility exists that you don’t have to accept your inner mystic in order to experience these results, as well.
A famous psychologist stated in a 1968 television appearance that he discovered ordinary Americans discussing “peak experiences” as if they were contemplatively trained monks or nuns in their descriptions of “peak experiences.” He started into the research believing they happened to “one saint every century” or something along those lines, but his participants talked of trekking mountains, listening to music, and participating in sports as if they were Saint Theresa or Meister Eckhart.
In an attempt to generalize, he stated that they were “perfection-producing situations.” Taking sports as an example, he described “a young guy bursting through with a ball onto an open field, then dashing down the field and reporting in the same language that old mystics had used.” A seventeen-year-old boy was involved in this incident.
According to Scott Barry Kaufman, scientific director of the Imagination Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, the peak experience is related to the psychological idea offlow, or the sensation of being entirely engrossed in whatever it is that you are doing.
Instead of having self-referential, evaluative thoughts about whether or not you are good, clever, or handsome enough, your entire focus is devoted to the task at hand.
As he observed, “peak experiences jolt us out of our daily worries and direct our focus toward something higher, possibly bigger versions of ourselves and others.” If you’re wondering why peak experiences might persist for a long time, it’s because occasionally they occur in conjunction with the discovery of a greater purpose or higher significance for one’s life.
Just ask Maslow, who stated in a 1968 interview that “if you perceive the world, at the peak experience, in a more pure form, this may be recalled.” “Some individuals recall, and some people don’t remember what happened.
The ancient mystics observed that those who recall tend to be transformed.” LSD, yoga, and the therapeutic process of ‘Ego Dissolution’ are all explored in this article.
Can meditation, psychedelics treat anxiety?
It is a monthly television program that brings viewers health tales from all over the world to their television screens. (CNN) Do you ever find yourself worried about a circumstance that is coming up, despite the fact that comparable situations in the past have worked out fine? Alternatively, do you worry excessively about your relationship or income in comparison to your real circumstances? These are classic signs and symptoms of stress. Affective disorders, such as anxiety and depression, are among the most frequent mental illnesses experienced by people all over the globe today.
Treatment options for the diseases are many, ranging from prescription medications to counseling and therapy, although none has been shown to be effective in all cases.
Scientists think that this will aid in the release of those who are trapped in sad or anxious thoughts.
Meditation or psychedelics?
“It has been demonstrated that meditation therapies are beneficial in the reduction of both stress and anxiety. When it comes to altering human consciousness, it is a potent and well-established approach “Johns Hopkins University behavioral neuroscientist Frederick Barrett expressed his thoughts. His research team focuses on techniques that have the potential to alter human consciousness. Psilocybin, the primary chemical found in “magic,” or hallucinogenic mushrooms, has also been demonstrated to be useful in the treatment of anxiety and depression in recent studies.
Anxiety symptoms were also observed to improve in certain cases.
“One is pharmaceutical, and the other isn’t,” Barrett explained.
They are imaging their brain activity inside an fMRI scanner while they meditate in order to find out how they are similar.
Although the experiment is still in its early stages, the results are encouraging. In the meanwhile, we’ve observed good impacts of psilocybin on well-being and mediation techniques, albeit it’s too soon to say for sure.
Why is this needed?
Meditation is not an easy undertaking, and it may be exceedingly difficult for those who are new to it. The goal of the study is to determine whether psychedelics can provide a comparable shift in viewpoint, and if they can, whether they can be used as an alternative therapy. Psychedelics, such as psilocybin, “may be used as a second-line therapy for people for whom meditation is ineffective,” said Barrett. The use of these medications to assist people in exploring their awareness and improving their capacity to concentrate – and eventually to meditate – is another option to consider.
- in order to demonstrate experiences and provide insight into oneself, “Peter Addy, a professor at Yale University School of Medicine and a founding member of the Yale Psychedelic Science Group, shared his thoughts on the subject.
- However, he believes that meditation could be incorporated into the treatment process to make it more sustainable.
- Because you cannot take psilocybin every day, you must be able to maintain that level of tolerance “”It’s a shame,” Addy added.
- The use of psychedelics to open up meditation has been acknowledged by a number of leaders in the American Buddhist community, according to Barrett.
“the fundamental scientific question of whether it is beneficial to assist individuals in becoming more conscious.” Barrett feels that science has barely scratched the surface of the potential cures that these medications and meditation might provide, at the very least in the treatment of mood disorders, and that further research is needed.
Combining Psychedelic and Mindfulness Interventions: Synergies to Inform Clinical Practice
Psychedelic and mindfulness therapy have both been found to enhance mental ill-health and well-being, and they share a number of therapeutic processes and effects in common with one another. Each, on the other hand, appears to provide its own set of difficulties in the context of mental health care. According to this Perspective, a collection of distinguishing characteristics or “useful distinctions” between psychedelic and mindfulness therapies that may be used to solve frequent issues in the other intervention are discussed in further detail in the next section.
Metaphorically speaking, we propose that, on the journey toward mental health and wellbeing, psychedelic treatments may serve the role of Compass (by initiating, motivating, and steering the course of mindfulness practice), with mindfulness interventions serving the role of Vehicle (by providing support and encouragement) (integrating, deepening, generalizing, and maintaining the novel perspectives and motivation instigated by psychedelic experience).
On the basis of testable hypotheses and future research, we provide a series of recommendations for future study on the synergistic impact of psychedelic and mindfulness therapies in the context of enhanced clinical outcomes.
What can we learn about today’s yoga culture by taking a look at the history of the practice? American attitudes toward new ways of thinking and new sorts of mental health techniques were particularly open in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In general, a human rights movement gained hold across the country, and, of course, throughout the rest of the world. Ecologism, conservationism, vegetarianism, and veganism are all movements that have risen to prominence and captured the public’s imagination.
- The rise of anti-war emotions, civil rights and women’s rights campaigns, as well as, as some psychologists hypothesized, widespread concern about the future, accompanied these concepts.
- And the years 1968-1969 were unquestionably momentous.
- While the country was going through a period of turmoil, some Americans looked to yoga and psychedelic substances as viable paths to spiritual satisfaction and mental healing.
- “Different methods lead to the same conclusion.” Indeed, several Americans believed that tripping out and striking artistic postures provided them with new insights on the everyday.
- Buildings used for offices Photograph courtesy of Michelle Bergami / Unsplash Eastern religion, yoga experimentation, and the use of psychedelics all appeared to be valid solutions to dealing with the divisions in American politics and culture at the time.
- Mental health services in the United States were being questioned to a larger extent at the same time.
- Laing and Thomas Szasz, for example, have called into question psychiatric practice and thought.
People were on the lookout for solutions and transformation.
When psychedelics were first introduced to the public in the 1940s, they were heralded as the next big thing in psychiatry and personal consciousness.
Particularly with regard to LSD, “there has been a resurgence of interest in the cross-cultural features of hallucinogens.” Researchers in the field of mental health were hoping to discover a “miracle medicine,” as the phrase goes.
For example, Stanford alumni Michael Murphy and Richard Price founded the renowned Esalen Institute near Big Sur, California, in 1962, which is still in operation today.
Richard Alpert (later known as Ram Dass) proceeded on a transforming journey to India, where he studied Hinduism, Buddhism, meditation, and yoga as well as other religions.
Psychoactive drugs, particularly LSD, were considered a “sacrament” of the countercultural movement by Alpert.
The author of a 1985 feature article for Yoga Journal recounted how he had mined Eastern thought to enhance mainstream medical procedures to great effect.
The opposition to the combining of yoga and drugs was based on complaints concerning the cultural exploitation of Eastern spiritual language and analogies, according to the opposition.
In the event “The Science of Creative Intelligence,” Maresh was a member of the team.
Image courtesy of the Jeff Albertson Collection, which is housed at the University of Massachusetts Archives.
Alternate states of consciousness have long been seen as valuable by Indian yogis.
Even worse, the journeys might be potentially hazardous.
Baba wrote the antipsychedelic article “God in a Pill?” in 1966, in which he defined “spiritual” experiences powered by LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin as “superficial,” and he was right.
According to him, these kind of medications should only be taken when they are “recommended by a trained medical practitioner.” ** It wasn’t surprised to see the psychedelic researcher Stanislav Grof featured in Yoga Journal.
Laing, to name just a few.
Psychedelics were the first thing that leaped off the page, which represented the deeply rooted position that such substances had in American yogic society at the time.
According to one report, the trippers and yogis of the 1960s through the 1970s had unearthed “old wisdom about the potentials of the human mind” during their travels.
And the meeting of psychedelics and yoga was merely a result of nature taking its course.
Modern spiritual and cultural life in the United States has benefited from the promotion of radical treatments and psychedelic substances, as well as traditional traditions such as yoga and meditation, by Indian gurus as well as Western academics.
In any case, even if the most ambitious aspirations of the countercultural movement were not achieved, the United States became more open as a result of the radicalism and experimentation.
Yoga, which has been linked to several health advantages, is said to improve both the mind and the body.
It has been prescribed by doctors, and clinical psychologists have used it to treat depression.
However, spirituality has also played a role in the development of yoga.
In The Psychologist, an earlier version of this essay was published in collaboration with Matthew Decloedt.
How meditation and psychedelic drugs could fix tribalism
Vox, courtesy of Javier Zarracina Yes, I am serious. ByUpdated on December 29, 2018, 10:02 a.m. Eastern Standard Time If I told you that the cure to political tribalism was surprisingly straightforward — almost shamefully so — would you believe me? Perhaps, just perhaps, it all boils down to thinking that everything is one entity. The underlying way we perceive the world and our role in it, according to a set of new research on the belief in oneness conducted by Kate Diebels and Mark Leary, psychologists at Duke University, has a significant impact on how we relate to other people.
- According to them, believing in the oneness of everything is a deep and potentially revolutionary viewpoint for these difficult times.
- I get what you’re saying.
- If merely altering our perspective on the world can have such a profound impact on our politics, we should be aware of it, even if we are unable to achieve it.
- Therefore, let us take a look at the research, its consequences, and two instruments that may be able to assist us in cultivating oneness at this point in time.
The power of belief
If the phrase “believing in the oneness of all things” seems a little hazy, that’s because it is. However, it is a completely reasonable worldview. Albert Einstein and the Dalai Lama, among others, have maintained that everything in the universe is essentially interrelated, interconnected, and a component of the same substance or process, and that the sensation of isolation we experience is an illusion created by our own awareness. We may definitely dispute whether or not this is true, but an even more fascinating topic is what the ramifications of believing it would be if it were true.
- With a total of 513 individuals, Diebels and Leary published two linked research in The Journal of Positive Psychology in June 2018 edition with a total of 513 participants.
- Despite the fact that numerous seemingly distinct objects exist, they are all a part of the same totality.
- The idea of isolation between different objects is a fallacy; in fact, everything is interconnected.
- Everything in the universe is permeated by the same fundamental essence.
- It was found that the higher a person’s score, the less solipsistic they were, which is to say that their sense of self stretched beyond themselves to encompass the rest of society.
- The ability to connect with another’s experience is the major barrier to empathy, and it is simple to understand how perceiving the world in this way can alleviate — or at the very least minimize — that difficulty.
- Unsurprisingly, they discovered that more compassion for other human beings increased in direct proportion to the degree of one’s conviction in oneness.
- Leary, one of the researchers who worked on the study, is cautious not to inflate the significance of the findings in his presentation.
- A study in which individuals were either randomly exposed or not exposed to reasons that would affect their ideas about oneness would be required before it could be said that believing in oneness is the source of an enlarged empathetic circle.
However, the data that we now have is tantalizingly suggestive. So, what are the political ramifications of this whole situation?
Antidotes to tribalism
Terms such as “tribalism” and “identity politics” are undoubtedly overused these days, and their application frequently obscures rather than discloses what they are intended to convey. But there is no doubt that we have a problem. According to a Pew Research Center research conducted in 2016, nearly 40% of Republicans and Democrats feel the policies of the opposing party are so hazardous that they represent an existential threat to the country. This division expresses itself primarily across party lines, but this is due to the fact that our system is structured to activate a specific identity.
- When group identities become solidified, everyone outside of our immediate experience might be categorized as a “other,” a member of some out-group whose well-being has nothing to do with our own or with our immediate experience.
- It’s partly because we live in a fragmented information world, where news consumption is equated to commerce, that we’re experiencing these problems.
- So, where does that leave us, exactly?
- However, the study presented above suggests that there is something akin to a solution, namely, convincing more individuals that everything is one.
Asked how we should go about teaching people the benefits of believing in astrology, Leary said that we should approach it the same way we would any other belief: “teach them the benefits of believing it.” Furthermore, you may present the case for oneness on secular, scientific, or spiritual grounds, which means it can be modified to appeal to people with a variety of prior religious and philosophical convictions.
Psychedelics and meditation
Psychedelics and meditation are two more treatments that I would like to recommend. Michael Pollan argues in his recent book about psychedelics that we are currently confronted with two massive and interconnected issues as a society. The first is an environmental problem, which, according to him, is caused by our perceived detachment from natural environments. The contemporary technocratic society has pushed us to see nature as an object, something that can be tamed and instrumentalized, despite its many trappings and adornments.
Pollan explained in an interview that they are “about perceiving the other as an object, whether that other is a plant or an animal, or a person of a different faith or a different ethnicity, as opposed to as a human.” In contrast, if you can take a step back and consider the environment to be living, something of which you are a little part, and if you can consider your fellow human beings to be experiencing the same state, it becomes far more personally painful to abuse the globe or mistreat other people.
- My personal experience with the plant concoction ayahuasca, which includes the natural psychedelic DMT, was the subject of an essay I published for Vox earlier this year.
- Whatever it was or signified, I’m still not sure – all I know is that I felt completely inconsequential and released from the petty vanities that ordinarily preoccupy my mind.
- My ego is still alive and well, and keeping tabs on it is a daily — and sometimes fruitless — struggle.
- In his book Why Buddhism Is True, Robert Wright makes a similar case on the benefits of meditation.
- According to him, “cognitive empathy” is one of the most lacking skills in the world, rather than emotional empathy.
- According to him, “we have difficulty viewing things from the perspective of other people.” “That is more urgently required than emotional empathy,” says the author.
- By focusing your attention on the present moment, you begin to perceive your thoughts and feelings as transitory waves of consciousness.
- Buddhist philosophy maintains that the “self” is illusory and that human suffering is caused by our attachment to ephemeral objects, such as sensations and ideas, which are fleeting in nature.
- With enough time spent in meditation and paying attention to your present-moment experience, this tale begins to dissipate and you realize that everything is inherently interconnected.
- While it is true that life is interdependent in the sense that it is dependent on other life for survival, this does not necessarily imply that all life is one in essence.
- We’re stuck with brains that have developed under quite different settings than we’d like to think: The fact that humans have lived in tiny groups for the most of human history has left us wired to perceive the world in tribal terms.
Essentially, tribalism is the collective extension of egoism; it is the act of erecting a barrier between one group and another, much in the same way that an individual’s ego erects a barrier between him or herself and the rest of the world.
No, this won’t fix everything
There are genuine battles taking place across the world for resources and power, as well as how these riches and power should be allocated in society. These disagreements, as well as the ideals that motivate them, are unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. Indeed, if everyone had the same values as one another, there would be no need for politics in the first instance. However, it is beneficial to grasp what a less tribal society might look like and how we may go about creating one. With these instruments, which can extend awareness and break through the illusion of selfhood, we already have evidence that they have the potential to be transformational in their effects on the individual.
- ” In addition to more fundamental views about other people and how the world works, moral and political concepts are founded on a wide range of additional beliefs.
- Is this to suggest that everyone should sneak LSD into their morning cereal?
- In the long term, meditation is a more secure and long-lasting road to self-transcendence than other methods.
- The opposite is true, and there is every reason to expect that this is exactly what would occur.
A Match Made in the Mind
The mind is a friend to those who are in control of it, and it operates as an enemy to those who are not in control of their thoughts and feelings. Chapter VI of the Bhagavad Gita is titled “The Yoga of Meditation.” After decades of being ignored by the scientific world, psychedelic research is witnessing a resurgence in recent years. The number of research on the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs for treating mental diseases such as depression, addiction, cancer-related psychological discomfort and obsessive-compulsive disorder has increased significantly in recent years.
We know that psychedelic-assisted therapy can alleviate symptoms, but how can patients maintain these benefits over the long term is not well understood.
One possible solution to these issues can be found in the practice of mindfulness.
Established by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who was motivated by Buddhism and developed a program called “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction,” the concept was first brought into Western professional psychotherapy in the 1980s (MBSR).
3 I will not delve into the controversy over whether the definition of mindfulness used by many Western academics adequately captures the complexity of the idea; instead, I will present a case for the use of mindfulness practice in psychedelic-assisted treatment.
The combination is greater than the sum of its parts
The mind is a friend to those who are in control of it, and it operates as an enemy to those who are not in control of their thoughts and emotions. ‘The Yoga of Meditation’ is found in Chapter VI of the Bhagavad Gita. In recent years, psychedelic research has had a resurgence after decades of being neglected by the scientific community. Studies on the therapeutic potential of psychedelic compounds for treating mental diseases such as depression, addiction, cancer-related psychological discomfort, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other conditions have increased in recent years.
We know that psychedelic-assisted treatment may help patients feel better, but how can they maintain these benefits over time?
One possible response to these questions comes from the practice of mindfulness.
Established by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who was motivated by Buddhism and developed a program called “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction,” the concept was first brought into Western professional treatment in the 1980s (MBSR).
Meditation and psychedelic experience: a symbiotic relationship?
This hypothesis is further supported by a recent double-blind placebo-controlled study undertaken by Smigielski and colleagues 6, which found a positive correlation between meditation and psychedelics. It demonstrates that they have beneficial impacts in both directions: meditation may boost the good effects of psychedelics and vice versa, and vice versa. Following a matched-subjects design, 39 healthy expert meditators who were taking part in a 5-day mindfulness-based meditation retreat were randomly assigned to receive either psilocybin or a placebo, according to their level of health.
- One of the most interesting findings was that psilocybin significantly enhanced meditation depth when compared to the placebo group.
- One day following the retreat, the psilocybin group had higher levels of dispositional mindfulness, indicating a greater proclivity to be attentive in one’s daily activities.
- in their investigation, in which they compared the scores of the psilocybin group on the 5-dimensional Altered States of Consciousness Rating Scale (11 5D-ASC) to those of healthy, non-meditating volunteers from another psilocybin investigation.
- They also scored lower on measures of loss of cognitive control and anxiety, which is surprising.
- Figure 1 shows the results of the 11-point 5D-ASC scale.
Lines that reach all the way to the edge of the circle signify extremely high scores on a particular dimension. Adapted from Smigielski et al., Science Advances 2019.
Mindfulness practice as an integration tool
Mindfulness, in addition to these results, may be regarded as a beneficial tool that assists patients, or any user of psychedelics, in integrating their experience. Integration tools are those techniques that assist individuals to assimilate insights gained from a psychedelic experience into their regular lives. They may be found in a variety of forms. For patients undergoing psychedelic-assisted therapy, this entails maintaining any symptom reductions achieved during the course of the treatment.
However, the use of mindfulness practice for integration does not have to be limited to the time following a session; rather, it may be beneficial at all stages of psychedelic-assisted treatment, including the moments before, during, and after the session.
It is possible to reap various benefits by constantly practicing mindfulness before engaging in a psychedelic session. These benefits become obvious when one engages in a psychedelic trip. As a starting point, it may serve as a buffer against anxiety and loss of cognitive control during the event. 6 Even in the face of more painful events, it appears that meditators are better prepared to deal with tough ideas, memories, and emotions: Individuals who practice mindfulness meditation on a regular basis might cultivate an accepting and calm attitude toward new cognitive and emotional content as it arises.
It is possible to get various benefits by constantly practicing mindfulness before participating in a psychedelic session. These benefits become obvious when one engages in a psychedelic session. As a starting point, it may serve as a buffer against anxiety and loss of cognitive control during the experience. 6 Meditators appear to be more prepared to deal with tough thoughts, memories, and emotions, even when confronted with more painful situations. The practice of mindful breathing allows people to adopt a more tolerant and calm attitude toward new cognitive and emotional material as it appears in their minds.
It is possible that the impacts of mindfulness practice after a psychedelic experience will assist patients in maintaining treatment outcomes over the long run. Psychedelics have the ability to modify the content of a person’s thinking as well as undermine detrimental belief systems in certain people. 5 A patient, on the other hand, who does not build new, healthy belief systems as a result of the session is far more likely to relapse in the future. It is possible that engaging in a continual practice of non-judgmental awareness will reduce the compulsiveness of negative beliefs and cognitive patterns.
The effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), which utilizes mindfulness practice to avoid relapse in addiction and depression, lends credence to this theoretical premise.
13,14 In conclusion, mindfulness practice has the potential to be extremely beneficial in maintaining the excellent effects of psychedelic-assisted treatment.
In conclusion, mindfulness meditation and psychedelic-assisted treatment are a good combination since they complement one other. They have complimentary effects on the psychological and biological inadequacies that are linked with depression, and they may be more effective when used jointly than when used separately in some cases. Psychedelic experiences and meditation can also be beneficial to one another: psychedelic experiences can help individuals develop their meditation practice, and meditation can help people get the most out of psychedelic experiences.
The bottom line is that regular mindfulness practice kindly and compassionately offers a road to everybody who suffers from the painful tenacity of their own minds: the mind may become a friend for those who learn to regulate it.
If you already have a consistent meditation practice and would like to take part in the research, please consider participating in the survey.
Why LSD may be as good for you as yoga
Microdosing has emerged as something of a health craze in recent years, gaining momentum in both Australia and other parts of the world. Low-dose psychedelic drug administration is used to improve performance or to alleviate tension and anxiety in the practice of medicine. However, while anecdotal evidence is persuasive, there are still considerable uncertainties about how microdosing works and how much of the observed advantages are attributable to pharmacological effects rather than participants’ ideas and expectations.
The evidence from our research suggests that microdosing may provide advantages equivalent to those obtained from other wellness activities such as yoga.
Despite the fact that it is unclear how many Australians microdose, the number of Australian people who have taken psychedelics in their lives has climbed from 8% in 2001 to 10.9 percent in 2019. After a sluggish start, Australian psychedelic research is currently moving forward at a breakneck pace. The science of microdosing is one area that has piqued my curiosity in particular. An prior study conducted by one of us (Vince Polito) found that following a six-week period of microdosing, levels of sadness and stress dropped.
This research, on the other hand, discovered a rise in neuroticism.
When this component of personality is high, people tend to feel negative emotions more frequently, and they are more sensitive to despair and anxiety. This was a surprising discovery that didn’t appear to connect with the rest of the findings in the study.
Microdosing vs yoga
Recently, Stephen Bright’s research team recruited 339 people who had either participated in microdosing, yoga, or both but had not participated in one or both of these activities. In comparison to individuals in the microdosing or control groups, yoga practitioners reported greater levels of stress and anxiety (participants who did neither yoga nor microdosing). Individuals who had engaged in microdosing, on the other hand, reported increased degrees of depression. We are unable to explain why we saw these outcomes; nevertheless, it is plausible that persons who were suffering stress and anxiety were drawn to yoga, whereas people who were experiencing depression tended to be drawn to microdosing techniques.
Microdosing is the practice of administering a small amount of a psychedelic substance such as LSD.
Also of note, persons who practiced yoga as well as microdosing reported reduced levels of sadness, anxiety, and stress than those who did not.
Our new research
We conducted our most recent study as part of a collaboration between Edith Cowan University, Macquarie University, and the University of Göttingen in Germany, with the goal of expanding on these findings and specifically attempting to determine whether microdosing can have an adverse effect on one’s neuroticism. In order to conduct a period of microdosing, we recruited 76 experienced microdosers who completed a survey before beginning the experiment. Four weeks after the first survey, 24 of the participants consented to participate in a follow-up survey.
Following a period of microdosing, we discovered that the 24 subjects had undergone personality changes similar to those observed in our previous research.
This time around, we discovered a drop in neuroticism and an increase in conscientiousness among participants (people who are highly conscientious tend to be diligent, for example).
These findings are more compatible with other research on the claimed effects of microdosing and high-dose psychedelics than with previous findings.
So what does it all mean?
According to our most recent studies, the favorable benefits of microdosing on psychological well-being may be attributed to a reduction in neuroticism, which is a personality trait. It is also possible that the self-reported increases in performance, which we have also noticed in our previous study, are attributable to an enhanced level of conscientiousness. Overall, our findings suggest that contemplative activities such as yoga, which are particularly beneficial for less experienced microdosers in terms of reducing undesirable side effects such as anxiety, should be explored further.
This highlights a significant restriction of our investigation.
Consequently, another significant problem of this research is the fact that we can’t always tell what medications people are taking since they don’t always know what they’re taking themselves (especially for LSD).
Some people resort to microdosing in order to boost their overall performance at their place of employment. Shutterstock
Microdosing carries risks
Considering how poorly controlled the illegal drug market currently is, it’s possible that individuals will unwittingly come into contact with a potentially hazardous new psychoactive compound, such as the 25-I-NBOMe, which has been passed off as LSD. In addition, people are unsure of the exact amount of medication they are taking. This might have unintended consequences, such as “tripping balls” in the workplace. Potential risks such as these can be avoided by regularly testing your medications (you can purchase at-home test kits) and by starting with a much lower dose than you believe you need when using a new batch of medication for the very first time.
Where to from here?
Despite the hoopla surrounding microdosing, the scientific evidence to date has been conflicting. We’ve discovered that microdosers experience tremendous benefits. The extent to which this is influenced by placebo effects and expectancies, however, is unknown. People who opt to microdose may find that engaging in contemplative activities such as yoga might help to alleviate some of the negative effects of the medication and lead to better overall outcomes. Some people may discover that contemplative techniques alone provide them with the same benefits as microdosing, which is less dangerous than microdosing.
Written by Stephen Bright and Vince Polito at Edith Cowan University and Macquarie University, this article was first published on The Conversation by Stephen Bright and Vince Polito.