The potential of microdosing for anxiety

Scared woman sitting on ground and covering her head in fear of domestic violence

microdosing for anxiety

Anxiety is what everyone experiences at some point in their lives, from a startle reaction when fireworks are suddenly shot off, to worrying about the health of a loved one. However, you can also suffer from anxiety on a daily basis and then it can get in the way of a normal life quite a bit. The fears that arise within you can inhibit you from doing what you actually want to do. They can cause you to constantly fret, sleep poorly and feel a lot of tension. Not everyone wants to take sedatives for that. Microdosing with psilocybin could be a possible alternative for anxiety.

When fear rules your life

Anxiety is a normal emotion that shows up once in a while. And that’s just as well, because it’s a feeling that alerts you that something is wrong. But when anxiety takes over and is constantly present, something else is going on. You are then afraid when there is actually no danger at all. Some people become anxious in social situations, afraid of failure, or constantly worry about normal daily events. An anxiety disorder is then present. About 20% of the people in our country suffer from this.

Let's not waste our energy on panic. Quote.

If you have an anxiety disorder, the fear often gets in the way of normal functioning. It hinders your daily life, interferes with your studies or work. Fears will cause you to leave things out, procrastinate, or perform below your level. So it actually puts a big mark on your life. Anxiety causes not only mental symptoms, but also physical ones:

  • Sleep problems
  • Headache, abdominal pain
  • Decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting
  • Concentration problems
  • Irritability
  • Feeling of tension and restlessness
  • Continuous worrying, fretting

In addition to feeling great tension and anxiety, you may also suffer from panic attacks. The fear then becomes so great that a person feels overwhelmed by it. Common symptoms during an attack include sweating, shortness of breath or breathlessness, trembling, nausea, tingling in arms or legs, and heart palpitations. Often tranquilizers, such as oxazepam, are prescribed. However, these drugs are addictive and have nasty side effects. Many people try microdosing with psilocybin for anxiety. What are the benefits of this?

Microdosing for anxiety

3d illustration. Model of serotonin molecule, Hormone of Happiness

Psilocybin is the substance found in magic mushrooms and truffles. When you take magic mushrooms or truffles, it is psilocybin that causes you to trip, or hallucinate. Psilocybin, however, has more effects than just causing hallucinations. It can have a positive impact on your mood, on stress and on the neuroplasticity of the brain. To enjoy these benefits without suffering from mind-altering effects, microdosing was devised.

When you take a microdose of a truffle (usually a tenth of a normal dose), you are only ingesting a small amount of psilocybin. Enough to notice a positive effect, but without tripping. Therefore, you could also use it for anxiety disorder. How exactly does that work?

Psilocybin and serotonin

It is now known that psychedelics primarily affect serotonin. This is one of the neurotransmitters. Serotonin is known as the happy hormone; it is important for a sense of contentment and happiness. However, it does much more than that. Serotonin plays a role in learning ability, sleep, regulating temperature and memory.

There are certain regions in the body that serotonin affects, the serotonin 2A receptors. These are located throughout the central nervous system. Certain substances can make contact with these receptors and thereby stimulate or inhibit the activity of serotonin. We are far from knowing everything about this mechanism, but it is believed that psychedelics also bind to these receptors.

One hypothesis is that when mind-altering drugs bind to the 2A receptors, the central cortex becomes excited. This area of the brain, responsible for cognitive, sensory and motor functions, responds with hallucinations and other effects. It is possible that psilocybin may even stimulate neuroplasticity, meaning that the brain creates new connections. Even though when you microdose you take much less of the substance, you can still benefit from these properties.

laboratory chemical experiment

Initial studies on microdosing for anxiety

Unfortunately, not as much research has been done on what microdosing can do for anxiety. In 2020, some clinical trials were set up to explore the potential of microdosing for mental health.

There are several ways of doing research. One is to conduct surveys (questionnaires) of people who microdose themselves. An international survey of 1102 people was conducted in 2020, 57% of them had been diagnosed with a mental illness. 79% of respondents reported seeing improvements in their mental health from microdosing. Another study found that microdosing reduced participants’ anxiety and depression.

In a 2019 study, 410 people were surveyed from different countries. All had been diagnosed with a physical or mental illness. They also all had experience with mind-altering substances, mostly magic mushrooms. In general, those with anxiety disorders felt that microdosing was somewhat less effective than a full dose of the drug. But still they said microdosing was more effective than regular medication.

Trying microdosing yourself

Of course, a survey is not the same as a study conducted by scientists under controlled conditions. This is the opinion of users themselves. Still, the positive responses point to the potential of microdosing for anxiety. You can very easily try for yourself what it can do for you. Microdosing with truffles is generally well tolerated, it has few side effects. Be careful with medication, though. Psilocybin can affect the action of sedatives (benzodiazepines). In that case, check with your doctor before you start microdosing.

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