In July 2020, Drug Science launched the Medical Psychedelics Working Group (MPWG) – a consortium of experts, leading researchers and policy specialists. The overarching goal of this group is to create a rational and enlightened approach to psychedelic research and clinical treatment. To achieve this, education and destigmatisation will be critical in changing the public’s perception of psychedelic science.
On October 13th 2020, the MPWG hosted its first symposium entitled ‘Women in Psychedelic Science’, showcasing the ground-breaking and outstanding work of women in psychedelics. This was accompanied by inspiring, personal accounts of women who have used psychedelics to treat trauma.
Laura Kaertner – Insights on psychedelic microdosing
Laura Kaertner is a research assistant at the Centre of Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London where she researches the effects of psychedelic microdosing. Her primary role is in the organisation and set-up of a large-scale observational microdosing study.
Microdosing has gained significant media interest, with media reports of the increased popularity of use and exceedingly positive anecdotal reports of benefits. However, it is a controversial subject that generates polar opposite opinions, some hail it as a biohack for creativity and productivity, whilst others claim that the subjective benefits are merely a result of the placebo effect. Currently, there is a lack of scientific research and no consensus on the benefits associated with microdosing.
Laura provides insight into two microdosing studies that she has been involved with.
Microdosing survey study:
- Investigated the subjective effects of psychedelic microdosing using a web-based survey involving the self-dosing of a psychedelic drug, termed an as observational study.
- The study demonstrated that positive expectations before the start of the trial were predictive of self-reported well-being, anxiety and depressive symptoms effects, suggestive of an expectancy effect.
- However, the study did not distinguish between drug and placebo effect due to the lack of placebo control.
Self-blinding microdose study 1.0:
- A novel hybrid study design, combining the advantages of a large-scale web-based survey with a novel self-blinding methodology for the self-dosing of a psychedelic drug or a placebo control.
- The study reported similar improvements in long-term outcomes for both the placebo and microdose.
- On the day of dosing, the acute outcomes were driven by the guess of whether it was placebo or microdose, suggesting an expectancy effect on acute measures.
- The results are suggestive of a large placebo effect, however, there are limitations associated with the study including dose inaccuracies and the potential lack of legitimacy for control.
Laura’s upcoming self-blinding microdose study 2.0 will involve a similar hybrid study design, combining large-scale observational studies and self-blinding methodology, but combined with hands-on lab-based research methods. This will include the assessment of neurophysiological markers of brain activity, biomedical sampling and psychophysiological measures.
To find out more about the study, please see the video below: