How Public Interest in Psychedelic Microdosing Has Surged

    Public interest in microdosing marijuana and psychedelics has been spiking amid the reform movement in the United States. Google searches related to the dosing technique grew by 1,250 percent from 2015-2023, according to a new, federally funded study by the American Medical Association (AMA).

    Researchers at the University of California-San Diego conducted an analysis of Google search queries related to microdosing from 2010-2023, comparing the trends to local and state cannabis and psychedelics policy changes. They found a “notable increase in searches for microdosing across the US” associated with the reforms.

    “Searches for microdosing in the US remained stable until 2014, then increased annually thereafter.”

    The study, published in JAMA Health Forum on June 28, utilized an event-time difference-in-difference model to investigate a potential casual effect. Researchers looked at monthly and annual changes in microdosing searches before and after a state or locality enacted a drug policy change.

    “Searches for microdosing in the US remained stable until 2014, then increased annually thereafter, with a cumulative increase by a factor of 13.4 from 2015 to 2023 (7.9 per 10 million to 105.6 per 10 million searches, respectively),” it found. “In 2023, there were 3.0 million microdosing searches in the US.”

    Broken down further, the study found that local psychedelics decriminalization laws were linked to a 22.4 per million increase in microdosing search rates; statewide psychedelics reform laws were associated with a 28.9 per 10 million increase; statewide adult-use marijuana laws increased microdosing search rates by 40.9 per 10 million; and medical cannabis legalization caused an increase of 11.5 per 10 million.

    “As public interest in using psychedelics and cannabis for health grows, it’s crucial that the medical community conducts studies to establish a strong evidence base for their safety and efficacy,” researchers wrote. “Without understanding the risks and benefits, people may turn to unproven alternative therapies, exposing themselves to potential dangers. It’s our responsibility as a medical community to ensure patients have access to safe, effective and evidence-based treatments.”

    Eric Leas, an assistant professor of public health and senior author of the study, cautioned that psilocybin and other psychedelics remain Schedule I substances under federal law, meaning their use “poses legal risks for consumers and concerns of product impurity because of a lack of manufacturing standards.”

    “Additional population-based surveillance is needed to identify who is microdosing, their reasons, and how these practices might change with the evolving legal landscape.”

    The study, which was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the California Tobacco Related Disease Research Program (psilocybin, for example, has shown “considerable promise” for smoking cessation), concludes by saying the findings “suggest that rigorous clinical studies are needed to evaluate the safety profile and potential benefits of microdosing to inform evidence-based practices and policymaking to match public interest.”

    “Additional population-based surveillance is needed to identify who is microdosing, their reasons, and how these practices might change with the evolving legal landscape,” it says.

    A majority of states have enacted some form of marijuana legalization, while a growing number of states and localities are also pursuing psychedelics reform. NIDA Director Nora Volkow previously told Marijuana Moment that the “train has left the station” on psychedelics as the reform movement spreads.

    And while the researchers for the JAMA study noted that federal prohibition means unsanctioned use of psychedelics could pose risks to consumers, another federal agency recently acknowledged the potential benefits psilocybin might provide—including for treatment of alcohol use disorder, anxiety and depression. It also noted psilocybin research being funded by the federal government into the drug’s effects on pain, migraines, psychiatric disorders and various other conditions.

    Separate research published recently on psilocybin found that it’s unlikely that a single experience with the drug changes people’s religious or metaphysical beliefs—though it may affect their perception of whether animals, plants or other objects experience consciousness.

    Findings of another recent study suggest that the use of full-spectrum psychedelic mushroom extract has a more powerful effect than chemically synthesized psilocybin alone, which could have implications for psychedelic-assisted therapy. The findings imply that the experience of entheogenic mushrooms may involve a so-called “entourage effect” similar to what’s observed with cannabis and its many components.

    The AMA published another recent study that contradicted commonly held beliefs about the potential risks of psychedelics use.

    A separate recent study from the AMA found that single-dose psilocybin use was “not associated with risk of paranoia,” while other adverse effects such as headaches are generally “tolerable and resolved within 48 hours.”

    That study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, involved a meta-analysis of double-blind clinical trials, where psilocybin was used to treat anxiety and depression, from 1966-2023.

    The AMA published another recent study that similarly contradicted commonly held beliefs about the potential risks of psychedelics use, finding the substances “may be associated with lower rates of psychotic symptoms among adolescents.”

    Results of a clinical trial published by the AMA in December meanwhile “suggest efficacy and safety” of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for treatment of bipolar II disorder, a mental health condition often associated with debilitating and difficult-to-treat depressive episodes.

    The association also published research in August 2023 that found people with major depression experienced “clinically significant sustained reduction” in their symptoms after just one dose of psilocybin.



    Photograph (cropped) by Workman via Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons 3.0

    This story was originally published by Marijuana Moment, which tracks the politics and policy of cannabis and drugs. Follow Marijuana Moment on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for its newsletter.

    • Kyle is Marijuana Moment‘s Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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