The practice of “microdosing” appears to result in a decrease in emotional diversity, according to new research published in the Journal of Psychedelic Studies.
Microdosing involves taking very small amounts of a psychedelic substance, such as LSD or psilocybin, in order to experience its subtle effects without inducing a full-blown psychedelic experience. Some people use microdosing to attempt to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety but others view it as a tool for self-enhancement.
The idea is that this small amount of the substance can enhance creativity, focus, and mood, and potentially offer other benefits without the hallucinogenic effects associated with higher doses. But most of the supposed benefits of microdosing are based on anecdotal reports.
“In light of the resurgence of psychedelics in clinical treatment of mental disorders, a lot of focus has shifted to psychopathology and large dose psychedelics. Still, many people don’t suffer from mental health issues and want to use microdosing to enhance their cognitive and emotional functions,” said Ioana Pop, an assistant professor at Tilburg University.
“Even though there’s a lot of personal experience, there’s been little scientific research, especially since everyone does it differently, using different substances and protocols. The goal was to understand how microdosing actually works in the real world, so people can manage their expectations.”
“Research on the emotional effects of psychedelics has a lot of interesting lines of inquiry that imply a broader emotional experience,” Pop explained. “We were interested in zooming in on this emotional opening process. The concept of emotional diversity points us toward just that, a broader range of emotions experienced with similar intensity throughout the day.”
The researchers collected information from 18 people over 28 days to investigate the effects of microdosing on emotional diversity. At the beginning of the study, participants were asked about their personal information and history of substance use. The researchers used a smartphone app to prompt participants at various points during the day to report which emotions they felt. Additionally, participants recorded whether they had microdosed.
The researchers hypothesized that microdosing, especially over multiple days, would increase the range of emotions experienced by participants. However, they found that on days when participants took a microdose, the overall level of emotional diversity (including both positive and negative emotions) was lower.
While microdosing did not appear to boost emotional diversity, it did appear to boost some particular emotional states.
“Turns out that microdosing doesn’t actually help people open up emotionally and allow each emotion a fair shot at the spotlight,” Pop told PsyPost. “Rather, during microdosing days, we saw specific emotions being boosted. In our study, participants experienced more ‘awe, wonder & amazement,’ but also more “‘shame & humiliation.’ Interestingly, participants also reported less ‘joy & happiness.’”
The findings raise several scientific questions that could be addressed in the future.
“It was surprising to find that certain emotions were enhanced for everyone,” Pop explained. “Further research is needed to figure out what this means. As an example, we thought each participant might experience a change in a different emotion, which would still be related to opening up. Then we generally assume that all emotions are equally relevant, but what if some are more important and so more likely to be impacted?”
“There’s also a possibility that the emotional experience is hierarchical – maybe experiencing ‘awe, wonder & amazement’ already includes experiencing ‘joy & happiness,’ which would explain why when one increased, the other decreased. Last but not least, why would ‘shame and humiliation’ spike during microdosing days?”
“It was a small study, only 18 people took part,” Pop noted. “Despite that, we collected detailed data for a month. In terms of further questions, the range of questions we can ask is so vast that it’s hard to pick a favorite. The possibilities we mentioned before could, however, give us a better idea of how microdosing psychedelics affects emotions.”
The study, “Microdosing psychedelics – Does it have an impact on emodiversity?“, was authored by Ioana Pop and Jannis Dinkelacker.