Individuals Turned to Psychedelics to Improve Mental Health During Pandemic

The 2021 Global Drug Survey showed an upward trend in psychedelic use to improve mental wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Microdosing on psychedelics, like LSD or mushrooms, increased in popularity amongst individuals also being treated with psychiatric drugs this year. In fact, the survey demonstrated that “respondents who both microdosed and took psychiatric drugs almost half reported reducing or stopping their prescribed medication.”

It also portrays a shift away from taking psychedelics as a means to boost productivity and creativity, similarly to how Silicon Valley minds have used them in the past. Rather, it shows individuals utilizing them to cope with their mental health. Professor Adam Winstock, a psychiatrist and addiction medicine specialist based in London, proposed that this uptick in psychedelic use may be linked to the extended waiting periods for mental health services that the pandemic worsened.

Over one fifth of the GDS respondents who had used LSD or mushrooms in the past year reported having microdosed either drug in the past twelve months. Roughly 75% said they did not experience any negative side effects, while 10% reported unwanted mental effects and 8% reported physical effects.

Researchers are cautious of this information, as the largest placebo-controlled study on psychedelics conducted by Imperial College London found that “the mood uplift reported by microdosers might just be the placebo effect.”

Dr. David Erritzoe, a leading researcher in the aforementioned study, expressed his support in furthering clinical trials to uncover the potential benefits of microdosing. Similarly, Prof. Winstock hopes that these recent findings will open the eyes of policymakers and mental health providers to further research microdosing as a legitimate treatment for mental health disorders.

Dr. Erritzoe stated that the attention and excitement around these studies have caused “people to report inflated positive effects.” He highlights the counterculture nature of microdosing, the endorsement from Silicon Valley, and the revolt against Big Pharma all contribute to exaggerated reporting from individuals.

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