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LSD Microdosing to Boost Attention: Too Soon to Tell?

Microdosing with lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is associated with improved mood and increased attention, early research suggests. However, at least one expert believes it’s far too soon to tell and warns against endorsing patient microdosing.

In a dose-finding exploratory study, three low doses of LSD were compared with placebo in healthy volunteers who were all recreational drug users. Adjusted results showed that the highest dose boosted attention and mood, although participants were aware of psychedelic effects, prompting researchers to conclude the results demonstrated “selective, beneficial effects.”

“The majority of participants have improved attention,” study investigator Nadia Hutten, PhD, Department of Neuropsychology and Psychopharmacology, Maastricht University, the Netherlands, told Medscape Medical News.

“So we think that patients with attention deficits might have more beneficial effects,” she added, noting her team plans to study LSD microdosing in patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The study was presented at the 33rd European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) Congress, which was held online this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Growing Interest

Over the past 10 years there has been growing interest in psychedelic microdosing, which is defined as a dose that aims to enhance mood and/or performance but does not affect perception.

However, there has been considerable debate over what constitutes a “microdose.” One tenth of a “full” psychedelic dose is typically suggested, but users report a much wider dose range in practice, suggesting potential “individual variation in response to low doses,” the researchers note.

In the current dose-finding study, the researchers explored whether the effects of LSD on cognition and subjective measures differed between individuals.

The study included 24 healthy recreational drug users and compared the acute effects of 5 µg, 20 µg, and 20 µg LSD with placebo on a computer-based psychomotor vigilance task (PVT) that measured attention and on a Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST).

Participants also completed the 72-item Profile of Mood States (POMS) questionnaire, a visual analog scale (VAS) on mood, and the 94-item 5-Dimensional Altered States of Consciousness Rating scales (5D-ASC).

Unadjusted results showed that the 20 µg LSD dose significantly reduced correct substitutions on the DSST vs placebo (P < .05), but had no effect on attentional lapses on the PCT or on positive mood on the POMS.

Correcting the DSST score for the number of total responses revealed no dose effect of LSD. This suggested that participants were no less accurate when under the influence of LSD, even though they encoded fewer digits, the researchers note.

Participants also reported that both the 10 µg and 20 µg dose of LSD increased subjective experiences on the VAS and alternated states of consciousness on the 5D-ASC compared with placebo.

After stratifying the results by dose and participant, the effect of LSD differed between individuals. For example, both the 5 µg and 20 µg doses were associated with improvement in attention on the PVT (P < .05), but not the 10 µg dose.

These results also indicated that the 20 mg dose was associated with a