With the Beckley/Maastricht Programme, we are conducting a series of placebo-controlled microdosing studies to investigate in great detail this increasingly popular practice, and its potential therapeutic applications.
Our first study, investigating the short-term effects of various small doses of LSD on mood, cognitive functions, and tolerance to pain, has been completed in 2019, with ground-breaking results demonstrating for the first time in the lab the benefits of LSD microdosing.
Following up on this success, we are now looking at the efficacy and safety of a fixed microdose of LSD administered repeatedly over a period of four weeks, on brain activity, cognitive functions and mood. Of particular interest, this study will be investigating whether LSD microdosing, when used once or repeatedly, can amplify brain plasticity, a phenomenon that has already been observed in cells, lab grown ‘minibrains’ and animals, but not yet in humans.
Outside of the lab, the Beckley/Imperial team are also conducting the world’s first placebo-controlled, self-blinded study of microdosing. Recruiting participants from around the world who already microdose, or who are about to start, the study uses an innovative new procedure to mimic important aspects of the blinding process, improving on previous survey studies of microdosers by diminishing the role of the placebo effect. To learn more, click here.
Given our current understanding of the mechanisms of action of psychedelic compounds such as LSD, this pioneering work could lead to LSD becoming a possible treatment for a range of conditions in need of more efficient treatments such as mood disorders, age-related cognitive decline/mild cognitive impairment, chronic pain, brain rehabilitation and addiction. The Beckley Foundation is already starting to initiate research projects exploring these potential therapeutic applications.
Our new collaboration with Prof Harriet de Wit from the University Of Chicago, who has already conducted some of the earliest laboratory-based studies on LSD microdosing, is currently undertaking a study in individuals with high levels of depression in order to explore more specifically the therapeutic potential of LSD microdosing for the treatment of this condition.
More clinical research projects focusing on a range of conditions (e.g. chronic pain, anxiety) are under development and will be announced later this year.
Our ability to carry through these important research projects in an open, unrestricted and unbiased manner, relies largely on the generous donations we receive from the public.
If you too believe in the value of our work and want to get involved and contribute to this essential work, please consider donating to help fund our research programme into the potential health benefits of psychedelic compounds.
Research highlights from our microdosing research programme
Beckley/Maastricht LSD microdosing study: finding the proper dose
The Beckley/Maastricht Microdosing Research Programme was set up to study the effects of LSD microdosing on humans, with a particular focus on mood, cognitive functions, and pain management. The first study, exploring the dose-response relationship in LSD-induced physiological and psychological effects, saw twenty-four healthy volunteers each receive single doses of 5, 10 and 20 micrograms of LSD, or a placebo.
Results clearly demonstrate, for the first time in a controlled and rigorous way, the positive effects of microdosing on mood, cognition and pain management.
LSD microdosing for pain management
Among other measures collected throughout the dosing days, pain tolerance levels were assessed using a Cold Pressor Test, a valid and low-risk test for evaluating individual pain thresholds which involves the use of a tank filled with 3°C-cold water. Volunteers were asked to submerge their hands in the cold water for as long as they could manage. Dependent measures of the Cold Pressor Test include pain tolerance (i.e. the duration for which participants can hold their hand in the tank) and subjective ratings of painfulness, unpleasantness and stress. The study consistently indicated that a 20 microgram dose of LSD significantly reduced pain perception, as compared to the placebo, even though lower doses did not have the same effect.
The overall pain tolerance on 20 micrograms increased by 20%, meaning that volunteers were able to remain immersed in the cold water for substantially longer with a 20 microgram dose of LSD compared to those on a placebo. Subjects also reported a decrease in the subjective experience of painfulness and unpleasantness. Remarkably, changes in pain tolerance and subjective pain perception induced by the low dose of LSD under these circumstances were comparable in magnitude to those observed after administration of opioids, such as oxycodone and morphine to healthy volunteers.
In addition, the analgesic effects observed were equally strong at 1.5 and 5 hours after LSD administration, indicating that a dose a small as 20 micrograms of LSD may have a longer-lasting ‘halo’ effect on pain management.
Importantly, the data also suggests that the level of psychological and cognitive interference that is produced by a 20 microgram dose of LSD is very mild and would not be expected to interfere with normal day-to-day operations.
European Neuropsychopharmacology, 2020
Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 2020
ACS Pharmacology & Translational Science, 2020
Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2020
Psilocybin for Depression
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