The Global Drug Survey published a study that sheds light on the experiences of people who use psychedelics to improve their wellness and mental health.
The online study, conducted between November and December of 2019, surveyed over 15,000 LSD and 11,000 magic mushroom users, yielding generally encouraging results but raising some key challenges, most notably increased screening for potentially susceptible users.
The worldwide narcotic scene has altered slightly since responses were filed, owing to the epidemic, and it’s worth noting that respondents to the Global Drug Survey tend to be more drug-literate than the general public.
Regardless, psychedelic usage is on the rise, with recent data by Release indicating that they were the third most popular illicit substance – behind cannabis and cocaine – between April and September of 2020.
Here are some of the important findings from the Global Drug Survey.
Microdosing is Popular but (many) Aren’t Doing it Properly
Microdosing was common among respondents: one-quarter of those who had used LSD in the previous year (plus 23.1 percent of recent magic mushroom users) had tried it.
Despite the fact that a 2020 international review study defines microdosing as a “process that incorporates numerous dosing sessions,” 46.7 percent of LSD Global Drug Survey microdosers only utilized one-time doses. This shows that some consumers may be unclear about the expectations of the California-popularized wellness craze.
“Perhaps individuals take one-off dosages to be more focussed or creative on a day [they need to be] because they have read statements that it accomplishes these things,” says Maastricht University’s Professor Kim Kuypers, who oversaw this aspect of the study.
Microdosing may be a placebo, according to new Imperial College research, but Kuypers believes it has worth, citing a prior study that revealed that modest doses of LSD can improve attention span and mood. “However, it is depending on the person,” she says.
Battle of the Sexes: Men and Women Use Psychedelics Differently
With recent research tying psilocybin (magic mushrooms), ketamine, LSD, and MDMA to the treatment of mental health issues and addiction, 6,500 respondents took part in a segment analyzing persons who use illicit substances to self-treat a psychiatric condition or emotional pain.
Women were far more likely than males to take MDMA for self-treatment (35.4 percent of female users versus 25.3 percent of men), with men being more likely to use LSD (38.7 percent, followed by magic mushrooms at 22.2 percent). There were significant differences in their reasons for self-medicating: 40.2 percent of men hoped to treat depression (compared to 31.7 percent of women), while women recorded significantly higher numbers for trauma (9.2 percent, compared to 3.4 percent of men) and PTSD (9.2 percent, compared to 3.4 percent of men) (5.9 percent over 3.3 percent for males). Self-treatment for alcohol or drug use was practiced by 4.6 percent of men and 2.1 percent of women.
Carly Barton is a co-founder of PlantEd Collective, an organization that promotes the use of plant medicines. “With guys, it frequently appears that the reconnection to emotional reactions is the largest adjustment,” she adds, “enabling feelings that perhaps the majority of women already have a connection to.” Men frequently respond, ‘I can let myself feel,’ but women frequently respond, ‘I feel much more comfortable processing my pain.’ We don’t always see these differences, but we do.”
Supervised Use Hits Different
Eight hundred survey participants completed a section on self-treatment with psychedelics under supervision. Unsurprisingly, the most common trip-sitter was a friend or spouse (37%), with LSD being the most commonly taken chemical (21.3%) under supervision, followed by magic mushrooms (19%) and ayahuasca (19%). (17.9 percent).
Perhaps the most interesting numbers were those of participants who reported favorable outcomes, with 86 percent saying the experience was beneficial, 79.3 percent saying they’d suggest a supervised session, and 89.8 percent saying they’d take psychedelics again under legal circumstances.
Despite these findings, Professor Adam Winstock, creator of Global Drug Survey, cautions individuals hoping to “accidentally trip themselves to mental wellness”: “It’s concerning that individuals would use when they are most desperate – when they are most vulnerable – and that drugs may intensify their current state.”
Shaman Choice is Key
Nearly three-quarters of individuals who utilized an outsider to supervise their self-treatment trip, such as a neo-shaman (17.8 percent of users) or indigenous shaman (12.6 percent, and typically linked with ayahuasca), had medical history screening. Over 70% had screening for drug use disorders or a medical and mental health history, 52% had a preliminary session, and 52.3 had a “integration session” after their trip.
“Psychedelic-assisted treatment is kind of like a sandwich,” Adam Winstock adds. “There will be a preliminary session.” The actual session. And, following integration, you will be able to reflect with clarity on the adjustments you will make in your life.”
While these figures demonstrate that the majority of respondents had favorable outcomes, there is a significant danger that the most vulnerable may begin on a trip they are not prepared for, or that they will not receive the necessary care.
According to the Global Drug Survey report, the findings highlight “the need for additional research to determine the most effective therapeutic applications and benefits of use in other environments, focusing on the person’s intention, state of mind, and the optimal environment to have these experiences.”