Crowdfunders Greenlight World's First LSD Microdosing Study

A growing number of people have started eating small tabs of LSD with their morning coffee. These microdosers, who take very low doses of the psychedelic drug as part of a daily routine, claim that it boosts creativity, eases mental health issues, and makes them more productive. Accounts from psychedelic drug enthusiasts, however, aren’t worth much in the world of science, so when researchers want to study microdosing in a legitimate way, they have to turn to the public.

Fortunately for them, the public isn’t as judgmental as the government.

On Tuesday, researchers with the Beckley Foundation, a United Kingdom-based think tank that supports psychedelic research, announced that they’re launching the world’s first LSD microdosing study by launching a crowdfunding campaign. The goal is to raise $2 million, which will be used to determine the effect of 10, 20, or 50-microgram doses of LSD on 20 participants as well as quantify these effects through MRI brain scans. Because LSD is a very controversial scheduled drug in the UK, psychedelic research organizations like the Beckley Foundation can’t bank on public institutions for funding.

“As far as the government is concerned, it’s evil stuff that nobody should be playing with,” Ben Taub from the Beckley Foundation told Inverse.

In 2016, the Psychoactive Substances Act made it incredibly difficult to study the biological and medical effects of illegal drugs in the UK, but Taub explains that a small number of licenses are issued by the Home Office allowing legitimate scientific institutions to carry out their research. Imperial College London, which the Beckley Foundation is partnered with, already has one of these licenses, Taub says; if crowdfunding is successful, the next step will be putting the project forward to the Imperial College ethics committee to greenlight the study.

The most difficult part of psychedelic appears to be not the science itself but getting funding. “We’ve got that area down — the science,” Taub says. “The real obstacle we always have is the fundraising because these studies aren’t cheap to do, and we don’t intend to get government grants for psychedelic research. It just doesn’t really happen.”

A 2016 study showed that the brain on LSD has much higher blood flow to the visual cortex.

Carhart-Harris et al., PNAS

In 2015, the Beckley Foundation crowdfunded a study to produce the first images of the brain on LSD, but “the campaign never really got together,” says Taub, though the results from that research were ultimately published in PNAS. This time around, the researchers are confident that the potential findings of their research will garner more attention from the public.

In particular, the researchers are hoping to scientifically confirm what microdosers report — that it does in fact produce cognitive benefits, like increasing creativity and alleviating depression. Using scientifically validated tests and questionnaires, Taub says, will eliminate the field’s reliance on anecdotal reports.

More importantly, however, is the fact that the researchers will use brain imaging technology to correlate any LSD-induced changes with neurological events “so we can actually see the mechanisms — not just whether microdosing has an effect but actually how it’s doing this.”

The Beckley Foundation’s campaign launches on May 9 on the crowdfunding platform Fundamental, which is geared toward raising money for psychedelic research relating to mental health issues.

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