Microdosing involves taking a very low dose of a psychedelic substance, the most common of these being LSD or psilocybin-containing mushrooms, but also 1P-LSD, 1cP-LSD, 1V-LSD, and similar derivatives.
Research around the benefits of microdosing LSD has increased over the last few years, with the majority of studies investigating its potential as an alternative to traditional pain relief, for cognitive and mood enhancement, and for treatment of mental health disorders.
With 16 million people worldwide suffering from Opioid Use Disorder, it is imperative that a less addictive alternative to pain relief is found. This is what much of the research on microdosing psychedelics, most notably LSD, has centred around over recent years. Dr Johannes Ramaekers, a professor at Maastricht University, published a study in 2020 that provided evidence that microdoses of LSD have pain-relieving properties. His extensive research has led him to believe that LSD could one day be used as an alternative to highly addictive opioids, as unlike many other psychoactive substances, LSD does not share the same potential for addiction. 
New research also suggests that microdoses of LSD can be used to enhance mood and cognition. A paper recently published demonstrated that when microdosed, beneficial effects were recorded in the majority of observations. Likewise, a study published in 2018 found that both convergent and divergent thinking performance was improved after a microdose.
As with opioids, the use of anti-depressants is on the rise and is becoming somewhat of an epidemic. This is why microdosing LSD is being investigated for its positive effect on neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to grow new or reshape existing connections between neurons, so that it may be offered as an alternative to anti-depressants. Results from a study published in 2018 ‘underscore the therapeutic potential of psychedelics and, importantly, identify several lead scaffolds for medicinal chemistry efforts focused on developing plasticity-promoting compounds as safe, effective, and fast-acting treatments for depression and related disorders.’
Further research on the relationship between mental health and psychedelics has focused on the default mode network, or DMN, the name given to an interconnected group of brain regions that are associated with introspective functions such as self-criticism and self-reflection. Research has shown that the default mode network is particularly overactive in those who suffer from mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and OCD. In 2016, a study conducted by Imperial College London investigated the link between brain activity and LSD, with the results revealing that LSD dampens the function of the default mode network. Moreover, Amanda Feilding, founder and co-director of the Beckley/Imperial Research Programme, summed up the significance of this study by stating that “we are finally unveiling the brain mechanisms underlying the potential of LSD, not only to heal, but also to deepen our understanding of consciousness itself”.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, is a protein found in the brain and spinal cord that promotes the maintenance and growth of neurons. The presence of higher levels of BDNF in blood plasma supports neuroplasticity and is associated with improved cognitive function, mental health, and short- and long-term memory. A study published in 2020 investigated the effect of single low doses of LSD on circulating BDNF levels, with the results demonstrating an increase in BDNF blood plasma levels and supporting further research on the subject.
Research has gone a long way in normalising conversations around, and the practice of, microdosing LSD and other psychedelics. With the many encouraging results that have been found in recent studies, it is undoubtable that investigations will continue, and more light be shed on the numerous benefits of microdosing, particularly their mental and physical therapeutic potential. Moreover, with an increasing number of legal alternatives, such as 1cP-LSD and 1V-LSD, coming onto the market, it is making the practice of microdosing more accessible than ever.