, Volume 236, Issue 2, pp 731–740 | Cite as

Microdosing psychedelics: personality, mental health, and creativity differences in microdosers

  • Thomas AndersonEmail author
  • Rotem PetrankerEmail author
  • Daniel Rosenbaum
  • Cory R. Weissman
  • Le-Anh Dinh-Williams
  • Katrina Hui
  • Emma Hapke
  • Norman A. S. Farb
Original Investigation



Microdosing psychedelics—the regular consumption of small amounts of psychedelic substances such as LSD or psilocybin—is a growing trend in popular culture. Recent studies on full-dose psychedelic psychotherapy reveal promising benefits for mental well-being, especially for depression and end-of-life anxiety. While full-dose therapies include perception-distorting properties, microdosing mayprovide complementary clinical benefits using lower-risk, non-hallucinogenic doses.


This pre-registered study aimed to investigate whether microdosing psychedelics is related to differences in personality, mental health, and creativity.


In this observational study, respondents recruited from online forums self-reported their microdosing behaviors and completed questionnaires concerning dysfunctional attitudes, wisdom, negative emotionality, open-mindedness, and mood. Respondents also performed the Unusual Uses Task to assess their creativity.


Current and former microdosers scored lower on measures of dysfunctional attitudes (p < 0.001, r = − 0.92) and negative emotionality (p = 0.009, r = − 0.85) and higher on wisdom (p < 0.001, r = 0.88), openmindedness(p = 0.027, r = 0.67), and creativity (p < 0.001, r = 0.15) when compared to non-microdosing controls.


These findings provide promising initial evidence that warrants controlled experimental research to directly test safety and clinical efficacy. As microdoses are easier to administer than full-doses, this new paradigm has the exciting potential to shape future psychedelic research.


Microdosing Psychedelic LSD Psilocybin Creativity Dysfunctional Attitudes Wisdom Open Mindedness Negative Emotionality Preregistered 


Compliance with ethical standards

Human participation was voluntary under informed consent, in accord with the Declaration of Helsinki, and was non-remunerative.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Adler AD, Strunk DR, Fazio RH (2015) What changes in cognitive therapy for depression? An examination of cognitive therapy skills and maladaptive beliefs. Behav Ther 46(1). Special series: advances in evidence-based intervention and assessment practices for youth with an autism spectrum disorder):96–109. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson T, Petranker R, Dinh-Williams L-A (2017) Demography of microdosing community survey. Available at: (accessed 6 July 2018)
  3. Anderson T, Christopher A, Petranker R, et al. (2018) Benefits and drawbacks of microdosing psychedelics. Manuscript in preparation. Available at: Scholar
  4. Bogenschutz MP, Forcehimes AA, Pommy JA, Wilcox CE, Barbosa PCR, Strassman RJ (2015) Psilocybin-assisted treatment for alcohol dependence: a proof-of-concept study. J Psychopharmacol 29(3):289–299. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Carbonaro TM, Bradstreet MP, Barrett FS, MacLean KA, Jesse R, Johnson MW, Griffiths RR (2016) Survey study of challenging experiences after ingesting psilocybin mushrooms: acute and enduring positive and negative consequences. J Psychopharmacol 30(12):1268–1278. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  6. Carhart-Harris RL, Roseman L, Bolstridge M, Demetriou L, Pannekoek JN, Wall MB, Tanner M, Kaelen M, McGonigle J, Murphy K, Leech R, Curran HV, Nutt DJ (2017) Psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression: fMRI-measured brain mechanisms. Sci Rep 7(1):13187. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. de Graaf LE, Roelofs J, Huibers MJH (2009) Measuring dysfunctional attitudes in the general population: the Dysfunctional Attitude Scale (form A) revised. Cogn Ther Res 33(4):345–355. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. de Osório FL, Sanches RF, Macedo LR et al (2015) Antidepressant effects of a single dose of ayahuasca in patients with recurrent depression: a preliminary report. Rev Bras Psiquiatr 37(1):13–20. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. de Wit H, Phillips TJ (2012) Do initial responses to drugs predict future use or abuse? Neurosci Biobehav Rev 36(6):1565–1576. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. Domínguez-Clavé E, Soler J, Elices M, Pascual JC, Álvarez E, de la Fuente Revenga M, Friedlander P, Feilding A, Riba J (2016) Ayahuasca: pharmacology, neuroscience and therapeutic potential. Brain Res Bull 126(Pt 1):89–101. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Dos Santos RG, Osório FL, Crippa JAS et al (2016) Antidepressive, anxiolytic, and antiaddictive effects of ayahuasca, psilocybin and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD): a systematic review of clinical trials published in the last 25 years. Ther Adv Psychopharmacol 6(3):193–213. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  12. Fadiman J (2011) The psychedelic explorer’s guide. Park Street Press, RochesterGoogle Scholar
  13. Fredrickson BL (2004) The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. Philos Trans R Soc Lond Ser B Biol Sci 359(1449):1367–1378. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Glück J, König S, Naschenweng K, Redzanowski U, Dorner L, Straßer I, Wiedermann W (2013) How to measure wisdom: content, reliability, and validity of five measures. Front Psychol 4:405. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  15. Griffiths RR, Johnson MW, Richards WA, Richards BD, McCann U, Jesse R (2011) Psilocybin occasioned mystical-type experiences: immediate and persisting dose-related effects. Psychopharmacology 218(4):649–665. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  16. Griffiths RR, Johnson MW, Carducci MA, Umbricht A, Richards WA, Richards BD, Cosimano MP, Klinedinst MA (2016) Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: a randomized double-blind trial. J Psychopharmacol 30(12):1181–1197. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  17. Grinspoon L, Bakalar JB (1979) Psychedelic drugs reconsidered. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. Gunnarsson M, Gustavsson P, Tengström A et al (2008) Personality traits and their associations with substance use among adolescents. Personal Individ Differ 45:356–360. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Halpern JH, Pope HG (1999) Do hallucinogens cause residual neuropsychological toxicity? Drug Alcohol Depend 53(3):247–256. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Hardaway R, Schweitzer J, Suzuki J (2016) Hallucinogen use disorders. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am 25(3):489–496. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Harrington DM (1975) Effects of explicit instructions to "be creative" on the psychological meaning of divergent thinking test scores1. J Pers 43(3):434–454CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Jarrett RB, Minhajuddin A, Borman PD, Dunlap L, Segal ZV, Kidner CL, Friedman ES, Thase ME (2012) Cognitive reactivity, dysfunctional attitudes, and depressive relapse and recurrence in cognitive therapy responders. Behav Res Ther 50(5):280–286. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  23. Johnson MW, Garcia-Romeu A, Cosimano MP, Griffiths RR (2014) Pilot study of the 5-HT2AR agonist psilocybin in the treatment of tobacco addiction. J Psychopharmacol 28(11):983–992. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  24. Johnson MW, Griffiths RR, Hendricks PS, Henningfield JE (2018) The abuse potential of medical psilocybin according to the 8 factors of the Controlled Substances Act. Neuropharmacology.
  25. Kometer M, Pokorny T, Seifritz E, Volleinweider FX (2015) Psilocybin-induced spiritual experiences and insightfulness are associated with synchronization of neuronal oscillations. Psychopharmacology 232(19):3663–3676. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Krebs TS, Johansen P-Ø (2013) Psychedelics and mental health: a population study. PLoS One 8(8):e63972. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  27. Lahey BB (2009) Public health significance of neuroticism. Am Psychol 64(4):241–256. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  28. Leonard A (2015) How LSD microdosing became the hot new business trip. In: Rolling stone. Available at: (accessed 9 July 2018)
  29. MacLean KA, Johnson MW, Griffiths RR (2011) Mystical experiences occasioned by the hallucinogen psilocybin lead to increases in the personality domain of openness. J Psychopharmacol 25(11):1453–1461. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  30. Martinotti G, Santacroce R, Pettorruso M, et al (2018) Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder: Etiology, Clinical Features, and Therapeutic Perspectives. Brain Sciences 8:47.
  31. Matejka J, Glueck M, Grossman T, et al. (2016) The effect of visual appearance on the performance of continuous sliders and visual analogue scales. In: Proceedings of the 2016 CHI conference on human factors in computing systems, New York, NY, USA, 2016, pp. 5421–5432. CHI ‘16. ACM.
  32. Moreno FA, Wiegand CB, Taitano EK, Delgado PL (2006) Safety, tolerability, and efficacy of psilocybin in 9 patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder. J Clin Psychiatry 67(11):1735–1740CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Rosenbaum D, Weissman C, Hapke E, et al. (2018) Microdosing psychedelic substances: demographics, psychiatric comorbidities, and comorbid substance use. Manuscript in preparation. Manuscript submitted for publication. Available at: Scholar
  34. Ross S, Bossis A, Guss J, Agin-Liebes G, Malone T, Cohen B, Mennenga SE, Belser A, Kalliontzi K, Babb J, Su Z, Corby P, Schmidt BL (2016) Rapid and sustained symptom reduction following psilocybin treatment for anxiety and depression in patients with life-threatening cancer: a randomized controlled trial. J Psychopharmacol 30(12):1165–1180. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  35. Silvia PJ (2011) Subjective scoring of divergent thinking: examining the reliability of unusual uses, instances, and consequences tasks. Think Skills Creat 6(1):24–30. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Silvia PJ, Winterstein BP, Willse JT, Barona CM, Cram JT, Hess KI, Martinez JL, Richard CA (2008) Assessing creativity with divergent thinking tasks: exploring the reliability and validity of new subjective scoring methods. Psychol Aesthet Creat Arts 2(2):68–85. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Solon O (2016) Under pressure, Silicon Valley workers turn to LSD microdosing. Wired UK, 24 August. Available at: (accessed 9 July 2018)
  38. Soto CJ, John OP (2017) The next Big Five Inventory (BFI-2): Developing and assessing a hierarchical model with 15 facets to enhance bandwidth, fidelity, and predictive power. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 113:117–143.
  39. Strassman RJ (2016) DMT: the spirit molecule: a doctor’s revolutionary research into the biology of near-death and mystical experiences. Inner Traditions, RochesterGoogle Scholar
  40. Terracciano A, Löckenhoff CE, Crum RM, Bienvenu OJ, Costa PT (2008) Five-factor model personality profiles of drug users. BMC Psychiatry 8:22. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  41. Trull TJ, Sher KJ (1994) Relationship between the five-factor model of personality and Axis I disorders in a nonclinical sample. J Abnorm Psychol 103(2):350–360. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2011) International standard classification of education (ISCED) 2011. Available at:
  43. van Amsterdam J, Opperhuizen A, van den Brink W (2011) Harm potential of magic mushroom use: a review. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 59(3):423–429. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Waldman A (2017) A really good day: how microdosing made a mega difference in my mood, my marriage, and my life, 1st edn. Knopf, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  45. Weissman AN, Beck AT (1978) Development and validation of the dysfunctional attitude scale. Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the Association for the Advanced Behavior Therapy, Chicago, November.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyYork UniversityTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  4. 4.Centre for Addiction and Mental HealthTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Toronto ScarboroughScarboroughCanada

Personalised recommendations