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Set and setting in microdosing: an oft-overlooked principle

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The use of psychedelics for medical and recreational purposes is rising. Contextual factors such as expectancy, intention, and sensory and social environment (set and setting) are widely recognized as moderating the effects of these substances. Nevertheless, clinical trials of microdosing — the ingestion of small, sub-hallucinogenic doses of psychedelics — rarely report their set and setting. This fact suggests that such factors are not considered important in the context of microdosing.


This paper challenges this assumption and makes the case for the crucial relevance of set and setting in microdosing practice. Building on set and setting theory and placebo theory, we explain why set and setting are of crucial importance in the case of microdosing.


This reasoning helps elucidate the role of set and setting in determining the outcomes of microdosing and helps explain some of the contradictory results that have emerged in microdosing research in recent years.


Set and setting are important constructs to be considered especially in the context of microdosing psychedelics. By reporting set and setting, the results of microdosing research can be made more reliable and consistent.

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  1. A clear and rigorous definition of microdosing has yet to be established. Continuing on previous works by the authors, we use the term “sub-hallucinogenic” as our operational definition to sidestep the implication (hinted by the oft-used term “sub-perceptual”) that the individual has not perceived that they ingested a drug.


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Hartogsohn, I., Petranker, R. Set and setting in microdosing: an oft-overlooked principle. Psychopharmacology 239, 3771–3777 (2022).

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