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Suicide among military veterans causes more deaths than seen in combat. This has been so ever since the start of the war on terror after 9 11. A recent bright spot in all of this is the effectiveness of psychedelic medicines in reducing the risk factors for veteran suicide. MDMA has been shown to be effective in helping treat post-traumatic stress disorder and psilocybin in helping treat severe depression. In both cases, the medicines are used to assist coaching or talk therapy. A potential alternative is called mini dosing. Does mini dosing psychedelics reduce suicide risk?

What Is Psychedelic Mini Dosing?

Mini dosing is pretty much what it sounds like. It is taking tiny amounts, in this case of psychedelic medicines. Mini dosing of psychedelics is most common with LSD and psilocybin. The idea is to take 5% to 10% of the dose typically used to obtain psychedelic effects. Individuals who use this approach commonly report better mood and greater creativity. A common practice is to take a mini dose two or three times a week. Most people who do this do not measure the psychedelic medicine precisely but rather take enough to feel an effect which generally takes an hour or so and to begin lasts from four to six hours.

Does Mini Dosing Psychedelics Reduce Suicide Risk?

Does Mini Dosing Psychedelics Do Any Good?

Granted that folks who do this may enjoy the experience but does it lead to the kind of results seen with controlled research studies? It appears that folks with depression or PTSD only need to take one of two regular doses of a psychedelic medicine like psilocybin to greatly facilitate psychotherapy and cure or at least greatly improve their depression. Research has shown that on the nerve level in the brain, taking psychedelics in standard doses results in more nerve connections and better communication between areas of the brain. This is referred to as an improvement in neuroplasticity. Does mini dosing do the same thing?

Psychedelic Mini Dosing and Neuroplasticity

There is evidence that mini dosing psychedelics results in more brain nerve connections. No, nobody cut open human brains to check this out. Rather they measured levels of a molecule called BDNF or brain derived neurotrophic factor. BDNF levels go up when more nerve connections are being produced. BDNF levels go up with standard doses of psychedelics like LSD or psilocybin and they go up after a sufficient number of micro doses.

Does Mini Dosing Psychedelics Reduce Suicide Risk?

Measurable Effects Versus Placebo Effects of Microdosing

The encouraging news about studies of microdosing is that there are measurable effects like the increased secretion of BDNF. The discouraging news is that what people experience appears to be largely based on expectations. Folks who like the idea of microdosing are those most likely to participate in a study of its effects. People who know that they are receiving a psychedelic medicine like psilocybin in micro doses report less depression and more creativity. People who believe they are receiving a placebo do not report less depression or any more creativity. A study was done where people were given either psilocybin or placebo in micro doses without their knowing the purpose of the study or what medicine was involved. There was no difference between placebo and psilocybin groups in what people reported.

Micro Dosing Has Not Been Used for Clinically Depressed Patients

The gold standard for comparing standard psychedelic dosing to microdosing of psychedelics will be when someone tests both approaches on people who are clinically depressed or have been diagnosed with PTSD. That will be a better measure of the ability of this approach to treat one of the major risk factors for suicide.

Psychedelics As Adjunctive Treatment Versus Stand Alone Treatment

The situations where we have the best proof that psychedelics help treat mental health conditions are in treatment of depression, PTSD, and substance abuse disorders. In each of these cases, psychedelics are used to improve the results of psychotherapy or talk therapy. There is no evidence that recreational use of psychedelics has the same results. There is no good evidence that treating depressed individuals or those with PTSD with psychedelics and no other therapy is beneficial. If psychedelic mini dosing is effective in reducing suicide risk it will probably be when it is used in conjunction with professional psychotherapy. For mini dosing to help reduce the incidence of veteran suicide it will have to have an effect on depression, PTSD, and conditions like substance abuse disorders.

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