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Friday, Jun 25, 2021
Mugglehead Magazine
Cannabis & psychedelics industry news based in Vancouver, B.C.
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Health and Safety

Could microdosing psychedelics help treat schizophrenia?

Science doesn’t know yet, but one psychedelic researcher is chasing clues to see if it can

Could low doses of psychedelics help treat schizophrenia?

There’s a growing number of “clues” that suggest low doses of psychedelics could be used to treat schizophrenia.  

Most evidence is anecdotal or from the ’50s, but there’s just enough that it’s worth looking into, says Mark Haden. He’s the executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies Canada and an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia school of population and public health. 

That’s not to say all doses of psychedelics are safe for people with schizophrenia — the science is clear that psychedelics can make the symptoms of schizophrenia more severe and make people lose touch with reality, Haden said. 

But low doses, known as microdoses, of cannabis, psilocybin, DMT and LSD have been anecdotally reported by one man as a successful therapy for his schizophrenia.

That man’s experiences were published by MAPS in an anonymous autobiography Tuesday. 

Haden says the man first approached him five years ago to talk about his experience. 

The man has been living with voices in his head since his early teens. And while he’s never sought an official diagnosis, his reported symptoms are consistent with a mild to moderate diagnosis of schizophrenia, according to Haden. 

In Trauma: How Psychedelics Treated My Schizophrenia the man talks about how psychedelics didn’t get rid of the voices in his head but helped him separate the negativity of the voices from his own sense of self. 

“With this separation, I was able to learn how to have a proper relationship with my inner voice. I learned to look at life intuitively, to be unbiased, unemotional and objective, and to look at any situation within the bigger picture. The understanding I gained from psychedelics helped me with this insight,” he writes. 

Could low doses of psychedelics help treat schizophrenia?The autobiography details a traumatic childhood where the author experienced abuse and isolation. At 13, a voice in his head, separate from his own, introduces itself and promises to help the boy plan for the worst in every situation so he is never taken by surprise. That negative voice is a near constant companion of the author, often belittling him, abusing him and screaming insults. 

The author experiments with physical self-abuse to silence the voice and drinking to numb himself before discovering cannabis and music, which he says helped make the voice more positive. 

But one day, after eating too many homemade cannabis cookies, he finds himself caught in a flu-like state where he feels too ill to move or drink water, and can only watch a clock face tick away the seconds while the negative voice screams at him.

Desperate to escape the overwhelming effects of the edibles, he smokes a small amount of DMT — his first experience with psychedelics. 

“At first I thought I’d been blown into another universe, but after a few minutes I simply felt calm and relaxed, and my negative voices went away. I felt normal, good, even. I sat there in amazement, wondering if I’d just found the answer — a way out of the terrible internal hell I experienced so frequently,” he writes. 

Following that experience, the author experimented with a range of different psychedelics and eventually created a microdose scale that corresponded to how strong and negative the voice was that day.

“Psychedelics, combined with meditation, were a complete and total solution to my psychosis and sometimes, meditation alone was enough. Thinking of nothing and listening to the silence for as long as possible would give me a refreshing restart. But on the bad days, different doses of psychedelics were a tremendous help,” he wrote.

Through microdosing around three times a week for four years, the author wrote that he went from experiencing negative headspace four times a day to four times a year. 

Microdosing, for him, was like going to school and getting to hang out with wise teachers — eventually you learn their lessons and can move on, he said. 

These days the author reports microdosing with LSD for better accuracy and to help him see the world in a positive light. 

“Psychedelics are not for everyone,” he writes. “But new treatments that work for schizophrenia are desperately needed. I believe that psychedelic therapy for schizophrenia may be the first truly effective treatments.”

Could low doses of psychedelics help treat schizophrenia?

MAPS Canada executive director Mark Haden is chasing clues to see if psychedelics can be used to treat schizophrenia. Submitted photo

Haden agrees new schizophrenia treatments could be extremely beneficial. Current treatments can be ineffective or have problematic side effects, like sedation. That means people don’t like taking the drugs and might skip treatment, he says, so there’s an urgent need to explore alternative therapies.

Haden recognizes the risks involved in publishing a self-diagnosed schizophrenic’s experiences in self-medicating with psychedelics. But everything has risk — and if there’s a potential therapy for schizophrenia that’s been overlooked, it’s worth raising awareness about and starting a conversation around, he says. 

The autobiography isn’t the only anecdotal experience around. Haden says he’s heard from a colleague working in a mental health hospital that patients self-report using psychedelics. Public psychedelic database Erowid also lists some positive reports about psychedelics and schizophrenia.

“This may be a clue — I don’t know. This is how clinical trials start: people start to observe things,” he said. 

From here, Haden says MAPS is launching a survey that will ask people with major mental health disorders why they use psychedelics. That research will be followed up with in-depth interviews and, if there’s enough evidence, a clinical trial. But that would be years away. 

Haden isn’t sure if this research will result in anything. If he were a betting man he wouldn’t put money on it. 

“We know for one individual it [worked]. Does it apply to anyone else? We don’t know yet,” he said. “We have a clue and then we chase the clue. So I’m chasing the clue.” 

Top image of psilocybe aztecorum, a species of psilocybin mushrooms. Image by Alan Rockefeller, Creative Commons

 

michelle@mugglehead.com

@missmishelle

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Tanya Hathaway

    November 27, 2020 at 9:42 pm

    I’m very interested in this as my 22 year old son just got diagnosed with this today. He suffered abuse and has been hearing voices and hallucinating for some time now is getting desperate for reliefs he has tried Prozac but I’m sure they are going to try everything Please I’m desperate to help my son so he won’t harm himself. Please

    • Robin

      March 13, 2021 at 2:04 pm

      I’m sorry to hear that. That was the age my son was diagnosed. I hope you can find the right solution that can help him deal with this very challenging issue. I’m still looking for something that is effective also. For me it has been about 8 years since the diagnosis. I want to see if this microdosing is something that could help make an improvement in his quality of life.

  2. Kim Lumpp

    December 19, 2020 at 6:01 am

    My son is 22 and has struggled with schizoaffective disorder for 8 years now. I know a lot of people with this disorder, I started working in this field a year ago “to be the change” The mental health system in our county and surrounding counties are a complete joke! I could get atleast 6 people that I know of but they have friends that may be interested in a study. Lets change the world together💖

  3. David

    December 24, 2020 at 2:43 pm

    Psycedelic truffles packed for microdosing could be legaly shiped all over Europe and US/Canada. I dont want to name a website I use to order from but a single google search can help.

  4. SWIM

    February 18, 2021 at 12:15 am

    I am 23. I’m craving psychedelics often I just want one more trip. I used to take 25i and it backfired and triggered the schizophrenia within me. It’s genetic my grandfather had it and used the same drugs as me. If there’s a test for this, find me. I’d like to experience this bliss because it’s only getting darker and darker.

  5. Gwen May

    March 16, 2021 at 12:13 pm

    Hi, our nephew has suffered ( and also his family ) for many years. He was a handsome, successful and fit young man. Now he is drugged, has no social life, unfit, quiet, lonely man. Is there any way this might help him. He also doesn’t want to discuss anything with his family. He did have a brain tumor removed 10 years ago, but hasn’t returned to the doctor since. He sees a doctor for his meds and has an injection every two weeks. It is just such a waste, destroying the whole family. Please help.

  6. Lidia

    April 9, 2021 at 7:32 am

    Hi all, my mother has been suffering with chronic schizophrenia most of her adult life and in part, I have entered the field of psychedelic-assisted therapy as a way to contribute to finding a potential alternative treatment to her condition. I am building a database of cases where those with diagnosed or undiagnosed schizophrenia have found help with the use of psychedelic plants – in case you know anyone who has please do reach out, would love to learn about their experience. Thank you.

    • RM

      May 5, 2021 at 1:35 pm

      How to find you?

  7. Jackie

    April 25, 2021 at 6:52 pm

    Hello,
    My son has been suffering since the age of 9, with many diagnoses and many medications and now is 33. Just a little over a year ago he was diagnosed with schizophrenia effective, he is on different medications, he skips his meds and tries to mask the pain with cannabis, which is giving him a whole set of other issues. I am really interested in this and would love more information.

  8. RM

    May 5, 2021 at 2:50 pm

    I hope this helps anybody in a similar position as mine.

    I’ve watched my brother (and by extension every member of my family) suffer from this horrible illness his entire life (39 years). However without a doubt his illness had progressively gotten worse especially in the last 10 years. The one thing I can confidently say is that if you suspect a family member or loved one should be getting help the longer you take to act on it the worse it’ll be for everyone. I watched my mother sacrifice her job her marriage all external relationships even her own physical and mental health as well bending over backwards trying to give my brother everything he wanted to quench his never ending void of happiness in his life. Nothing helped all she did was spend all her savings lose her job and become mentally ill herself in the process with severe depression high blood pressure and a slew of other health problems. All because she would give him everything except what he ACTUALLY needed which was getting him into a mental health facility and properly diagnosed/treated regularly. The mental health care system in North America is a joke ppl are treated like their illness is no big deal and no real support is provided or help given (especially once they’re adults) until they commit a crime or attempt suicide (far too late obviously). The family members are left in a precarious situation of having to live with a potentially dangerous person in their home that either hates them or themselves or both while hoping for an unrealistic outcome where the individual will eventually “pull through” or seek help on their own accord (unless they attack you or someone else and finally MAYBE the government will have them forcibly committed). Regardless of anything you try to do for them nothing will help other than convincing them (gently and carefully) to seek therapy and that once they accept they need it then the whole system will benefit them in terms of social assistance and special programs etc (present the pros of being technically mentally disabled in society’s eyes…not an easy task but is doable) but the trick here is that once they’re adults they have to admit themselves NOBODY else can do it for them (unless they commit a crime). Cannabis does help calm their aggression so let them smoke if they want but alcohol and other harder drugs like Crack or heroin will make their symptoms much much worse. But even cannabis only masks the issues and offers only temporary relief. Another problem is that while some doctor prescribed medications do work most give them really negative side effects which will cause them to skip it entirely and since they’re the ones who are responsible for taking it it’s completely on them if they do or not. (Another oversight by our genius heads of the public health system). One treatment that was working really well for him for a while was Long-acting injectable antipsychotics because they’re not dependant on him actually being responsible enough to take his meds regularly on his own and requires them to physically attend the clinic to receive the shot so there’s no avoiding it. However his genius new therapist (his previous doctor let him go because we was harassing the secretary… yes really) so this new one let themselves be tricked by my brother and allowed him to go back to his regular pills that he doesn’t actually take (since he’s actually able to act very convincingly “normal” when he wants to fool authorities). He was forced to take the injections after he was charged with assaulting an older woman (he attacked my mother a couple times before too) and was kicked out of the social assistance housing building he was living in and had to move back in with my parents due to my mom being his surety for bail. Now he keeps the entire disability check he gets every month (before his rent was automatically deducted and paid to the landlord) doesn’t give my mother a cent and has more money now every month to buy alcohol and hard drugs every day (what a great system we have!) So now I’m at a point where I’ve had to move in with my parents again just to make sure he doesn’t attack them or bully them into getting what he wants. I’ve basically become my family’s body guard against a potentially dangerous unstable person who I love as my brother but tells me I’m not and thinks I’m his enemy (he tells ppl me and my dad are out to get him and he’s even tried to stab me once before). We now all have to lock our doors at night when sleeping and hide all the knives in the house just in case he tries to kill himself or someone else. It’s a sad reality my family lives in and he’s spiraling down into despair again all because the system we have in place is extremely flawed and lacking in all true understanding of how not only ppl with mental health issues are suffering without getting the help they need but also how their families are suffering and placing themselves in danger with no help from anyone (until a crime is committed).

    Reading this article however does give me hope that microdosing psilocybin might be a potential treatment because I myself am a true believer in it since I started using it myself about 6 months ago now to help deal with severe depression and anxiety. The results have been phenomenal for me my life has completely changed and I finally feel joy again. I constantly recommend it to everyone I know now because I believe it truly is a gift to us from the universe (or God whatever u wanna call it). Our weapon against negative states of mind. It’s in my opinion the best tool and alternative to traditional costly meds for dealing with mental illness that has ever been discovered yet also (not coincidentally I think) the most highly restricted and unfairly demonized by the legal system. (I’m sure big pharma is happy about that)

    Mental health is the root cause of all the ails in our society yet it’s the most overlooked and underserved.

    Whether a person is a violent criminal, stressed out/depressed law abiding citizen, suicidal teenager or homeless schizophrenic in the street ALL are suffering from mental illness in one form or another and it’s time we dispel the taboo and start addressing the real issues of it all.

    I found this article via my own research into the potential effects of giving someone with schizophrenic disorder psilocybin and it’s possibility as an effective treatment. After all I’ve found I’m convinced I should get my brother to try it but…the real dilemma now is how to get him to try it?

    Sorry for the long story but if even one person can get something good out of this then it was well worth the time I took in writing it!

    Good luck and blessings to you all!

  9. Sean Berton

    May 16, 2021 at 9:22 am

    I have a similar but not as extreme situation as RM above. I am wondering if there is any way that the folks on this forum can connect with each other. The medical community seem far away from touching this subject, with a “no” in regards to any form of psychedelics for schizophrenia patients fearing increased delusions etc. I am glad to have found this article, but frustrated to not be able to reach out for broader discussion of these folks for some real world trials and errors discussion.

    My son was fully under treatment, injectables every month, going along grudgingly with all the meds, when in Aug he tried to commit suicide. The extreme and increasing medication regiment only put a cap on potential aggressive outbursts against his unseen harasses, but far from effective in removing the paranoia that he lives with daily. I grew up with mushrooms in the NW, so have no real fear of them at all, but am conflicted about potential increase in deluaionary thinking or response to those in vernal stimuli.

    One part of me says, what do I have to lose? He tried killing himself for gods sake! I have mushrooms from a friend, but I am so nervous about the dosage and being his “guru” through this. If I wait for his headspace to be more clear, I may never do this and feel that I need to jump in, but feel unguided in an experiment of this nature. If anyone can post a reply that has leads for follow up research that may be valuable, please do so.

    If there is any way for us to connect with each other voluntarily, that would be helpful. Thanks very much to Mugglehead for the article and the post. Maybe Haden’s book will have further leads. Thanks to all the posters in this forum for their bravery in the face of this challenging illness. Peace

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