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Drugs in the 2020s
Illustration by Callum Abbott

Why one in five young people have microdosed through lockdown

Londoners were among the highest percentage of people taking very small amounts of psychedelics over lockdown, to help mentally cope with the pandemic and financial worries, as well as to feel more creative

With the coronavirus pandemic taking a toll on pretty much everything, people are finding different ways to cope with the world around them. While some folks are paying to be shut inside a coffin and masqueraded with chainsaw-wielding zombies, others are engaging in virtual orgies via Zoom. Early on in a locked down world, we reached peak banana bread and Houseparty pub quizzes, and side hustles and interesting new hobbies lived and died. A new study has now revealed too, a rise in the number of people microdosing since the beginning of lockdown.

According to a study by LifeSearch, one in 10 adults are currently microdosing, which is a 43 per cent rise since the start of the pandemic (from 7 per cent to 10 per cent). Londoners and young people seem to have the biggest increase in microdosing since the beginning of lockdown, with one in five people or 19 per cent of people between the ages of 18 and 34 currently microdosing, compared to 12 per cent before the pandemic. For Londoners, it’s one in four or 26 per cent, up from 16 per cent pre-pandemic.

The study shows that the most common drugs used to microdose were prescription medication (51 per cent), GHB (30 per cent), and cannabis (35 per cent). Contrary to what you’d think, the number of people microdosing on mushrooms fell from 26 per cent to 20 per cent, while those using LSD dropped from 28 per cent to 19 per cent.

Of those who have been microdosing, one in four (25 per cent) do it to help with mental health issues, while others reported it helping them cope with the pandemic (16 per cent) and ebb financial worries (13 per cent). Another 13 per cent reported to microdosing to perform better at work and encourage creativity.

“I truly believe this will have helped so many people, especially when it comes to mental wellbeing, during this time,” says Kat*, aged 30, a project manager working in the live music industry.

“A couple of weeks after the official lockdown, I started microdosing mushrooms and the occasional microdose of acid. I work in the live entertainment industry, and like many, was ramping up for the summer, priming myself for the peak of pre-production, planning, and events to commence,” she explains. “So when the lockdown occurred, and shows and tours were cancelling or postponing worldwide, my active and problem-solving way of being and thinking also had to grind to a halt.”

“At first, I saw it as a few weeks off, though tainted by at least a weekly, if not bi-weekly, burst of bed-ridden anxiety, and the sheer dread of constant uncertainty with a sprinkling of seeing the world die, whilst feeling overwhelmingly guilty and helpless. So I decided to start microdosing,” she adds. “Having never done this before, I took a bit of a chance. I’m so glad I did, as it widened my scope of vision, and enabled me to see through these challenging times.”

Dan*, a 30-year-old in the arts, says that microdosing mushrooms has helped him to cope over lockdown, while also tackling underlying mental health issues. “I started cultivating a small amount and had a trip just after my birthday. It was a very positive experience with long term issues and it got me out of the lockdown fog. I also had the best spag bol of eternity. Since then, I’ve started microdosing by eating small amounts of dried mushrooms every other day,” he explains. “It’s been a massive help with my energy and thinking during this incredibly shit period.”

“It’s a bit like an antidepressant, the key difference is that I don’t experience any notable side effects. My mood is typically a lot higher on a dose day. It’s a nice way to reconnect with myself and appreciate life,” agrees Tom*, a 29-year-old tech manager.

“Despite still not knowing what will occur for the industry and the people who work in it, it has given me a glimmer of hope that one day, we’ll get to immerse ourselves amongst a sea of people in a field, watching and listening to some amazing live music again,” concludes Kat. “Like widening the peripheral vision whilst going down a coronavirus rabbit hole, letting in a bit more light than one would have perhaps not seen sans microdose.” 

Recent research published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry suggested that psychedelic drugs can improve users’ mental health by making them more accepting of distressing situations – for example, a global pandemic. In an interview with the PsyPost, the study’s lead author Richard Zeifman explained: “Our findings suggest that one of the reasons that psychedelic therapy has positive therapeutic effects is that it helps individuals to be less avoidant and more accepting of their emotions, thoughts, and memories (even though such experiences may be distressing in the short-term).”

When it comes to psychedelics, researchers have been exploring their use in therapy for years. There’s been significant research into how they can impact long-term reduction of depressionpositive life changes, and an increase in creativity. Back in April, a charity in Australia suggested that MDMA and psilocybin – found in magic mushrooms – could help treat mental health in a post-lockdown world. In July, after a study revealed a connection between regular DMT use and belief in a higher power, Dazed spoke to a handful of people who found God after taking psychedelics. “Your mind is the door and it has a lock,” Alex said at the time. “Psychedelics are the key to open the door.”

recent report by the Financial Times highlighted that British medical cannabis companies have been lobbying the UK government to ease trading restrictions. According to Prohibition Partners, since 2018, the UK has become the second-largest world market for CBD.

From dangerous new synthetic drugs to a growing love of psychedelics, this is how our drug use could transform over the coming decade, read back on the Dazed investigation into drug use and new trends in the coming decade.

*Names have been changed