At the height of the pandemic, so short of breath he thought it was Covid, Davi, 24, bought a handful of mushrooms online, crushed them and ate them straight.
The psychology student, who asked to be cited with a fictitious name in the report, learned of the existence of microdoses of psilocybe cubensiknown as “magic mushrooms”, by podcasts, documentaries and articles, while researching an alternative to combat what he had: anxiety.
Encouraging the consumption of microdoses of one of the active ingredients of the species, psilocybin, advances on social networks in Brazil, moves stores in e-commerce, ceremonies and retreats.
Studies point to potential for reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, but the substance, in addition to being prohibited in the market, can bring risks, according to experts.
“These drugs the way they are coming, kind of pushed by the culture, are very dangerous. People who are more mentally vulnerable are at greater risk, for example, of becoming psychotic with psilocybin. Psychosis is one of the possible long-term effects”, says the psychiatrist and vice-coordinator of the Addictions Commission of the Brazilian Association of Psychiatry (ABP), Carla Bicca, stating that there is no consensus on what a microdose would be.
“Are there any serious colleagues studying this? Yes. But so far there’s nothing to tell us that this is a great drug and that it’s really working. Current evidence is very thin, and the dose between heaven and hell is difficult to measure.” “, he reinforces.
Among other potential reactions he cites are nausea, sleep problems and panic attacks — anxiety at its peak.
Microdosing would be the consumption of a small dose, from 0.1 to 0.4 grams. Director of photography André Henrique Pamplona, 56, found capsules with “magic mushrooms” in that amount in an online store, sold as a “healthy and effective option to treat depression, ADHD and anxiety.”
“I don’t feel an adverse reaction after using it. Twenty minutes after taking psilocybin, I feel the anxiety going away, I feel good and happy”, he says.
The substance has been part of his routine in Rio de Janeiro since March, after he watched a documentary and researched more, at the recommendation of a friend who uses it. “As I used the substance for recreation in my youth and it never hurt me, I don’t see why not use it to end my problem. I have very strong anxiety in the morning and the sensations are very bad. It’s tachycardia, the air is not enough, I feel a lump in my throat”, he justifies.
For Eduardo Schenberg, PhD in neurosciences, researcher and president of the Phaneros Institute, the use of these products “is a fad without scientific evidence that has been propagated mainly among users, but also by some scientists”.
“Scientific studies are increasingly showing that when a double-blind study is carried out — in which some people will receive the microdose and others will not, without them knowing who is receiving it or not — there are practically no detectable differences between the groups. improvements are more due to anticipation, to being involved in a community. This is often called the placebo effect,” he notes.
The defense of use appears on the networks, according to the neuroscientist, without people actually knowing what the risks are. The possible effects, safety and efficacy are the subject of studies in Brazil and abroad.
Current results point to positive aspects, but also the opposite. And “fashion”, warns Schenberg, can lead patients to misunderstand that they should abandon treatments such as psychotherapy and medication to bet on the substance that catches their eyes as an alternative.
“I often get emails and Instagram messages that want to know how to switch from antidepressants to mushroom microdoses, but there’s no indication that people should do that.” Another risk is that potential users may delay seeking psychiatric treatment and the disorder will deepen.
The WHO (World Health Organization) points out Brazil as a global leader in the number of anxious people. There are more than 18.6 million, including David. The student saw microdoses as an aid when listening to a podcast last year. The moment, he analyzes, was a “turn of the key”. “From the report I heard, I dove deep into the studies until I got to microdosing and decided to try it on my own.”
The experiment was shared with followers on a network.
On a scale of 0 to 10, he says he is currently at level 6 of anxiety. He’s not using microdosing right now, but he believes the matter needs to be demystified. “The first thing I noticed was that I was calm and that anguish in my chest was gone, but I also felt a lot of headache. I thought that maybe I had taken more than necessary. The effect I felt was very clear, not subtle, as I saw in the reports”.
Today, in Brazil, there are no legally registered drugs with psilocybin, nor requests at Anvisa (National Health Surveillance Agency) for this purpose. mushroom activities Psilocybe Cubessi are illegal in the country, according to the agency. The exception is research by authorized bodies and institutions.
At least seven studies involving anxiety and psilocybin have been approved by the National Research Ethics Commission since 2018, five of them coordinated by Schenberg of the Phaneros Institute. He has been researching the effects of psychoactive drugs, focusing on psychedelic substances such as psilocybin, for over ten years.
The works he carries out do not use microdoses, but high doses, with therapeutic accompaniment before, during and after sessions called psychotherapy assisted with psychedelics. The substances in the studies are made in the pharmaceutical industry, with quality control, precise dosage measurement and security that there are no impurities and contaminants there — which, according to him, is difficult to certify in products from the networks.
In courses for health professionals and students, the neuroscientist teaches, in a module, how to guide patients in the office if they are interested in the subject. “It is necessary to help the patient to make a decision respecting one of the most important bioethical principles in the health area, which is the patient’s autonomy to seek options”, he says.
“But it is important for professionals to also bring that there is little scientific evidence that microdoses can treat depression, for example, and that the most robust evidence that it can help is obtained with other models, which involve high doses of psilocybin and that should never be tried as self-medication at home.”