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A world made for neurotypical people can be challenging for those with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Getting yourself to do the chores you dislike, planning your day, or paying attention in conversations might be everyday struggles. But your high levels of drive, passion, and creativity are the advantages of your neurodivergent brain.1
Still, it’s common for those suffering from ADHD to seek treatment for those less desirable symptoms. Right now, several medications show effectiveness in relieving those symptoms.
But, an increasing number of adults with ADHD are seeking alternative treatments. Some people don’t respond to pharmaceutical drugs, and their side effects have sent many in search of safer and natural alternatives.
Among those alternatives are psychedelics — particularly magic mushrooms. Microdosing for ADHD using psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, is linked to a wide range of positive mental health outcomes.
In this blog, you’ll learn about the mental health challenges associated with an ADHD diagnosis, and the potential benefits of microdosing psilocybin to help alleviate them.
We’ll also explore the differences between psilocybin mushrooms and traditional treatments to see if you can manage ADHD without the medications.
First, let’s explore why many people with ADHD also suffer from depression and anxiety.
ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood and lasts into adulthood.2 The symptoms of this condition can look different in children and adults.
Some common ADHD symptoms are:3
For someone diagnosed with ADHD, these symptoms usually appear before the age of 12. This is why diagnosing adults can be complicated and requires searching for a timeline.
What’s important to know about ADHD is that it has a high “comorbidity” rate. In other words, people who have ADHD also struggle with other mental and behavioral health conditions.
When ADHD isn’t diagnosed in childhood, confused parents and teachers might scold children for not “doing their best” or keep asking them to “try harder.” A child can internalize these negative messages and feel a deep sense of shame and high levels of stress.4 These can lead to worsening emotional and behavioral problems such as anxiety and depression that might already be present in them.
The comorbidity rate for people with ADHD is 60-80%.5 Some of those common mental health conditions found among those with ADHD are:
Beyond treating the symptoms, psychedelics like psilocybin mushrooms are of interest to many adults with ADHD because of their ability to treat depression and anxiety.
Let’s see what psilocybin mushrooms are and how they impact your neurodivergent brain.
Psilocybin is the active ingredient in a group of psychoactive fungi known as magic mushrooms or “shrooms.”
Psychedelic compounds such as psilocybin and LSD were previously associated with the hippie culture of the 1960s. But, a growing scientific interest in the therapeutic benefits of these compounds is bringing them into mainstream medicine.
The findings of research on psychedelics are transforming the field of psychology and our understanding of effective treatments for mental health issues.
Psilocybin mushrooms are showing great promise for treating resistant depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and addiction — conditions that people with ADHD may also struggle with.
Unlike anti-depressants and other pharmacological drugs with low efficacy and a long list of side effects, psilocybin therapy has shown significant and immediate results that can last up to a year.6
Microdosing for ADHD using psilocybin is also showing promise in treating ADHD symptoms. Because psilocybin binds to the brain’s serotonin receptors, it can influence thoughts, moods, and perception. According to a study, the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor may be related to remission in ADHD.7 That’s the receptor that psilocybin interacts with.
It’s also the impact psilocybin has on the Default Brain Network (DMN) that is generating hope for treating ADHD.
DMN is a brain network of loosely connected neurons. The communication between these neurons allows us to function in our day-to-day lives. High levels of activity in DMN are related to our awareness of ourselves (the ego). It’s also related to thinking about others’ feelings (social thinking) or the past and future.
In comparison, the Task Positive Network (TPN) becomes active when focusing on a task. When you’re trying to complete a project requiring attention, DMN shows low activity levels.
The synchronization between DMN and TPN is disrupted in people with conditions like ADHD, who have higher levels of difficulty maintaining their attention or can’t control their impulses.8 This is also a problem for people with depression who keep ruminating on negative thoughts because of high levels of activity in DMN.
When you consume psilocybin, the usual connections in the DMN dissolve, and you become free of its control. This “rewiring” of the brain and the creation of new neural pathways can bring about profound healing even months after the experience.
Taking higher doses of psilocybin has proved effective for treating conditions such as depression and anxiety. But research shows that taking substantially smaller and repeated doses — microdosing — is the suggested route for treating conditions like ADHD.9
Let’s dive into microdosing for ADHD and its benefits.
Microdosing psychedelics such as psilocybin or LSD have been shown to improve people’s creativity and ability to solve complex problems.10
There is also strong evidence pointing to the effectiveness of microdosing for treating ADHD symptoms. But, research in this area is still in its early stages.
Some clinical trials are currently studying the short and long-term effects of microdosing psychedelics for treating ADHD. These studies are randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled. Until the findings of these fool-proof studies come out, we have to look at the research results that rely on self-reports.
One of those self-reported studies showed that microdosing psychedelics reduced ADHD symptoms after two weeks and caused even more improvements two weeks later.11 Those who experienced these benefits also reported a general improvement in their sense of well-being two and four weeks after the start of microdosing.
Those research participants who were microdosing while still on their ADHD medication also reported improvement in their symptoms. Adults with ADHD who also suffered from anxiety or depression showed improvements in their sense of well-being, too.
Another study surveyed 3,590 people who were microdosing psychedelics or had done so in the past. Out of those participants who were using psychedelics such as psilocybin, LSD, and MDMA to treat their anxiety, depression, and ADHD, 70% preferred microdoing over conventional medication. The participants claimed microdosing improved their symptoms after as little as a single dose.12
These are promising results but should be taken with a grain of salt because these studies didn’t have a placebo-controlled research group.
Anecdotal evidence in support of microdosing has been met with great excitement because of the limitations of conventional treatments for ADHD. Let’s compare pharmacological treatments to microdosing for ADHD to see which option might be best for you.
For adults with ADHD, the first line of treatment is often pharmacological drugs. Some of these drugs are stimulants, such as Adderall and Ritalin, and some are non-stimulant agents, like Atomoxetine and Clonidine.
Research shows that these drugs work effectively to relieve ADHD symptoms and enhance a person’s quality of life. But in the long term, people tend to stop using these medications.
Research shows that 20% of ADHD patients stop using their prescribed medication after six to nine months.13 After one year, the number goes up to 30%,14 and by the end of two years, more than half have stopped taking these medications.15
The reason for discontinuation is all the side effects that come with taking these drugs. At some point, many decide that the benefits are not worth dealing with the side effects. Some common side effects of ADHD medications are:16
Some people show worsened ADHD symptoms on Adderall.17 Stimulant drugs also come with the risk of misuse and can become addictive both physically and psychologically.
Meanwhile, a considerable number of ADHD patients don’t respond to prescribed medications. A study showed that about half of those on medications were still not responding to medication after ten weeks of treatment with Atomoxetine. And 65% didn’t show any considerable improvement in symptoms after 24 weeks.18
In comparison to these medications, microdosing psychedelics tend to have fewer side effects. A typical microdose is 10% of the standard dose of any form of substance. Hence, you aren’t at risk of overdosing, and there are few health concerns, if any, with casual use.
That’s why adults with ADHD are eagerly exploring alternative treatments such as psychedelics.
But keep in mind that there is not enough research to tell us about the long-term effects of microdosing on the body and mind. And the ideal dose is different from person to person. We encourage you to proceed with caution until you learn about your body and its response to psychoactive drugs.
Check out this article on microdosing psilocybin mushrooms that’s perfect for beginners.
Some promising evidence points to the effectiveness of microdosing psychedelics for treating ADHD symptoms. But we need more research to be able to make a definite argument. At this time, we are relying on encouraging anecdotal evidence.
Psilocybin mushrooms and LSD are two psychedelics that have shown the most promise in treating ADHD symptoms. People report that their ADHD symptoms improve with microdosing, and they experience a higher quality of life.
Age, medical history, and lifestyle factors determine which type of treatment is best for an individual. Microdosing for ADHD symptoms is a popular method of self-treatment for adults who are tired of the adverse side effects of conventional medications.
With the decriminalization of psychedelics in certain states and increasing research on the impact of psychedelics on the brain, we can expect promising treatments for mental health conditions like ADHD soon.
If you plan to microdose to treat your ADHD symptoms, proceed with caution and consider consulting a trained professional. You can find many valuable articles and resources around psiloybin in general on Tripsitters and Mushroom Tao.