Psychedelics: Overlooked Clinical Tools with Unexplored Ergogenic Potential

Main Article Content

Steven B. Machek


Hallucinogen, microdosing, Nootropic, Depression, Athletic performance, Pain management


Psychedelics are a stigmatized, under-researched class of hallucinogenic drugs with unprecedented boundless potential. Despite a historically widespread cultural use, these drugs were denigrated and prematurely banned before clinical trials could demonstrate their value. It is now known that through full or partial serotonergic receptor agonist activity, psychedelics impart positive effects on a broad spectrum of psychiatric disorders including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive- compulsive behaviors. Furthermore, extremely small, non-intoxifying microdosed psychedelics (1/10th-1/16th typical dose) may potentiate similar effects to full doses without undesirable side effects. These compounds are also unexplored for their potential role in physically active populations. A preponderance of subjective claims and fervent anecdote indicate psychedelics may enhance mental acuity and subsequent exercise performance. Through the same serotonergic-mediated mechanisms that invoke neuroplasticity, psychedelics possibly augment exercise adaptation and offer safer alternatives to current pain management strategies. Despite a wealth of promising clinical data and high drug safety, federal restriction remains a psychological barrier to research and general public acceptance. Therefore, the purpose of this short review is to 1) briefly demonstrate the clinical value of psychedelics, and 2) highlight the potential of microdosing as an effective alternative to full-dose psychedelics whilst emphasizing their latent ergogenic ability.


Abstract 439 | PDF Downloads 209


1. Nichols DE. Psychedelics. Pharmacol Rev. 2016;68(2):264-355.
2. El-Seedi HR, De Smet PA, Beck O, Possnert G, Bruhn JG. Prehistoric peyote use: alkaloid
analysis and radiocarbon dating of archaeological specimens of Lophophora from Texas. J
Ethnopharmacol. 2005;101(1-3):238-242.
3. Dobkin de Rios M. Ayahuasca--the healing vine. Int J Soc Psychiatry. 1971;17(4):256-269.
4. Griffiths RR, Johnson MW, Carducci MA, et al. Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained
decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized
double-blind trial. J Psychopharmacol. 2016;30(12):1181-1197.
5. Carhart-Harris RL, Roseman L, Bolstridge M, et al. Psilocybin for treatment-resistant
depression: fMRI-measured brain mechanisms. Sci Rep. 2017;7(1):13187.
6. Cameron LP, Benson CJ, DeFelice BC, Fiehn O, Olson DE. Chronic, Intermittent Microdoses of the Psychedelic N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) Produce Positive Effects on Mood and
Anxiety in Rodents. ACS Chem Neurosci. 2019;10(7):3261-3270.
7. Prochazkova L, Lippelt DP, Colzato LS, Kuchar M, Sjoerds Z, Hommel B. Exploring the effect
of microdosing psychedelics on creativity in an open-label natural setting. Psychopharmacology
(Berl). 2018;235(12):3401-3413.
8. Polito V, Stevenson RJ. A systematic study of microdosing psychedelics. PLoS One.
9. Johnson M, Richards W, Griffiths R. Human hallucinogen research: guidelines for safety. J
Psychopharmacol. 2008;22(6):603-620.
10. Kovacic P, Somanathan R. Novel, unifying mechanism for mescaline in the central nervous
system: electrochemistry, catechol redox metabolite, receptor, cell signaling and structure activity
relationships. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2009;2(4):181-190.
11. Vollenweider FX, Vollenweider-Scherpenhuyzen MF, Babler A, Vogel H, Hell D. Psilocybin
induces schizophrenia-like psychosis in humans via a serotonin-2 agonist action. Neuroreport.
12. Greenberg PE, Fournier AA, Sisitsky T, Pike CT, Kessler RC. The economic burden of adults
with major depressive disorder in the United States (2005 and 2010). J Clin Psychiatry.
13. Gable R. Macroscope: The toxicity of recreational drugs. American Scientist. 2006;94:206-208.
14. Zaniewska M, Alenina N, Wydra K, et al. Discovering the mechanisms underlying serotonin (5-
HT)2A and 5-HT2C receptor regulation following nicotine withdrawal in rats. J Neurochem.
15. Navarro SV, Gutierrez-Ferre V, Flores P, Moreno M. Activation of serotonin 5-HT2A receptors
inhibits high compulsive drinking on schedule-induced polydipsia. Psychopharmacology (Berl).
16. Pisano VD, Putnam NP, Kramer HM, Franciotti KJ, Halpern JH, Holden SC. The association
of psychedelic use and opioid use disorders among illicit users in the United States. J
Psychopharmacol. 2017;31(5):606-613.
17. Yanakieva S, Polychroni N, Family N, Williams LTJ, Luke DP, Terhune DB. The effects of
microdose LSD on time perception: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2019;236(4):1159-1170.
18. Carbonaro TM, Bradstreet MP, Barrett FS, et al. Survey study of challenging experiences after ingesting psilocybin mushrooms: Acute and enduring positive and negative consequences. J Psychopharmacol. 2016;30(12):1268-1278.
19. Hutten N, Mason NL, Dolder PC, Kuypers KPC. Motives and Side-Effects of Microdosing With Psychedelics Among Users. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2019;22(7):426-434.
20. Johnstad P. Powerful substances in tiny amounts: An interview study of psychedelic microdosing. Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 2018;35:39-51.
21. Catlow BJ, Song S, Paredes DA, Kirstein CL, Sanchez-Ramos J. Effects of psilocybin on hippocampal neurogenesis and extinction of trace fear conditioning. Exp Brain Res. 2013;228(4):481-491.
22. Zideman DA, Derman W, Hainline B, et al. Management of Pain in Elite Athletes: Identified Gaps in Knowledge and Future Research Directions. Clin J Sport Med. 2018;28(5):485-489.
23. Anderson T, Petraker R, Rosenbaum D, et al. Microdosing psychelics: personality, mental health, and creativity differences in microdosers. Psychopharmacology. 2019;236:731-740.
24. Machek SB, Bagley JR. Creatine monohydrate supplementaton: Considerations for cognitive
performance in athletes. Strength & Conditioning Journal. 2018;40(2):82-93.
25. Hupil A, D’idziokaite G, Ydema M. Towards the smarter use of smart drugs: perceptions and experiences of university students in the Ntherlands and Lithuania. Contemporary Drug Problems.
26. Reardon CL, Creado S. Drug abuse in athletes. Subst Abuse Rehabil. 2014;5:95-105.
27. Oroc J. Psychedelics and Extreme Sports. MAPS Bulletin. 2011;21(1):25-29.
28. Sokmen B, Armstrong LE, Kraemer WJ, et al. Caffeine use in sports: considerations for the
athlete. J Strength Cond Res. 2008;22(3):978-986.
29. Shi D, Nikodijevic O, Jacobson KA, Daly JW. Chronic caffeine alters the density of adenosine,
adrenergic, cholinergic, GABA, and serotonin receptors and calcium channels in mouse brain.
Cell Mol Neurobiol. 1993;13(3):247-261.
30. Mendoza MC, Er EE, Blenis J. The Ras-ERK and PI3K-mTOR pathways: cross-talk and
compensation. Trends Biochem Sci. 2011;36(6):320-328.
31. Cargnello M, Roux PP . Activation and function of the MAPKs and their substrates, the MAPK-
activated protein kinases. Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2011;75(1):50-83.
32. Lundberg TR, Howatson G. Analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs in sports: Implications for
exercise performance and training adaptations. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2018;28(11):2252-2262.
33. Volkow ND, Frieden TR, Hyde PS, Cha SS. Medication-assisted therapies--tackling the opioid-
overdose epidemic. N Engl J Med. 2014;370(22):2063-2066.
34. Klock JC, Boerner U, Becker CE. Coma, hyperthermia and bleeding associated with massive
LSD overdose. A report of eight cases. West J Med. 1974;120(3):183-188.