New Zealand scientists explore medical benefits of psychedelic drugs

Could psychedelic drugs be the new medical craze?

Local scientists are looking into the effects of small doses of psychedelic drugs in the hopes it could eventually become a way to treat health and wellbeing.

LSD was first synthesised in the 1930s by a chemist trying to create a respiratory stimulant.

But after the swinging psychedelic '60s, lawmakers worldwise killed the buzz - and with it, nearly all medical research.

Half a century later, Kiwi scientists at the University of Auckland are testing for any medical benefits from microdoses.

"It might sound outrageous but people use substances all the time that manipulate their consciousness," Dr Suresh Muthukumaraswamy, Associate Professor at the School of Pharmacy, tells The Project.

"The effect of a microdose of LSD is likely to be significantly less than a pint of beer."

Microdosing involves taking just 5 to 10 percent of a full psychedelic hit - and it's not about getting high.

"Microdosing is far in a way the most boring form of consuming psychedelics," American psychologist James Fadiman says.

"No visions, no angels, no becoming one with all humanity and all matter - none of that."

But advocates claim, while the amounts are small, the effects are significant.

"These substances, I found, give me the benefits without any drawbacks," microdosing advocate Simpa says.

"You just feel a little bit happy or you feel a little bit lighter, you feel a little bit more open, you have a little bit more energy, you're a bit more on top of things," microdosing psychedelics coach Paul Austin says.

But, experts are quick to point out there's still been little research.

"Drug prohibition has really prevented scientific progress in this area," Dr Muthukumaraswamy says.

"We're not even able to say scientifically whether it's just like a placebo effect or that it really does create some kind of benefit.

"Very speculatively there is some evidence that it might improve certain types of performance and stimulate neural growth."

But even those who can see the potential benefits are advising caution.

While it's illegal, it's getting traction around the globe. In Australia for example the government has thrown $15 million dollars into a psychedelic research fund to learn more about potential health benefits.

And researchers at London's Imperial College found in some cases magic mushrooms are slightly more effective than antidepressants.

But before you consider breaking the law to seek inner peace - experts say it's still early days.