27 Aug 2020
One in 10 UK adults ‘microdosed’ during the pandemic
- 1 in 10 (10%) UK adults currently microdosing, a 43% rise since the start of the pandemic, with Londoners and those aged 18-34 seeing the biggest increase
- Microdosing refers to the practice of consuming a very low dose of a drug, in the hopes of improving mood, inducing physical and mental stimulation, and/or encouraging creative thinking
- The drugs which have been used more frequently overall since the start of the pandemic are prescription medications (51%), cannabis (35%) and depressant GHB (30%)
The coronavirus pandemic has seen a 43% rise in microdosing amongst UK adults as the country tries to cope with new and additional pressures.
New research from the UK’s leading life insurance broker LifeSearch reveals one in 10 UK adults now engage in microdosing (10%, up from 7% pre-lockdown), which is the practice of taking a very low dose of a drug, in the hopes of improving mood, inducing physical and mental stimulation, and/or encouraging creative thinking.
This figure is almost double for young people, with close to one in five or 19% of 18-34-year olds currently micro-dosing, up from 12% before the pandemic. There are also large variations regionally, with a huge one in four or 26% of Londoners microdosing, up from 16% before the pandemic.
The drugs which have been used more frequently overall since the start of the pandemic are prescription medications (51%), Cannabis (35%) and depressant GHB (30%).
Of those who have been microdosing, one in four (25%) do it to help with mental health issues, and a surprising one in five (20%) say it helps them cope with childcare responsibilities. Other reasons given for microdosing include helping to cope with the pandemic (16%) and financial worries (13%), and to perform better at work or feel more creative (both 13%).
Aside from microdosing, more than one in three (36%) UK adults are currently turning to an alcoholic drink to boost their mood, cope with stress or feel better about things. Other activities people have turned to include making an impulse purchase (34%), eating a ‘treat food’ (49%), and exercising (41%). The research revealed that around one in 10 (9%) have relied even more than usual on coping mechanisms such as these, than before the pandemic began.
Worryingly, around one in five (18%) respondents said they would rather try to cope alone than open up about their problems, worries or mental health. As a result, experts at LifeSearch are urging people to start talking about their concerns. The Let’s Start Talking campaign aims to encourage people to be more open about subjects that make us uncomfortable, and have those tricky conversations about topics including death, illness, money and mental health, rather than bottling things up.
Emma Walker from LifeSearch said:
“It’s clear from the research that more people than ever are relying on microdosing to help them cope with the stressors of current day life. Often, these coping mechanisms may seem like the easy way out, however they don’t solve the issue at hand.
“Using illegal drugs is never adviseable, and can carry serious risks. Using coping mechanisms to avoid facing your issues head-on can have severe long-term implications, causing heartache for our loved ones later on.
“It’s important that as a nation, we face up to the important, necessary, awkward conversations that we need to have. And mental ill-health shouldn’t be a barrier when it comes to safeguarding yourself and your family’s future – and it all starts with one open, honest conversation. We know that this is easier said than done, but we hope that we can inspire people to have those conversations.
Psychologist Jo Hemmings said:
“It’s no surprise that during these trying times, with changes to our work structures, and rising levels of stress and anxiety, more and more people are turning to alternative methods in order to cope with their day to day struggles. However, some of these micro-dosing substances are not only illegal but also carry serious financial and punitive penalties, should you be found to be using them. A combination likely to increase, rather than decrease, levels of stress.
“Whilst the use of some micro-dosing drugs are unlikely to have long-term implications on your mental and physical wellbeing – though illegal substances should always be avoided - relying solely on these methods to cope with feelings of worry or a fear of being overwhelmed can be dangerous to your health, as they effectively mask rather than deal with your concerns.
“In order to take back some control in your life I would advise getting into a regular routine as much as possible and making sure to take time out for things you enjoy. Keeping yourself busy and distracted is a good way of fighting the urge to self-medicate.
“I’d also strongly recommend, for anyone who feels that their habits are getting out of control, to share your concerns with friends and family, or to seek medical help if needed. Covid has created a huge network of excellent online resources, where you can find advice and support. “Connecting to others, many of whom have been through similar experiences themselves, or are qualified in understanding exactly what you are going through can be a really important step to finding other, more effective ways of coping.”
LifeSearch has created a range of guidance and advice for those concerned about accessing life insurance with a mental health issue.
Table 1: Substances used by respondents for microdosing
|Substance||I used mental health coping mechanisms occasionally prior to the pandemic||I used mental health coping mechanisms more frequently during the pandemic|
|OTC medicines such as painkillers
|CBD (in any form)
Notes to editors
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Research was conducted by Opinium on behalf of LifeSearch. This was an online poll of 2,002 adults aged 18+ and a national representative spread. The research was conducted in August 2020.
7% of respondents said they used microdosing before the coronavirus pandemic, and still do, whereas 3% said they started doing this during the coronavirus pandemic, giving a total of 10% of people currently microdosing. An increase from 7% to 10% is a 43% increase.
2 Of those people who currently or in the past have microdosed with prescription medications, 51% said they have done so more frequently during the pandemic. Of those people who currently or in the past have microdosed with Cannabis, 35% said they have done so more frequently during the pandemic. Of those people who currently or in the past have microdosed with GHB, 30% said they have done so more frequently during the pandemic.
You know it as life insurance, we call it protecting families. And since 1998, LifeSearch have protected hundreds of thousands of UK families from the financial fallout of catastrophe, critical illness and death.
Over 21 years, LifeSearch has grown into the UK's biggest life insurance broker, offering expert, independent advice to customers around life insurance, critical illness cover, income protection, family income benefit, serious illness cover and business insurance
In two decades, LifeSearch has picked up hundreds of awards for its culture, expertise and customer service. Boasting a Trustpilot score of 4.9, the company is ranked number #3 in the Sunday Times' 2019 list of Best Places to Work.
LifeSearch is an appointed representative of LifeSearch Partners Limited, who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
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