There is a growing popularity of microdosing mushrooms or rather, their hallucinogenic chemical, psilocybin, and MDMA, which is gaining popularity not only among young people but the larger population as well.
Once very stigmatised drugs are getting massive rebranding by businesses in efforts to treat mental health illnesses, and assisted therapy in treating those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including addiction and eating disorders.
Psychedelics are a class of psychoactive substances that produce changes in perception, mood and cognitive processes. They also affect all the senses, altering a person’s thinking, sense of time and emotions, according the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.
Microdosing means taking very small doses of a drug to benefit from its physiological action while reducing the risk of side effects.
Dr Blanche Andrews, medical advisor at Sanlam, says in a statement that people deciding on microdosing could lead to some implications on insurance.
The Global Drug Survey of 6,753 people found microdosing LSD or psilocybin can enhance mood, creativity, focus, and sociability, with minimal reported side effects.
Business of psychedelics
Psychedelic start-ups are cashing in. Quartz reports psychedelic medicine start-ups have made about $329 million (R4.7 billion) from January to April 2021. The global psychedelic drug market is forecast to be worth $10.75 billion (R147 billion) by 2027.
Andrews refers to an UnHerd article where the author suggests that psychedelics disrupt Baye’s theorem (probability of an event from occurring).
“We all have some level of confidence in prior beliefs – that’s how we make sense of the world. If our prior beliefs are strong, new information won’t change these. A depressed person often forms relentless, incorrect beliefs about their perceived worthlessness and the terrible state of the world. It’s difficult to shift these. But psychedelics do just that. They remove our familiarity with our surroundings,” she said.
Psychedelics can help unlock ‘locked’, rigid, repetitive patterns of thought and change behaviours.
What does microdosing psychedelics mean for insurance?
Insurers follow a set procedures for what they can offer:
- Mortality aspects: Could the use of the drug impact life expectancy?
- Morbidity aspect: Could the use of the drug ramp up the risk of illness or disability? Could it mean a person risks leaving their occupation earlier?
- Is the use of the drug medical or recreational? If it’s medical, what’s the underlying condition it is being used to treat? If one is microdosing for a mental health condition, the insurer would probably ‘rate’ for that condition, rather than (or perhaps as well as) the drug use.
- Risk stratify: How often and how much is used? Andwers says a experimental user may have dabbled once or twice, whereas a heavy user would be using X times a day.
- Just like case of marijuana, insurers need more detail about the product: They need to find out the THC compound (which causes the ‘euphoric high’) or Cannabidiol (CBD) that’s being used? Is it being ingested, smoked, or used topically as a cream? Smoking a high potency of THC (over 10%) has been linked with psychosis so would be an important consideration.
- Likelihood of dependency: For example, THC is more addictive than CBD.
- Is there a risk that it’s a gateway substance? This has been frequently questioned with cannabis, gateway hypothesis is that substance use could progress over time from marijuana to “harder” substances such as cocaine or cystral meth.
Andrews concludes that people need to disclose any substance or medication they’re taking to their insurer, to decrease the likelihood of any delays or rejection, should they claim.
Compiled by Sandisiwe Mbhele