Magic microdosing and what it can mean for your insurance policy

The huge psychedelic microdosing movement particularly popular with young people is new, it’s experimental, and it can do a lot of good. Microdosing on mushrooms or rather, their hallucinogenic chemical, psilocybin and MDMA is gaining traction and millions of investments as a viable treatment for mental illness. Many recent studies have shown promising results, although the placebo effect has called some of them into question. As more and more people seek out magic, it’s worth asking what the unseen implications may be on insurance, for example.

Dr Blanche Andrews, medical advisor at Sanlam, says the short answer is that microdosing psychedelics is “new,” but the process for purchasing would be the same as for any other drug.

Some recent studies:

  • MDMA combined with talk therapy has shown impressive results in treating people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Global Drug Survey of 6,753 people found that microdosing LSD or psilocybin can improve mood, creativity, focus and sociability, with minimal reported side effects
  • Psilocybin was compared to escitalopram (a top-performing antidepressant) in a small study, and also worked well, with faster onset and fewer side effects.

Learn more about microdosing

Microdosing involves taking very low doses of a drug to benefit from its physiological action while reducing the risk of side effects. Psychedelic start-ups are currently banking. Quartz reports that psychedelic medicine start-ups made around $ 329 million from January through April of this year. And the global psychedelic drug market is expected to reach $ 10.75 billion by 2027. Long-stigmatized drugs are making a major comeback and are believed to be effective against depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, and PTSD.

Why? Andrews says that in an Unherd article, Tom Chivers suggests that psychedelics disrupt Baye’s theorem. “We all have some level of confidence in our previous beliefs – this is how we make sense of the world. If our previous beliefs are strong, the new information will not change them. A depressed person often forms implacable and incorrect beliefs about their perceived uselessness and the terrible state of the world. It is difficult to move them. But psychedelics do just that. They take away our familiarity with our surroundings.

Quartz further explains: Psychedelics seem to bind to our brain receptors which attract serotonin – the “happiness” hormone. They also seem to restrict blood flow to the brain’s Default Mode Network (DMN), which helps us understand the tide of information our senses are sending us. It becomes “locked” into “rigid, repetitive thought patterns”. So when we remove it, we can break these “ruts” and form new neural connections. As a result, a depressed person may be able to “come out” of repetitive negative thoughts. Does this affect how long the drug wears off? The answer is not yet known and more research on the perceived effectiveness versus the actual effectiveness of microdosing is needed.

The case of cannabis

MDMA and psilocybin remain illegal drugs in South Africa. But cannabis has been legal for private use since 2018. Microdosing marijuana is not a new trend – in fact, Rolling Stone wrote about it in 2017, sharing evidence that regular small doses of THC (the psychoactive compound in marijuana) can be beneficial for tempering moods, boosting creativity, and more – without people becoming “stoned, paranoid, or lethargic.”

What does microdosing mean for insurance?

When it comes to drug consumption, Andrews explains that insurers follow a defined underwriting process:

  • First, we consider the aspects of mortality. Could drug use have an impact on life expectancy?
  • Then there is the morbidity aspect. Could use of the drug increase the risk of illness or disability? Could this mean that a person is at risk of quitting their job sooner?
  • Is the use of the drug medical or recreational? If it is a medical problem, what is the underlying condition for which it is used? For example, if one were microdosing for a mental health problem, the insurer would likely “assess” that problem rather than (or perhaps as well) drug use.
  • We then “stratify the risks” based on frequency and amount of use, for example, an experimental user may have “dabbled” once or twice, while a heavy user would use X times per day.
  • In the case of marijuana, we would also need more details on the product. Is it the compound THC (which causes the “euphoric high”) or cannabidiol (CBD) that is used? Is it ingested, smoked or used topically as a cream? Smoking a high potency of THC (over 10%) has been linked to psychosis, so this would be an important consideration.
  • How likely is addiction, for example, THC is more addictive than CBD.
  • Is there a risk that it is a bridging substance? The bridge hypothesis is that substance use progresses sequentially, for example starting with alcohol and tobacco use, followed by cannabis and later by illicit drug use.

She adds: “Each insurance request is assessed on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the criteria mentioned and the client’s overall risk profile. An application can thus be accepted, accepted with “a load” or one or more exclusions, or rejected.

“The bottom line is that it is essential that individuals disclose any substance or drug they take to their insurer, in order to reduce the likelihood of delays or rejection, if they make a claim. Honesty is always the best (for your) policy. Even something as common and harmless as Ritalin should be disclosed, especially if taken regularly.

Microdosing may be new, but insurers have an existing framework to follow.

Andrews concludes: “It shows exciting potential but needs to be approached with caution and consideration. Its impact on an insurance claim should be one of the things to think about.


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