The present study
In this study, we explored the benefits and challenges experienced by microdosers in a cross-sectional, retrospective, anonymous online survey. Respondents reported their subjective shrooms dispensary microdosing benefits and challenges (MDBCs) and the subjective importance of each outcome. We then used a grounded theory approach  to identify commonly-reported MDBCs and thereby deliver an empirical MDBC taxonomy to support future microdosing research. We also explored whether microdosing substances (LSD-only versus psilocybin-only versus LSD and psilocybin) were associated with different outcomes.
This study was part of a larger project that reported on the demographic and psychiatric comorbidities of the sample (Rosenbaum D, Weissman C, Hapke E, Hui K, Petranker R, Dinh-Williams L-A, et al.: Microdosing psychedelic substances: demographics, psychiatric comorbidities, and comorbid substance use, in preparation) as well as a paper that addressed pre-registered hypotheses concerning mental health, personality, and creativity variables
Grounded theory method
Microdosers were prompted to provide up to three benefits and up to three challenges associated with microdosing in small on-screen text boxes, resulting in short phrases (e.g. “Amplified emotions and better understanding of them”, “Fear of unknown effects, since its [sic] not studied”) or in one- or two-word responses (e.g. “Creativity”, “Better mood”, “Illegal”, “Too Energetic”). The coding authors (TA and AC) independently coded these benefits and challenges using the principles of classic grounded theory [34,35,36]. Discrepant codes were periodically discussed until a final set of codes was agreed upon (i.e. saturation was reached). These codes were hierarchically built into three layers of abstraction: codes (level one) were grouped under sub-categories (level two), which were grouped under categories (level three). This hierarchy was iteratively discussed and changes were agreed upon over five refining passes. We incorporated the diction used by the respondents where possible to better reflect the data-driven nature of the final codebook (see Additional file 1 and full online codebook; ).
Inter-rater agreement was calculated separately for benefits and challenges and at each level (code, sub-category, category). Agreement was above 85% at every level (benefit code 85.1%, benefit sub-category 89.2%, benefit category 92.6%; challenge code 85.7%, challenge sub-category 86.9%, challenge category 88.5%). Each report was coded twice, once by each coding author, and the sum of coded items in each category was halved; as a result, the frequency of any given category can be a non-integer value (e.g. 807.5 coded benefits, 603.5 coded challenges; “Empirical codebook: benefits of microdosing” and “Empirical codebook: challenges of microdosing” sections).
Participation was voluntary under informed consent, in accord with the Declaration of Helsinki, and was non-remunerative. The sample analysed in the present study includes the 278 respondents that answered the MDBC questions after indicating they had experience with microdosing LSD-only, psilocybin-only, or both LSD and psilocybin; respondents that indicated they used other substances to microdose (e.g. DMT, Salvia divinorum) are not included in the present report, allowing us to focus our efforts on the most commonly reported microdosing substances that are most likely to be studied in future research. Recruitment was primarily via the online forum “Reddit” (Reddit Inc, San Francisco, CA, USA). Reddit is an online forum with self-organizing sub-groups, called “subreddits”, which curate content for their “subscribers”. These subreddits discuss topics of mutual interest, making these communities potential pools of willing participants akin to other crowdsourcing approaches, e.g. Amazon mTurk, CrowdFlower, Prolific Compared to the US population, Reddit users tend to be younger, educated or seeking a college education, and present in a male-to-female ratio of approximately 2:1 [ thus this sample’s generalizability is limited to modern Western populations. In the present sample, respondents had a mean age of 27.8 (SD 8.9); age was non-normally distributed with an interquartile range of 21–31 years (median 26.0, range 16–63). Most participants were male (M 237, F 31, other 10), heterosexual (N = 211, other 57), and white or European (N = 234, other 44). For a more comprehensive breakdown of all survey respondents, see our epidemiological report, which includes reports on psychiatric disorders (Rosenbaum D, Weissman C, Hapke E, Hui K, Petranker R, Dinh-Williams L-A, et al.: Microdosing psychedelic substances: demographics, psychiatric comorbidities, and comorbid substance use, in preparation). Microdosers from the following subreddits were solicited: Microdosing, Nootropics, Psychonaut, RationalPsychonaut, Tryptonaut, Drugs, LSD, shrooms, DMT, researchchemicals, and SampleSize [