The dive into the wonders of the psychedelics’ world has its ups and downs, its high and low moments. Once you enter the journey there are only two possible outcomes: either you have an amazing, sometimes life-changing, experience or you will end up suffering from some nasty side effects (commonly referred to as “having a bad trip”). The great news is that are many different things you can do to avoid having a bad trip, including following some small tips and advice that can help you prevent it or, in the worst-case scenario, help you cope with the experience of the worst side of your mind.
When it comes to experimenting with psychedelics, or other substances in general, precaution is greatly advised, and if used properly, these “magic” substances will offer you a great and unique experience.
Continue reading to find out some great tips on how to avoid a bad trip, and you can be sure that if you follow them, your trip will most likely be the most exciting and magical experience, as it is supposed to be.
But what is a bad trip?
Every substance has its possible negative side-effects and a bad trip is simply your body experiencing them. Having a bad trip is frequently heard from users who have taken psychedelic substances although it can really happen with any other drugs (including prescription medicines). The big difference is that, because psychedelics mess up with your mind, these side-effects affect you on a whole new level.
The main trigger of a bad trip is the user’s state of mind, and simply being in a bad mood is enough to turn what was supposed to be a great experience into a dreadful one. Bad trips can be a nasty, horrible, and frightening experience and, usually, lead to people never wanting to try psychedelics again.
The main factors/triggers for experiencing a bad trip are:
- Environment, noises, strangers
- Mentally resisting the effects of a substance because you feel scared, or you simply can’t relax
- Thinking about uncomfortable memories
- Amplification of issues
- Using a larger dose than you have experienced before
Reports of users describing bad trips include one, or a combination, of the following experiences:
- Real and Strong Hallucinations: such as seeing people’s faces morphing into ghosts, dragons, and all kind of other different (and scary) monsters
- Negative and Depressive Emotions: the feeling of intense fear, sadness, worthlessness, or despair
- Negative and Dark Thoughts: overwhelming thoughts, extreme anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks, shortness of breath (with reports of people in the worst cases even having ended up committing suicide)
Frequently, a user can have a great start of a trip and, suddenly and unexpectedly, an intrusive thought can come mid-way, the deepest and darkest feelings emerge, and turn it all into an awful nightmare.
Bad trips can also happen with experienced users, although experience makes users less vulnerable.
How to avoid a bad trip?
Bad trips are usually linked to hallucinogenic substances but they can really happen with any other substance in its natural or synthetic form.
Sure, these experiences can be frightening, but it is also very easy to avoid a bad trip.
There are some ways to reduce the likability of experiencing a bad trip:
- Know your emotional triggers: you must know what upsets you so you can do something about it. A picture of your ex, your family, your boss, a painting, a completely random thing that, somehow, has a meaning or resembles something and takes you down with it. There are thousands of different emotional triggers and everyone has their own. Keep a distance from them and clear your mind of those thoughts. In the case of psychedelic substances, out of sight is out of mind, so carefully choose the environment you are going to trip on.
- Know everything about the substance you’re about to use: it doesn’t matter whether it’s LSD, DMT, Ketamine, Cannabis, Ecstasy, whatever it might be, always research thoroughly so you can avoid nasty surprises. Knowing how to safely use a substance can help dramatically reduce your overall anxiety, and with this, the chance of having a bad experience.
- Always use it in a safe and comfortable space: before getting into a trip make sure you are in a place you trust and get as comfortable as possible. Some people light up candles or play some music, but you can do whatever makes you feel safe and positive. Especially with psychedelics. Never forget that your senses get amplified while tripping, so you can get overwhelmed very easily.
- Embrace the moment: Do not try to force thoughts, or pretty much anything, into your mind. Simply enjoy the moment, let things flow, and follow its natural course.
- Pay attention to your dose: taking a bigger dose is more likely to cause, and intensifies bad trips. When using small amounts, such as in micro-dosing, the effects are pleasant, therapeutic, and may even increase productivity, creativity, and focus. However, on higher doses, the effects can be overwhelming. The reality distortion becomes too complex and it will be harder for you to control the trip. Higher doses are not bad or dangerous when handled by experienced users, but if your goal is to have a comfortable and relaxing trip, try to keep your doses low at first.
- Consider having a trip sitter: Trip sitters can do wonders in averting a bad trip (if that person knows what is going on, of course). It is always better to have someone around who can help you in a crisis. Subconsciously, you’re going to feel a sense of calm and safety just by knowing they’re there for you. Remember that peace of mind is always a powerful tool to avoid bad trips. Keep in mind trip sitters should be sober.
- Nip it out of the bud before it reveals its ugly head: This is a helpful technique, and very easy to practice. If you notice that you are not feeling that good and your mood is swinging south, get up, move around, and do something to take your mind off it. The idea is to distract your mind, refocus, ending the problem even before it starts. If you do this early on, it is unlikely that a bad feeling evolves to anything further.
- Meditation, why not? When it comes to bad trips, meditation is the number one on preventing them. Along with many other health benefits, meditation improves your mind and resilience, and it is a helpful technique against anxiety and depression. Practicing meditation teaches you mindfulness, which is a great technique to promote a positive and nice trip experience. Many users report that regular meditative practice has helped to avoid bad trips experiences.
How to cope with a bad trip?
What if you followed every tip to avoid a bad trip and, still, find yourself experiencing one? The most important thing to do is not panic. Always keep in mind that a bad trip can be diverted and stopped with certain tips and techniques.
If you are having a bad trip:
- If you are seeing and hearing things, remember it’s not real, you’re just hallucinating
- Change your location, go outside, or to a different place, but most importantly, move to a non-threatening environment
- If there’s music, change it to something you’re familiar with
- Eating and hydrating yourself is going to help you lift your mood
- Concentrate on your breathing. Instead of focusing on fighting the bad trip, concentrate on trying to count your breaths in and out
- Talk to a friend, preferably someone who you can trust
- You need to keep this on your mind: the substance will not harm you. Your anxiety is purely an effect of it and it will pass, you’re going to be fine.
- Do not try, by any means, to medicate yourself, ever. Unfortunately, there are many rumors about the use of certain medications to fight a bad trip. Don’t do it. Taking more substances will probably make it worse
- Seek immediate treatment if you’re physically ill, if you think the substance you’ve used was contaminated, or if you feel you’re absolutely out of control and need help with your mental state
- If you want to call 911, do it with a non-intoxicated companion.
How to help someone having a bad trip?
Not only it’s important to know how to avoid a bad trip but also to be prepared to react when someone else is experiencing one. After all, it can happen to anyone.
Try following these tips to be helpful if you’re faced with someone having a bad trip:
- Change something on the environment, it can be the light or the music. Don’t force anyone to move if they don’t want to, instead, gently invite or encourage them to do it.
- Tell them what time it is. Bad trippers usually feel caught in eternity and have a distorted sense of time.
- Reassure them that what they are feeling is only the effect of a substance. The trip will end soon and everything is going to be okay
- Make them concentrate on their breathing, and they will feel better. Breathing will relax them and give them something to focus on
- Don’t leave them all alone, but do not crowd them either. Play the middle term
- Stay calm but firm – you need to remain passionate and compassionate
- Remember that some people can get violent when having a bad trip, so keep yourself safe
- Watch out for fake substances
- Suggest a therapist help them deal with the experience
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