What To Do When You Have A Bad Trip


Statistically, psychedelics are extremely safe. Knowing how to avoid a bad trip and knowing what to do when things do go wrong should be part of every psychonauts repertoire. Here are a few easy things to remember to keep safe.

On the cover of that famous guide for galactic hitchhikers, one may read, in big friendly letters, “Don’t Panic!”. And, there is the often recited cliché, “There’s nothing to be fear, but fear itself.” Both are certainly true, but they can seem pithy when your psychedelic of choice has taken a wrong turn on you. Anxiety or feelings of general distress may arise. Your psyche may seem to balance the edge of the abyss or your worst fears may seem to be coming true.

Psychedelics may cause a bad trip. Know what to do when it happens!

Bad trips are a real thing. The mind and imagination are powerful things when left au natural and unadulterated. Supercharged on psychedelics, some of them can give you a big scare. Psychotic breaks are also possible.

So just what is a bad trip?

Firstly there is no denying that bad trips occur. Although they are not anywhere near as prolific as the hysterical anti-drug media may have you believe. In fact, Dr Timothy Leary claimed that bad LSD trips were so rare as to be considered inconsequential. As with cannabis and mushrooms, the reports of bad trips are limited and their prolific occurrence is more to do with anti-drug hysteria than actual objective reporting.

Clinically a bad trip is considered to be a drug-induced temporary psychosis or psychedelic crisis. This condition can be caused by a number of compounds. For the sake of this article, we will exclusively look at psychedelics or hallucinogens that can cause a bad trip: Cannabis, magic mushrooms (psilocybin) and LSD.

If you are tripping responsibly it is safe to assume that there is someone there who is not under the influence. You have considered your set and setting and you are in a safe place. Inexperience with the compound of choice is often a factor with bad experiences but not exclusively so. Anybody taking mind-altering drugs can be susceptible, no matter how experienced.

There is no chemical reason for a bad trip. They are purely psychological manifestations, just like good trips are. Psychedelics are emotional amplifiers and can be disassociative. The thoughts the person has prior to and during the experience play a large part in how the altered state of mind is experienced.

“Bad trip” is a term that can cover a host of conditions. There can be mild anxiety and paranoia or full blown distressing hallucinations. Disassociation from reality can make some people feel that they are going insane or experience utter terror. Reactions can differ from individual to individual and from drug to drug.


What is it: As psychoactive hallucinogens, magic mushrooms and LSD are far more powerful than cannabis. They are also active considerably longer per dose compared to cannabis. However, cannabis can still cause psychic distress in some individuals. Especially with contemporary strains being so high in THC content, sometimes up to 30%.

A bad trip on weed may include amplified negative feelings or anxiety, paranoia or panic attacks. Symptoms may include racing heart, hot and cold sweats, tingling skin and difficulty communicating. Occasionally a very intense high can give the feeling of not being connected to the world. Most people enjoy this sensation where others can panic, as they feel they are losing control and don’t know how to behave.

How to avoid it: Set and setting always play an important role when discussing drug use. Cannabis is no different. A friendly place with friendly people will unlikely generate scenarios that could induce a bad cannabis trip. Novices should take it easy with contemporary cannabis. Take small hits to begin with, just to test the waters. Even experienced aficionados are reporting anxiety like side-effects from potent modern weed. General health must always be a consideration. Get enough sleep, eat well and drink plenty of water. Missing any of the basics can set the scene for a negative reaction. Especially lack of sleep and hunger.

What to do: Keep calm. Drink water and breathe consistently. Refrain from breathing too deeply as hypoventilation can trigger anxiety just as effectively as hyperventilation. If you are with friends you should be in safe hands. Talk it through. You might find benefit in expressing your state of mind and turn a negative into a positive. Caring vibes from people you know will help you feel safe. Music or movies you know and love are touchstones. Play or watch your favourites as calming reminders of the ordinary.

There is some good news for when a cannabis session goes wrong. By the nature of the compounds involved, it will all be over in 2 – 4 hours and you will undoubtedly go into a nice deep sleep afterwards.



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