Published: December 30th, 2020
Categories: Cannabis Info
Many people who go on a psychedelic trip end up enjoying it. Some even cherish the experience for the eye-opening, life-changing moments they go through. But, there are also those who go down the exact opposite route, experiencing extremely disturbing and distressing episodes, giving the trip a negative stigma. That trauma may last for a long time, and, at worst, forever. Known as a “bad trip”, these experiences are largely defined by feelings of fear, panic, paranoia, and depersonalisation. Extreme mood swings, scary hallucinations, and a feeling of time standing still are also possible.
So, what exactly causes a bad trip? Is everyone at equal risk? Can you prevent or stop a bad trip from happening? This article will shed light on all of these matters.
Although beginners are somewhat more at risk than veteran psychonauts, anyone who consumes a psychedelic substance may experience a bad trip. Here are the usual causes:
Dose is too high: It goes without saying that high doses could lead to a bad trip. No matter how experienced you are with these substances, it’s always wiser to tread lightly and proceed with caution.
Expectations: You may have certain expectations about how a trip will go, especially if you base it on other people’s experiences. Then, if you feel like you’re going in a different direction once you actually start tripping, that could lead to anxiety and cause things to go off the rails.
Having a negative mindset: This is a big one. Your state of mind prior to the trip is crucial to the outcome. Unlike weed or certain other drugs, psychedelics are more likely to enhance existing sensations than blunt them. Thus, having a negative mindset may aggravate the experience and turn it into a nightmarish one.
Uncomfortable physical/social setting: Maybe there were a bunch of strobe lights around you while you were tripping, or you were with people you didn’t feel safe or comfortable around. Maybe you were in public and feeling super paranoid. Whatever the situation, your environment plays a huge role in your tripping experience.
Mixing substances: People will advise you not to mix substances, and for good reason. Especially with psychedelics, certain combinations may lead to unwanted effects.
Individual brain chemistry: Sometimes, having a bad trip is partly down to our own brain chemistry. If you’re already dealing with certain psychological issues, throwing in a mind-altering substance may exacerbate or trigger symptoms.
Dehydration: Dehydration can make you feel super uncomfortable while tripping, which may lead to other symptoms. Before you know it, you’re going through an extreme episode of paranoia. Remember to always have water and/or another hydrating beverage on you.
Being alone: Even experienced psychonauts often prefer tripping with trusted companions. Having a friend or trip-sitter nearby will ease the tension and help you stay grounded if you start veering off into other dimensions.
So, you’ve started bugging out. Your heart’s racing and your mind’s not in the right place. It could be difficult to snap out of it, but here’s what to do if you find yourself in this predicament:
Breathe: People forget to breathe when they’re in a state of panic, and that’s natural. But be mindful about this as soon as the negative vibes start washing over you. Breathe deeply in and out, and make sure your exhales are longer. Repeat this process until your heart rate returns to normal.
Embrace it: Ultimately, you’ll need to just accept the fact that you’re on an otherworldly trip. Don’t judge it, and don’t judge yourself. Just take it as it is, and, if possible, allow yourself to face some of the deeper, scarier parts of your mind. This is how the most meaningful experiences begin.
Change the scenery: If the environment you’re in is indeed causing you to begin melting down, switch things up. This could mean simply choosing a more relaxing song, or moving outdoors for some fresh air and Mother Nature’s embrace.
Distract yourself: Instead of allowing your mind to go someplace dark, lead it to a creative and productive space. If you’re into painting or writing, try doing these activities to divert your attention. Or, if you feel like talking, have a casual chat with your friend. You may find your paranoia turns into giggles in no time.
Let your companions know: If you're tripping in the company of others, one of the best things you can do is let them know what you’re going through. Talk it out with them or make some kind of contact. Sharing how you’re feeling with someone else can take a lot of the fear out of the equation and make things easier to handle.
Now, let’s turn the tables around. Here are the measures you can take if someone around you is having a bad trip:
Know the signs: Sometimes, it can be difficult to spot someone having a difficult time with their psychedelic experience. But, if you see them acting all paranoid and out of touch with reality, you may want to see if they’re okay.
Move them to a safer place: We talked about the change of scenery earlier, and you can take it upon yourself to initiate this action if your friend has yet to do so. Of course, you’ll want to take some precautions. Be sure to stay away from loud public settings, as well as potentially dangerous surroundings like bodies of water, high places, and traffic.
Talk some sense into them: Remind your friend that the trip will eventually wear off. It may take a while, but guide them as best you can out of the darkness and into the light. And that leads us to our next point.
Never leave the person’s side: Especially if it’s their first time tripping, you’ll want to be by your friend’s side throughout the entire journey. Hold their hand if you need to. Give them that sense of security.
Take control of the situation: Be sure you’re keeping a close eye on everyone in the room. Some people may go beyond acting irrationally and end up hurting others or themselves. You may also want to create a more soothing setting by dimming the lights or playing some calming music.
Seek professional help: If all else fails, seek professional help. This is for when things have gotten so far out of hand that no amount of effort works to pacify the situation. Depending on your state of mind, you can either call the emergency services or bring them to the ER yourself.
We hinted at this in one of the points above, but it’s worth noting that not all people consider “bad trips” to be “bad” at their core. Although there are ways to prevent and mitigate a bad trip to some degree, ultimately, every psychedelic user can experience this phenomenon if a perfect storm of conditions are met. As such, it’s important to treat every trip as a learning experience, instead of judging yourself or the trip for its unsettling outcome. Whether it’s you or your friend going down a frightening rabbit hole, at some point, you’ll have to accept the journey ride it out. There is light on the other side!