bad trip

Bad Trips: Practical Tips for Challenging Journeys

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Like telescopes pointed directly into the vast expanse of the mind, psychedelic experiences reveal aspects of reality that lie just outside the reach of everyday perception. Sometimes you glimpse fantastic star clusters hovering at the edges of your own personal potential. Other times you may find yourself gazing into an unfathomable inner darkness. Many people are quick to define these experiences as bad trips, but often on the other side is the most valuable personal insight.

“The Bad Trip”

No reasonable person could call the blackness of space, which fills the night sky, “bad.” Terrifying and mysterious, absolutely. But bad? That’s the stuff of cosmic moralists and small-town evening news anchors. Nonsense, to put it simply. The same is true about the psychedelic space. The darkness found there is the medium through which light itself shines. Without it, there can be no glow.

Let’s not kid, though. No fancy metaphor can really describe how distressing some psychedelic experiences can get. Depths of despair and heights of panic normally unreachable by the unaltered mind, horrific visions, wildly deviant aberrations of consciousness, unspeakable thoughts, ego death, and total collapse of one’s entire self-concept structure. No wonder we call it a bad trip.

These are all possible stops on the psychedelic ride. To expect anything less from a class of compounds named “Soul Manifester” is to fundamentally misunderstand the territory. The soul is not a tame place, it’s wilder than the darkest parts of the unexplored sky and very much a part of this human experience. 

“Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”

Carl Jung

Redefine the Trip from “Bad” to “Challenging”

To label any product of your deepest Psyche (From the Greek word for “Soul”) “bad” is to reject the piece of yourself that most desperately needs attention. The further away you push the unwanted experiences, the greater you fracture the personality. Many of those profoundly challenging psychedelic moments that are hastily discarded as “bad trips” contain psychological content that is crucial to personal development. Like red hot metal, the raw material for growth and healing is often difficult to handle. 

Challenging psychedelic trips can be some of the most valuable and positively transformative experiences of a person’s life when they learn how to navigate them skillfully. The only thing truly “bad” about many of these trips is the language used to describe them. The heroes of harm reduction involved with Zendo Project have captured this with the line, “difficult is not the same as bad.” 

The casual use of the phrase “bad trip” fails to honor the growth inherent in such experiences, unnecessarily sows fear in our own communities, and acts as cheap ammunition for the misguided defamation of psychedelics.

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The Difficult Psychedelic Experience 

Referring to these sometimes harrowingly bad trips as “challenging” or “difficult” is a much more accurate, honest, and helpful way to talk about them. Yoga is difficult, lifting heavy things is difficult, and getting out of the social comfort zone is difficult. But each is beneficial. Expecting to lie on the couch and then suddenly being forced to sprint somewhere is challenging, but it doesn’t make the running itself “bad.” 

If the expectation is purely recreational, then any challenge that arises becomes almost intolerable. If growth is the intention, then difficulty can become the whole point. The easier a workout, the less likely it is to make you strong. Something similar may be said of psychedelic experiences.

This is not to encourage the intentional seeking of bad trips but to increase resilience when and where they do arise. Simply understanding that difficulty is the prerequisite for growth prepares a person for whatever may come. With a shift in perspective, these challenging experiences stop being unknown monsters lurking in the shadows of possibility and become useful allies on the path toward a higher self.  

Possible Exceptions 

There have been no documented human deaths from LSD overdose, and a person could literally fill their stomach with dried psilocybin mushrooms before coming close to physiological toxicity. It’s obvious that classic psychedelics are well tolerated by most people, but much is still unknown about their neuropharmacology. 

It’s entirely possible that some individuals possess biological or psychological factors that may play a role in challenging subjective experiences. Difficult is not the same as bad, but claiming “there is no such thing as a bad trip” is a step too far. An allergic reaction is more than just “challenging.” Additionally, people subjected to external assault or violence while under the influence of a psychedelic may wish to describe their experience as a “bad trip.” That is certainly their right. 

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Scary, but True, Trip Stories

Everyone’s story is different, but hearing how others process their experiences can be helpful when rationalizing your own. 

Haley Nahman, Features Director at Man Repeller

“Unlike natural psychedelics, LSD is unmistakably chemical. It did not make me feel at one with nature so much as fearful of it. I watched, uneasily, as freckles swam around on my thighs like tiny autonomous bumper cars. I dipped my hands into the sand over and over, observing how the granules clung to my skin like sticky magnets. I watched the murky blue expanse in front of me as it tilted almost imperceptibly towards me, the water threatening to swallow me whole.

As I disappeared further into the trip, my physical surroundings were drowned out by the gravitational swirl of my mind. To this day, I don’t have the words to describe where I went, except to say that I was trapped in abstract thought, struggling to remember where I was, only occasionally registering that I was me—on a beach, okay—before disappearing back into the inky wormhole.” 

Boy George, as Told in Take It Like a Man, on an Experience with LSD

“Everything was breathing and coming at me. I started shrinking and feeling scared. We had to leave… I was tripping so badly I couldn’t get myself to the toilet. Marilyn led me to the loo in hysterics and left me staring at the bowl. I caught my melting face in the mirror and started to freak. ‘I can’t go, I can’t’ [then] I pissed myself.” 

Niño del Mar Shares his First Time Taking Shrooms

“I had the first two amazing hours…However, after these 2 hours, there was a deep sense of disturbance subtly arising. I was in discovery mode with no real questioning or intention… I could say I was just on a spaceship to now-where and with no actual support to keep me grounded. Randomness and unbearable reality kicked in.

Things started to shift to a dark side. It was getting late. The swell was coming up and I was half-naked without shoes and unable to make the best rational decisions…I perceived myself as an alien. I was out of myself but in a human body. I didn’t quite understand why I had legs or arms. I was recreating in my head repeating the scenario over and over again. Like a broken record and just couldn’t get out. I saw other people coming and going but felt they were aliens too doing their thing. I fell on a matrix.” 

Skillful Navigation

Below you will find a list of practical actions and grounded philosophical stances that can be applied in response to difficult psychedelic experiences. Each of these can be used immediately by anyone wanting to mitigate a bad trip. And, also valuable for anyone on a spiritual or psychedelic journey.

Make Space for the Experience

A challenging psychedelic experience can be an important moment in one’s life that deserves time and space to play itself out. Be willing to change or cancel plans according to the needs of the experience. It’s okay to show up late, leave early, or miss an event entirely if that’s what feels needed.  

Hold an Intention of Growth

This will fundamentally change what it means to have a difficult time. Even the slightest orientation towards growth can transform any experience into a valuable one. 

“We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”

Carlos Castaneda

Get Out of the Way

Everything is as it should be, don’t get in the way. Allow whatever is happening inside of yourself to exist without suppression. Let the experience take you. Unless you’re in physical danger, there’s no need to really “do” anything at all. If you’re shaking, just let yourself shake. If you’re crying, let yourself cry.

Seek Peer Support

Having a pre-arranged trip sitter is invaluable, but sometimes you may benefit from more impromptu assistance, so reach out to an understanding friend and ask them to sit with you. Being around people who are grounded and calm helps us to become the same. Even just saying, “Hey, things are getting weird. Can you sit with me for a while?” would suffice. No need to try and articulate every detail of your experience immediately. If nobody is available, there are also online peer support resources such as

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Move Your Body, Move the Energy

Turn a bad trip into a boogie! Dance, wiggle, shake, squirm, stretch, jump, walk, do calisthenics, anything to get your body moving. Difficult emotions are held somatically within the nervous system so getting it moving will allow these emotions to flow through you instead of getting stagnant and creating further tension. Even subtly rocking back and forth can help to process those challenging feelings if breaking into full-on dance feels like too much.

Make it Bigger

Take whatever is already happening naturally and accentuate it. The body holds a kind of wisdom that often guides us towards what we need. Help it out by making its actions bigger. If the legs are shaking, shake them more. If you notice yourself taking big sighing breaths, sigh louder.   

“Anything that happens to me today is in my best interest and an opportunity to learn and grow”

Joshua Medcalf

Name the Feelings

Feeling anxious? Say, “There is anxiety”. Fearful? Say, “There is fear”. Labeling what we feel helps create a spacious perspective of the feeling itself. If you want to call it a bad trip, go for it. If you can switch the language to say, “This is hard right now,” you may be able to better recognize that this will pass.

Invite it All In

Carl Jung famously said, “What you resist not only persists, but it will grow in size.” Cultivating a practice of invitation and acceptance towards uncomfortable thoughts, emotions, and sensations keeps them all at a manageable level. 

This poem, “The Guest House,” by everyone’s favorite Sufi mystic, describes the practice beautifully…

“This being Human is a guest house, each morning a new arrival. 

A joy, a depression, a meanness. 

Some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. 

Welcome and entertain them all! 

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows who violently sweeps your house empty of its furniture. 

Still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. 

Be grateful for whatever comes, for each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”

– Rumi

Use Breath

Wherever you are, whatever is happening, the breath is always with you. This is one of the most deceptively simple and effective techniques to manage difficult emotions, there is no need for complicated techniques here. Simply bring your full attention to the breath and begin intentionally making it slower and deeper.

For added effect, place one hand on the belly and breathe deeply enough to make that hand rise and fall while allowing yourself to believe that there is nothing else to do but breathe. 

Change Your Setting

It doesn’t have to be anything major. Simply moving from the bedroom to the living room can make a big difference to your set and setting. Just don’t drive! 

Cut the Fancy Stimulus

Psychedelics can make our internal experience so stimulating that any additional external stimulus easily becomes overwhelming. Move away from loud noise, turn down the lights, put down the electronics, find a quiet space, and opt for simple, natural stimulus instead.  

Make Some Art

Draw, paint, write, color, sing, drum on something, play an instrument, arrange rocks into mandalas. This can be especially helpful in the later stages of the experience or on the comedown. It doesn’t matter if you’re good or have never done it before in your life. It’s about the process, not the product. 

Remember Impermanence

It’s common to forget that all is transient, especially when tripping. This is a temporary experience produced by a substance with a known effect curve. You will come down, eventually.

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The Silver Lining of Bad Trips 

A recent study suggests that bad psychedelic trips have an upside: people who have experienced negative trips transform the narrative into valuable experiences after. The study performed in-depth interviews with 50 Norwegian individuals who used psychedelics and found that:

“Almost all participants had frightening experiences when using psychedelics, and many described these as bad trips. The key feature of a bad trip was a feeling of losing oneself or going crazy, or ego dissolution. Most users said that these experiences could be avoided by following certain rules, based on tacit knowledge in the subcultures of users…Some also rejected the validity of the term bad trip altogether, arguing that such experiences reflected the lack of such competence. 

Finally, and most importantly, most participants argued that unpleasant experiences during bad trips had been beneficial and had sometimes given them deep existential and life-altering insights.”

In a nutshell, challenging trips are definitely scary at the moment, but they’re temporary and—most importantly—can be turned around into a positive experience. 

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Ketamine is becoming a promising treatment for various mental health conditions. Read to learn how individuals can use ketamine treatment for eating disorders.

Ketamine Resources, Studies, and Trusted Information
Curious to learn more about ketamine? This guide includes comprehensive ketamine resources containing books, studies and more.

Ketamine Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
Our ultimate guide to ketamine has everything you need to know about this “dissociative anesthetic” and how it is being studied for depression treatment.

Ketamine for Depression: A Mental Health Breakthrough
While antidepressants work for some, many others find no relief. Read to learn about the therapeutic uses of ketamine for depression.

Ketamine for Addiction: Treatments Offering Hope
New treatments are offering hope to individuals suffering from addiction diseases. Read to learn how ketamine for addiction is providing breakthrough results.

Microdosing Ketamine & Common Dosages Explained
Microdosing, though imperceivable, is showing to have many health benefits–here is everything you want to know about microdosing ketamine.

How to Ease a Ketamine Comedown
Knowing what to expect when you come down from ketamine can help integrate the experience to gain as much value as possible.

How to Store Ketamine: Best Practices
Learn the best ways how to store ketamine, including the proper temperature and conditions to maximize how long ketamine lasts when stored.

How To Buy Ketamine: Is There Legal Ketamine Online?
Learn exactly where it’s legal to buy ketamine, and if it’s possible to purchase legal ketamine on the internet.

How Long Does Ketamine Stay in Your System?
How long does ketamine stay in your system? Are there lasting effects on your body? Read to discover the answers!

How Ketamine is Made: Everything You Need to Know
Ever wonder how to make Ketamine? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about the procedures of how Ketamine is made.

Colorado on Ketamine: First Responders Waiver Programs
Fallout continues after Elijah McClain. Despite opposing recommendations from some city council, Colorado State Health panel recommends the continued use of ketamine by medics for those demonstrating “excited delirium” or “extreme agitation”.

Types of Ketamine: Learn the Differences & Uses for Each
Learn about the different types of ketamine and what they are used for—and what type might be right for you. Read now to find out!

Kitty Flipping: When Ketamine and Molly Meet
What is it, what does it feel like, and how long does it last? Read to explore the mechanics of kitty flipping.

MDMA & Ecstasy Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
Our ultimate guide to MDMA has everything you want to know about Ecstasy from how it was developed in 1912 to why it’s being studied today.

How To Get the Most out of Taking MDMA as a Couple
Taking MDMA as a couple can lead to exciting experiences. Read here to learn how to get the most of of this love drug in your relationship.

Common MDMA Dosage & Microdosing Explained
Microdosing, though imperceivable, is showing to have many health benefits–here is everything you want to know about microdosing MDMA.

Having Sex on MDMA: What You Need to Know
MDMA is known as the love drug… Read our guide to learn all about sex on MDMA and why it is beginning to makes its way into couple’s therapy.

How MDMA is Made: Common Procedures Explained
Ever wonder how to make MDMA? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about the procedures of how MDMA is made.

Hippie Flipping: When Shrooms and Molly Meet
What is it, what does it feel like, and how long does it last? Explore the mechanics of hippie flipping and how to safely experiment.

How Cocaine is Made: Common Procedures Explained
Ever wonder how to make cocaine? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about the procedures of how cocaine is made.

A Christmas Sweater with Santa and Cocaine
This week, Walmart came under fire for a “Let it Snow” Christmas sweater depicting Santa with lines of cocaine. Columbia is not merry about it.

Ultimate Cocaine Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
This guide covers what you need to know about Cocaine, including common effects and uses, legality, safety precautions and top trends today.

NEWS: An FDA-Approved Cocaine Nasal Spray
The FDA approved a cocaine nasal spray called Numbrino, which has raised suspicions that the pharmaceutical company, Lannett Company Inc., paid off the FDA..

The Ultimate Guide to Cannabis Bioavailability
What is bioavailability and how can it affect the overall efficacy of a psychedelic substance? Read to learn more.

Cannabis Research Explains Sociability Behaviors
New research by Dr. Giovanni Marsicano shows social behavioral changes occur as a result of less energy available to the neurons. Read here to learn more.

The Cannabis Shaman
If recreational and medical use of marijuana is becoming accepted, can the spiritual use as well? Experiential journalist Rak Razam interviews Hamilton Souther, founder of the 420 Cannabis Shamanism movement…

Cannabis Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
Our ultimate guide to Cannabis has everything you want to know about this popular substances that has psychedelic properties.

Cannabis and Ayahuasca: Mixing Entheogenic Plants
Cannabis and Ayahuasca: most people believe they shouldn’t be mixed. Read this personal experience peppered with thoughts from a procannabis Peruvian Shaman.

CBD-Rich Cannabis Versus Single-Molecule CBD
A ground-breaking study has documented the superior therapeutic properties of whole plant Cannabis extract as compared to synthetic cannabidiol (CBD), challenging the medical-industrial complex’s notion that “crude” botanical preparations are less effective than single-molecule compounds.

Cannabis Has Always Been a Medicine
Modern science has already confirmed the efficacy of cannabis for most uses described in the ancient medical texts, but prohibitionists still claim that medical cannabis is “just a ruse.”

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