A scary drug experience on LSD, DMT, mushrooms, weed, and countless others can leave you with loads of anxiety that feels unmanageable, insurmountable, and crippling – believe me, I’ve been there. One option that many people choose is getting on prescription meds to lessen the anxiety they feel, and many people have success using these medications. What follows is my own personal opinion, based on my experiences and outlook on life. It is in no way meant to lessen the validity of using prescription meds or to throw shade at that course of action. Everyone has the right to decide what’s best for them.
My perspective on using meds & other substances to cope with bad trip anxiety
I had an extremely bad trip that left me with crippling anxiety. I had panic attacks. I could hardly fall asleep at night. I was constantly worried about something going wrong with my body or heart, even though I was in my 20s and very healthy. I lived in fear of having a panic attack, and I worked tirelessly to control and curtail them when they did happen.
About a month into dealing with this, I started to use my then-boyfriend’s nicotine vape (he was the one I had the bad trip with), and soon after that I got my own. I vaped constantly, plummeting into a nicotine addiction without even realizing what I was doing. Sure, I knew that if I continued to vape, I would eventually get addicted, but something in me didn’t care. I was in love with the feeling that nicotine gave me: it made me feel normal, secure, and that absolutely everything would be okay. Sadly, it didn’t even occur to me that I was using vaping as a coping mechanism for my anxiety. While I still had occasional panic attacks, things were much better for me while I was vaping.
None of that positivity, relief, or feeling of peace that nicotine gave me, I repeat, NONE of it was worth the pain that I had to go through once I decided to quit. The process of quitting nicotine was so painful and grueling for me, and it was filled with control, lack of sleep, acne breakouts, a feeling of absolutely zero satisfaction with anything, anger, frustration, and weight gain. To top it all off, the anxiety from my bad trip was still there even after I quit.
Instead of making the things better, turning to nicotine to help with my anxiety made the situation I was in so much worse, and it delayed my journey towards true recovery. Based on my own experience and my experience with various drugs in general, I believe that using another substance to help you is only a distraction or a crutch. It’s true that sometimes we need crutches to get us through a difficult situation initially, but relying on them longterm can stunt you. For any prescription medication or other substance you use to cope with anxiety, you’ll likely have a difficult time when you try to come off of it, and the anxiety will likely still be there.
It is important to remember that, when you get on and off these meds, you’re messing with your brain chemistry, which is extremely delicate especially in light of the intense trip you just went through. Truly, you mind is all you have, and you must be as careful with it as you can. Always treat your brain with respect.
What to do instead
So, if not meds, then what?
- Start to understand your anxiety. I have a post dedicated to some first steps for dealing with anxiety, which includes writing down everything you can remember about your bad trip as well as making a detailed log of every time you have anxiety, which will start to help you understand the patterns. Once you understand the triggers, you’ll start to be able to get more in control of it.
- Learn how to stop your panic attacks as soon as they start to happen. This can definitely be done, and I had to learn how to do it early on in order to even be able to function. Many people suggest focusing on your breathing, but that never worked for me (partially because my anxiety was mainly body-related, always worrying that I was about to die, so I would just end up getting additional anxiety about my breathing). The most effective thing I could do was distract myself with something that I actually liked doing which required focus and concentration. Panic attacks can start out of no where, but whether or not they continue is a matter of letting your mind spiral along with the anxiety – find something that takes your mind off of it so that it doesn’t spiral. Some things that have worked for me are: watching entertaining YouTube videos or funny SNL clips, scrolling through Pinterest, doing the dishes, and exercising.
- Do the real, difficult self-work. Once you’ve written your bad trip down, start trying to analyze what went wrong. What things about it were so scary for you? Psychedelics have a way of magnifying problems about ourselves that we’re ignoring, so try to look for these areas of improvement. For example, if the feeling of being out of control was the scariest part to you, it’s worth examining other areas of your life where you feel the need to always be in control and starting to experiment with letting go more and being okay with not being in control. Trust that this trip and this anxiety can lead you down a long road of self-discovery and self-improvement which will lead to a better you than ever before.
This is simply my perspective, and there are many different perspectives on this subject. In the end, getting on meds may be the right answer for you, and it is truly a decision only you can make. I hope this helped.