If you’re experienced with psychedelics and have never had a bad trip before now, you’re bound to be entirely confused. In this post, I hope to clear up feelings of confusion and defeat while providing some next steps.
This is normal. You are normal.
No matter how much experience you have, anyone can have a difficult, scary, or nerve-racking experience with psychedelics. Even if you’ve never had a bad trip before, it doesn’t mean that you’re immune to having a troublesome experience. There aren’t two clean-cut categories of “people who have bad trips” and “people who don’t.” Anyone is capable of having a good trip, and anyone is capable of having a difficult trip.
There are so many factors that go into making a trip smooth vs. rocky, and it’s nearly impossible to consider them all before beginning an experience. Mindset and environment are the two of the biggest factors, but just think of all the complexities of the mind! At the most basic level, something within you or around you has likely changed between this psychedelic experience and the one before it. The following sections broadly address some of things that might’ve changed and offer suggestions for how to proceed.
Why You’ve Never had a Bad Trip Before Now: Changes in Your Mental & Emotional State
Life is changing constantly: we get new jobs, leave and start relationships, move, get new pets, get happier, get depressed, struggle financially, gain and lose loved ones, become dissatisfied, change our diets, gain and lose weight, etc. Often times, it’s easiest to just go through the motions of life without truly acknowledging how these changes make us feel, simply because we have to. We have responsibilities, goals, pressure to perform, and people relying on us. When we go on allowing ourselves to be disconnected from our true feelings – or not even allowing them to come up – we can easily become very disconnected from our truest emotional beings. When we take psychedelics, we’re connecting with this truest being. From this standpoint, it’s easy to see why changes in your life may impact a trip, even causing you to have a difficult experience.
You may have years of experience tripping – maybe you’ve tripped over 100 times or maybe you’ve been tripping for 20 years – so it’s understandable to feel extremely confused if you’ve never had a bad trip before now. There are many potential causes, but one of the easiest places to start is with concrete changes that have occurred in your life.
For example, say you’ve had wonderful experiences with psychedelics over the past 10 years, but just a month ago, you had your first bad trip. When you take a look at what’s been going on in your life, you immediately recognize that your mother has been sick in the past few months and her health is iffy. While you may not feel like this is bothering you on the surface – you trust in medicine and the doctors that are helping her – this experience of uncertainty around your mother’s future may have awaken a primal fear in your subconscious. When you took acid, this fear came out in a way that you hadn’t allowed it to before and voila: your first bad trip after 10 years of good ones.
This is simply an example, but I created it to illustrate that even the things we don’t acknowledge as bothering us on the surface may be silently wreaking havoc emotionally. It’s worth evaluating things to see if changes in your life, mental state, or emotional state may have contributed to your difficult experience. Below are some questions to ask yourself that can help you identify possible issues.
Between this trip and the more positive one before it:
- Have you had a major life change or event? How do you truly feel about it?
- Have you ended a relationship? Are you still heartbroken or working to adjust to single life (even if you’re the one who ended it)?
- Have you started a new relationship? Do you genuinely feel happy with this new person? Do you feel that you can trust them?
- Have you changed jobs, moved, graduated, given something up, or started something new? How do you feel about those changes?
- Have you stopped, started, or changed your habits of using other substances (nicotine, alcohol, pot, prescriptions, etc.)?
- Are you going through a difficult emotional time? Have you been having more misunderstandings or disagreements lately? Are you feeling dissatisfied, confused, or lost with your life? Have you been lonely?
- Have you lost something that used to make you feel safe and comfortable?
Why You’ve Never had a Bad Trip Before Now: Different Surroundings
Somewhat similarly to a change in your emotional or mental state, having new physical surroundings or reacting differently to them can produce a difficult experience, even if you’ve never had a bad trip before. For example, if you’re experienced with tripping at home, at parks, or at a friends house, but you had a scary time tripping at a concert for the first time, it may simply have been the change in environment. The environment and people around you when you trip can have an enormous impact on how things go. If you trip with new people, in a new apartment, house, or venue, it’s entirely possible to have a new type of experience – positive or difficult.
Why You’ve Never had a Bad Trip Before Now: Overdoing It
If you’re very, very experienced with psychedelics, it’s worth asking yourself if you’re too experienced. While we are all free to take psychedelics exactly as we please, it’s important to recognize that these powerful substances must be respected. When you take psychedelics very frequently, it’s possible to fall into a habit of over-use or mis-use that is unhealthy or self-destructive. (I have an entire post about this subject for more clarity.)
I’m a firm believer in the idea that these substances are teachers of a certain sort. When you take them too many times without the proper respect, integration, or understanding, it’s possible to get a “slap on the wrist” from the “teacher.” This is the substance’s way of saying that you need to tone it down and reevaluate your use of psychedelics and the experiences you’ve had with them. If you’ve never had a bad trip before, it can be difficult to accept this, but there’s something to it.
Below are some questions that may help you understand if you’ve been overdoing it or if it may be time to take a break:
- Do you use psychedelics very frequently or on a “schedule” (i.e. “I take acid every two weeks.”)?
- Do spend time contemplating the experience, allowing it to change your life, or do you go about things exactly as you did before?
- Has tripping become “just something you do” or lost its specialness?
- Do you have a lot of lack of understanding around things that have happened in past trips?
- Have psychedelics become an escape from normal life? Have they become a way to make life worth living?
- Do you find yourself constantly wanting to trip?
Why You’ve Never had a Bad Trip Before Now: Upping Dosage
For many who have experimented thoroughly with psychedelics or other substances, upping dosage is a routine choice. Many are after new heights of experience, greater levels of intensity, and out-smarting their own tolerances. While some people can handle a continuously upped dose of psychedelics, reaching epic doses, others have more sensitive responses to high doses. This can be caused by a number of things, including the individual’s emotional state, mindset, and brain chemistry. For some people, it’s just not time to take a large dose – there are other things that must be worked out first.
If you had never had a bad trip before taking a larger dose, it’s likely that the dosage had something to do with the difficulty of your experience. I definitely don’t mean that the substance itself caused the bad trip. Rather, that dosage was your personal limit or breaking point at which you have emotional work to do before moving forward. One way to look at it is mining for precious stones. If miners are working in a deep mine, at some point, they may reach an area that must be blasted out with dynamite before they can move further. One this tough spot is worked through, they can move forward and continue to mine.
Take a Positive Perspective
In any case, I urge you to look at this experience – while it may have been scary, nerve-racking, or difficult – as a positive one. It’s presented you with issues that were once buried within you. Now you have a chance to work through them. This is one of the beautiful traits of psychedelics: they don’t hesitate to show you your weaknesses. The trip may have brought out anxiety, fear of death, fear of being alone, concerns that you’re crazy, etc., showing you a new area of yourself to work on. If this was your experience, here are a few questions you can ask yourself:
- What motivated me to continue upping dosage? Does that motive seem ultimately beneficial to me, or is it self-destructive?
- What did this trip bring out that I have never experienced before? Does this relate at all to experiences from my past?
- Did this trip seem to point out any areas for improvement in my life? Any ways I’ve been astray?
- Did this trip seem to call me to make changes in my life?
- What are a few things I need to work on emotionally, mentally, or physically? What changes do I need to make?
Why You’ve Never had a Bad Trip Before Now: Tripping for the Wrong Reasons
Taking psychedelics is a highly personal experience, and I would never suggest that there is one right or wrong reason to trip. However, there may be right and wrong reasons for you personally to trip, and you are in charge of discovering what those reasons are. Generally, I have found that simply “looking for thrills” or trying to “escape normal life” are reasons that will ultimately lead to a difficult experience. They show a lack of respect for the substances themselves.
If you’ve never had a bad trip before now, it’s possible that, this time, you tripped for a different reason. That reason may have been the wrong reason for you. Before, you may have tripped because you were looking to see beauty and connect spiritually. This time, you may have tripped because you felt lonely or bored with life. These changes can come from changes in our emotional state, mental state, and position in life, and they’re often hard to perceive. It’s very easy to tell yourself that you’re tripping for one reason, when deep down, you’re doing it for another reason entirely.
Being Honest with Yourself
In this situation, it’s extremely important to be honest with yourself. While it can be wise to guard your deepest feelings from others, it’s not wise to hide them from yourself. Often, this comes from a desire to avoid facing the hard truth of how you feel. It can seem easier to simply go on doing what you’re doing, but living a lie will ultimately wreak havoc on your entire life. When you’re honest with yourself, you’ll feel much more at peace. It’s worth asking yourself the following questions:
- What’s the reason I told myself going into the trip? Looking back, does it seem like I was really doing it for a different reason?
- What prompted me to trip this time? Was it different than what usually prompts me?
- How emotionally attached to tripping did I feel? If someone had told me, “Sorry, you can’t trip today,” right before I was about to dose, how would I have felt?
- What was going on in my life around the time I made the decision to trip this time? What kind of state was I in emotionally?
Why You’ve Never had a Bad Trip Before Now: Reaching a New Plateau
Having a difficult trip may signal that you’ve reached a new plateau in your life and personal development. (This is similar to what I wrote around upping dosage.) Before now, you may not have been ready to deal with deeply buried issues from your past. Before now, you may not have been able to handle all that a trip could show you. I am a firm believer in the idea that we get the trips we need, and we only get what we are ready for. I don’t believe that we are given trips we can’t handle.
If you’ve never had a bad trip before now, it might be an indication that you’re ready to deal with new things. Life isn’t meant to be sunshine and rainbows all the time. Often, it’s the difficult things that really make us grow. I urge you to look at this experience through a positive lens, trying to identify what the trip was trying to teach you. While things may be tough for a little while, you’ll ultimately come out a better, stronger, wiser person.
The Healing Journey
If this experience has left you struggling with lingering repercussions, you’re in the right place. This site is dedicated to helping people heal from difficult psychedelic trips, something that I struggled with for years. If you’re not sure where to begin, I would suggest taking a look at the First Steps post and then the Anxiety page. It’s set up to be a starting point with easy access to many different topics.