What to do if your friend is having a bad psychedelic trip

If you’re talking to or with a person who is having a bad trip on LSD, mushrooms, DMT, or any other psychedelic drug, you can use this post as a guide for how to help them.

The most important thing you can do is take this situation seriously. Even if you don’t know this person that well, the way you react can have an impact on their longterm mental health. Now is the time to put your feelings and wants aside and devote yourself entirely to helping this your friend feel safe, secure, and at peace. If you do this, you’ll likely gain a very loyal friend after the trip is over.  

Ground rules for helping with a bad trip

  • Never force this person to do anything, unless they’re about to put you or themselves in serious danger (i.e. if they start to try to run away from you, you may need to grab them).
  • Put your feeling aside for right now and don’t take anything that happens personally. Despite your best intentions, understand that something you did may have inadvertently triggered the bad part of the trip.
  • Never abandon them or leave them alone, even if they want you to. If they don’t want to be seen, turn away but keep an eye on them discretely.
  • Be patient, kind, supportive, and try to put aside any anxiety that you feel.
  • NEVER engage in sexual behavior with them during a bad trip, even after the bad part passes, even if they are your boyfriend or girlfriend. This person is in a delicate mental state, and you don’t want to do anything to confuse them or set them off more.

Things you should know if you’ve never taken psychedelics before yourself

  • Psychedelics like LSD, mushrooms, and DMT can’t kill a person, even in large doses. Your friend is likely scared of dying or feeling like they’re going to die (or even that they’re already dead), but this is just one of the most common effects of psychedelics. Don’t let it alarm you.
  • Depending on what they took and how much, it should wear off in a matter of hours – by tomorrow, they won’t be tripping anymore.
  • Below are some things your friend is probably experiencing. Even though they may sound strange to you, they are completely real to your friend right now, and you must respect that rather than trying to convince them otherwise.
    • Concern about being dead or dying
    • Feeling like they’ve seen god, spirits, angle, demons, or that these entities are in the room with them
    • A sense of oneness or connectedness to all living beings
    • A sense of knowing extremely profound or cosmic information that normal people should not know
    • The ability to communicate telepathically with other people, animals, plants, or inanimate objects
    • Vivid, changing geometric shapes, colors, and patterns like ornate fabric or rugs.
    • In the case of a bad trip: seemingly illogical yet extreme fear, terror, nervousness, and uncomfortableness.
  • Even if you had previously warned your friend not to do psychedelics, this is NOT the time (nor is it ever, really) to say, “I told you so.” If your friend asked for your opinion, told you they were going to do psychedelics, and is now coming to you when they’re having a bad trip, it means they really trust you. Be careful with their trust, and just show them some love right now.

Things you can do to help

  • Change the environment.
    • Suggest they lay down or walk around – anything that changes the state of their physical body
    • If the lights are off, turn on a lamp, or vice versa.
    • Try changing or turning on/off music. Try a musical selection that is calm, not particularly psychedelic, without vocals, and typical of the place that they grew up in (i.e. if your friend grew up in India, try Indian Ragas). Solo instruments are good. Here are some music options:
    • If you’re sober, ask them if they’d like to go somewhere else, such as back to their own home or outside.
  • Offer something familiar, such as a music album or song that you know they like. One of the most helpful things during my worst trip was when someone turned on The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, an album that I had heard so many times before. It allowed me to have something familiar to hold on to during the strange, scary experience. Other options could be any personal items they have with them, such as a purse. Try to get them interested in looking at something familiar.
  • Offer to wrap them in a thick blanket. Feeling slight weight on your body relaxes, and many people have found that a thick, heavy blanket makes them feel more secure and safe during a bad trip.
  • Let them know that you’re there for them and that you will keep their physical body safe.
  • If they are afraid of dying, remind them that even though they may feel as though they’re dying, this drug cannot actually kill their physical body.
  • Remind them of the drug they took (if you know). This is a normal reaction to that drug. It will soon pass.  
  • Offer to hold their hand or pat their back. Touch can either be very centering and relaxing or very alarming, so only do this if the person expresses consent – EVEN if this is your boyfriend, girlfriend, or someone you are used to touching.
  • Offer to have someone else come get them, such as a supportive sibling, girlfriend or boyfriend, or simply a different friend who they trust. Again, it’s possible that, even though you didn’t mean to, you triggered their experience to take a negative turn. Giving them the option to be with someone else may be the best thing you can do. During my bad trip, I became irrationally convinced that my then-boyfriend was going to kill me, and if I had been given this option, it would’ve been the best thing he could’ve done for me.
  • Offer something to look at that will redirect their attention, such as a flower or plant, a beautiful rug or piece of fabric, a mirror, a candle, or a piece of art.
  • If their eyes are open, suggest closing them or vice versa. This can quickly change the state of the trip.
  • Ask them if they would like to talk about what they’re seeing, feeling, or experiencing. If they do, just listen. You might ask questions to get them to tell you more, but don’t offer your opinions, judgments, or interpretations.
  • Offer them a sip of water or some simple finger foods. It is very important to stay hydrated during a trip, and drinking water can easily be forgotten about. Eating something like a banana, some nuts, grapes, blueberries, or crackers can help reset them. It’s likely that they’ll have no interest in food, so don’t force anything.

Above all, be calm and relaxed yourself. Focus on supporting them until this passes, which it will.