Why are psychedelics bad?

To cut right to the chase – psychedelics are not “bad.”

What we refer to as “psychedelics” are a group plants, fungi, and molecules that, when smoked or ingested, result in a unique, powerful, and usually visionary experience. Nothing is inherently bad or wrong with them – a “magic” mushroom is no more bad than a portobello mushroom. A molecule of Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is no more “bad” than a molecule of H2O. Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is not inherently bad, just like Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is not inherently bad.

Since people who call psychedelics bad can’t possibly be talking about the psychedelic substances themselves, they must be referring to the mental experience produced by these substances and their subsequent effect on society. Usually, these claims are from people who have either not personally experienced a psychedelic (and, in that case, have no room to talk) or people who have had negative experiences with psychedelics. In the case of a negative experience, there is usually a need for greater understanding and processing of that experience – such was my case.

Truthfully, psychedelics can help people rediscover their own power, autonomy, spirituality, freedom, creativity, and connection to other beings. When this happens on a large scale, it causes things like universities, businesses, government agencies, and social institutions to change, which can be very unnerving and scary for those who want things to stay the way they are. Psychedelics have gotten an extremely bad rap over the years, and that is primarily coming straight from those who are interested in maintaining authority and status quo.

A site promoting the idea that “psychedelics are bad” is likely more interested in promoting a specific agenda than they are helping you make informed life decisions.

When can psychedelics be “bad”?

Below, I’ve outlined some instances in which use of psychedelics can be negative or damaging for a person. My only goal is to help you make more informed decisions.

The Potential for Abuse

Psychedelics can be abused, but that abuse looks much different than normal drugs. These substances are not addictive or habit-forming, and they are so powerful and consciousness-altering that it is very difficult to form a typical “drug habit” or abuse pattern with them.

From my perspective, “abuse” of psychedelics is any use of them outside of a sacred, respectful situation more than a few times each year. When psychedelics are used constantly, such as very few weeks or to have an exciting, crazy, trippy experiences, the user is teetering dangerously close to getting a slap in the face – a bad trip.

As a way to explain this, psychedelic advocate Terence McKenna imagined DMT, LSD, or mushrooms holding clipboards and checking off boxes each time a person comes to visit them: Have they been here before? Are they making any progress in their normal life? Why are they here? In the end, the trip you get is the trip you needed, but if you’re using psychedelic substances for the wrong reasons, it won’t be all too pleasant.

Psychedelics are not a joke, and they shouldn’t be something you do for fun. When respected and treated as sacred, psychedelics have the power to open up your mind tremendously, making you into a whole new, better person and revealing the divine spark that you may have forgotten was within you this whole time. This type of experience is so extreme that, if you feel the need to do them more than about every six months, something else is probably going on. On some level, you may be using these substances for fun or escapism, and (while it may work a few times), that isn’t wise longterm. With longterm abuse/over-use, people tend to experience bad trips, become totally whacked out, and/or feel like their brain is messed up.

Further un-grounding of already ungrounded users

Psychedelics are particularly helpful for bringing people who are overly left-brained back into balance with their more creative, intuitive side. This is not to say that the right-brain is better than analytical, logical left brain – both sides should be balanced and in harmony. An issue can arise when people who are overly right-brained become enthralled with exploring psychedelics, because doing so will cause these people to come even more into a right-brained state.

I am not at all saying that right-brained people should not do psychedelics – I happen to be more right-brained person, and I have had wonderful, powerful experiences with them. Considering that psychedelics will bring you more into your right brain, people who are already right-brained should be aware that psychedelics may bring you further into a state of imbalance. In this case, I would recommend doing psychedelics less frequently than someone who needs help rediscovering their right-brain and with more emphasis on a answering a specific question or gaining a understanding of something in your life or the world.

One of the best things a right-brained person can do is work on getting more grounded on earth, in the present moment, and in their bodies. The creativity and intuition that psychedelics can help with comes naturally for these people, so a lot of the “work” that needs to be done is on getting in touch with the left-brain. While right-brained people can have great success using psychedelics, at times these substances become a haven for avoiding the physical world, its stresses and issues, and the need for hard-line analysis and decision-making. When right-brained people use psychedelics in this way, it can cause them to become even more ungrounded.

For users with limited self-knowledge

I would never recommend that a person jump headfirst into using psychedelics without first really knowing themselves in a true, heartfelt way. The first thing that psychedelics will force you to do is to confront yourself: who you really are at your core, how you’re feeling, what you’re ignoring, how you’re making others feel, and so on. If you aren’t in the habit of confronting yourself on this brutally honest level, you may be in for a rude awakening – which could lead to having an intense, difficult, or scary trip which, in turn, could cause you to deem psychedelics as “bad.”

I would recommend working to know yourself as fully, openly, and honestly as you can before trying psychedelics for the first time. Doing so will lead to a more productive trip and diminished chances of having a “bad” experience.

“Knowing yourself” means so many things. It means that you’re honest with yourself about what you really want, how you really feel, who you want to be in life, where you’re at right now, and why you want the things you want. It means you understand where your emotions are coming from and you accept them, rather than trying to shove them back down or pretend they don’t exist. It means knowing your insecurities. It means knowing the pain you’ve experienced in your life as well as the pain you’ve caused others. It means seeing your compulsions, impulses, biases, fears, and judgments for what they really are. It means knowing and accepting where you came from. It means seeing yourself completely and loving yourself unconditionally. (And this is just the tip of the iceberg.)

When you don’t do your research

Jumping into psychedelics without fully understanding what you’re taking, how much to take, and what the experience could be like is a terrible mistake. No matter how much you trust a person and how good their intentions are, you should never allow yourself to be blindly led into an intense experience using a consciousness-altering substance without doing research YOURSELF. Researching the substance is your responsibility, and you must take that responsibility seriously because your whole mind and emotional structure hangs in the balance.

This is one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made with psychedelics. I was so trusting of my then-boyfriend’s experience and knowledge about psychedelics that I put myself completely in his hands, letting him choose my dosage, and trying substances simply because he suggested that it would be good. He never discouraged me from doing research; I simply thought that I didn’t need to. Wrong. The result is that, during the middle of intense, frightening trips, I had no idea that I was on a much higher dose than I needed nor that my experiences were totally normal to the substance I had taken. I allowed myself to be thrown to the wolves.

No matter how uncool it may make you seem, never accept an unknown substance from a random stranger, especially at a concert or festival. No matter how much you love your significant other, never blindly accept their psychedelic advice without doing your own research.

The bare minimum of what you should know before taking any substance:

  1. What kinds of experiences does this substance produce? (Read a good number of both positive and negative trip reports)
  2. Are there any side effects or after effects?
  3. How long will the experience last?
  4. How is the substance taken, what are the dosage levels, and how does dose affect the experience?
  5. Where does this substance come from, and how has it been used in the past? (If applicable, understand the shamanic traditions associated with the substances and how shamans guide people to use it)

For users who aren’t ready

Doing anything, even a good thing, before you’re ready is a bad idea – this is especially true of psychedelics. There is a time and place for everything, and you will know when it’s time to try psychedelics.

If you’re not quite ready to be rocketed into what feels like another dimension of consciousness, then taking psychedelics is probably a bad idea for now. If you feel like there’s a lot you’re still working on and that you’re not ready to completely change the rules of the game, it’s also probably not the right time. There is a difference between wanting to take psychedelics and knowing that now is the right time, so wait for that feeling of “rightness” to arise – you’ll be glad you did.

Hope this helps,