If you’re worried about having a bad trip when you try psychedelics for the first time, there are a few things to consider before deciding whether or not to try them.
Why do bad trips happen?
First, bad experiences are very rare for (1) well-prepared people who do not have (2) preexisting psychological concerns that could be triggered by intense situations, when the psychedelics are taken in a (3) supportive environment with an (4) experienced guide. There’s a lot in this statement, so let me unpack it:
- Being well prepared means understanding what to expect during your trip and understanding how to deal with issues that may arise. Many people know that psychedelics can cause you to see vivid, colorful, geometric visuals, but it is important to know that your way of thinking will be very different. You may encounter what appears to be spirits, angels, or even God, and you may very well feel like you’re dying, dead, or about to die. Reading or hearing about other people’s experiences, both good and bad, before you take a particular substance can really help prepare you for what to expect and make you decision easier and more informed.
- Some preexisting psychological concerns are things such as getting very anxious in a high-pressure situation, known childhood trauma, or feeling particularly emotionally volatile lately. Psychedelics have a lot of therapeutic power to help you with anxiety and depression in the right situation, but they can also make things much, much worse if taken in the wrong setting.
- A supportive environment means somewhere you feel safe, secure, and relaxed.
- An experienced guide is a person who has done psychedelics themselves and, ideally, has helped guide other people through psychedelics. Ideally, this person should not take psychedelics during your trip so that they are available to help you if you need it. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take psychedelics with friends, but that effectively introduces a lot of variables to the situation, which could trigger a negative experience. If you don’t have the option of taking psychedelics with a sober guide, talk to someone about your plans. This person should be someone you feel safe with and, ideally, who has had psychedelic experiences before or is at least non-judgmental of them. Let this person know what you plan to do and when, so that if the situation does go south, you can call or text them to come get you.
These are a lot of parameters, and even if you can’t make this ideal situation happen, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have a bad trip. These parameters are just precautions to take to reduce the chances.
Steps to take if you’re worried about having a bad trip
- Don’t take the psychedelic that is worrying you. Having anxiety leading into the experience can provoke a bad trip, because your state of mind is one of concern, apprehension, and worry rather than peace, relaxation, and excitement. Psychedelics tend to magnify your personality traits and state of mind, so you don’t want magnified anxiety. It’s not that you should never take the psychedelic, but you should definitely wait until you’re past the concern about it and excited to take it. You’ll know when the time is right, and it’s probably not now if you’re worried about it.
- Write down what’s causing you to be worried about having a bad trip so that you can get a concrete understanding of the source of the anxiety. Your anxiety could be coming from some of the myths of psychedelics, which are often considered facts by most people (even medical professionals). There are a lot of misconceptions about psychedelics that are, in many cases, completely unfounded. For example, I have never known an LSD user who has had a flashback, yet many people I’ve met who do not use LSD are terrified of the idea of flashbacks.
- If your friends are trying to get you to take a psychedelic, understand that they have probably had really powerful, beautiful, transformative experiences with it which they want to share with you. They are trying to do something good about it, but if they’re pressuring you, they’re definitely going about it in the wrong way. Tell them that you really appreciate it, but you know you aren’t ready. Remain firm in your decision. If they continue to pressure you, know that these might not be the right friends for you right now nor the right friends to take psychedelics with if you do decide to take them.
When considering whether or not to do psychedelics, always remember that this is YOUR decision. It is a very personal decision, and only you can decide. Always do thorough research on the drugs you’re thinking about taking, and never, ever rely on someone else to do your research for you, even if you trust them immensely. If you’re worried about having a bad trip, know that it’s probably not the right time to try psychedelics.