Simple Methods To Avoid Bad Trips

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Fellow psychonauts, readers, and anyone else interested in the psychedelic experience. This post is for harm-reduction!
If you heard about psychedelics you probably heard about horror trips (or bad trips). In our experience these trips usually do not occur if set, setting, and substance are right. However, you never know who you’re tripping with, and in some cases even that isn’t enough. On LSD, for instance, it can feel as if you’re tripping with the “primal person” inside a human being. This can get scary, especially if a person’s ego gets dissolved during the trip and someone loses touch with reality. To avoid these things from happening we came up with some (tested) methods to help preventing horror trips from happening.

First, let’s start of with some basics.

  1. Don’t take emotional ballast into the trip.
    If you are planning to trip you should know the questions that you are seeking answers for, and the challenges you wish to face in the trip (for example to solve emotional stress). Make sure you’re  currently not experiencing too much stress.
  2. Know your substance and dosage.
    Never take a substance if you’re uncertain what it is. Start with a low dosage. Psychedelics are not a party drug. It is not about getting as high as possible.

  3. Know the people you’re tripping with.
    Try to avoid situations in which strangers enter the trip-location. Plan this beforehand.
  4. Have a comfortable and safe location to trip.
    Now, let’s continue to the advanced tips. After experiencing numerous trips, some of them challenging ones, we thought that there must be a way to prevent bad trips. If you made sure that all the previous mentioned points are fulfilled you (or someone else) could still end up having a bad trip for whatever reason. Therefore, the following tips decrease the risk of a trip going bad.
  5. Place Reality-Reminders
    Once you found a good location and the right people prepare some sheets of paper. Write messages on the paper that remind you of your situation. For example the sheets could have messages like this:
    – Remember you took LSD, everything is okay.
    – You are not going insane, you are tripping
    – Everything is good
    – Do not call the police
    -Relax, just observe.
    You can be very creative with these reality-reminders. Just make sure that they are straight forward and not confusing. Otherwise you might trigger a bad trip. It’s a very subjective thing what freaks people out and what not. Also note that some people have troubles reading while tripping.
  6. Pick a personal Reality-Check-Item
    This might be helpful for some, while others don’t like the idea of having a certain item with them. We have tried this with yoga blankets and found it very helpful.
  7. Prepare beforehand!
    Before you trip prepare the location, make some food and clean up the location (if inside). Make sure that all important items are at places where they can be found easily. You want to avoid stress from being hungry and unable to find food.
  8. Have a (intimate) partner present
    This point is very subjective. Some people can trip alone, or with a group of strangers, some cannot. If you have never tripped before you should have a trip-sitter present. Your sitter should be sober, and familiar with the psychedelic experience. If you are more experienced, but still need a kind of primal-safety person, make sure you have a person around that you absolutely trust. In some cases, and this really depends on the person, people need a parter that they can be intimate with. Make sure that you have a suitable location for this. Sex can ease anxiety a lot when you’re tripping.
  9. Eat healthy before and after the trip.
    Tripping costs a lot of energy, physically and mentally. To reduce negative effects during and after the trip make sure that you’re taking good care of yourself.
  10. Make agreements with your co-trippers
    If you are prone to anxiety consider making agreements beforehand. It might sound stupid to agree to not kill another while you’re sober, but agreements like this might really help you if you end up in a terrifying thought-loop.
    Also, if you are with other people, remember that everyone has an individual experience. This means that some go much deeper in their trips, and also that some trip longer. All this is very normal for the psychedelic experience.
  11. Accept that a bad trip doesn’t have to be bad
    Some people never experience bad trips, some have them often, others never have a trip without a hint of horror. This is normal. In our experience “bad trips” are great teachers and understanding them reveals much to the person who experiences it. Knowing that you are tripping, and not going insane, is crucial to handling challenging trips. Bad trips are shocking and very scary, but it would be naive to turn away from the experience. If you are seeing, or otherwise experiencing, things that scare you – ask yourself: Why am I scared? Why am I seeing this? What does this mean? This is where the previously mentioned paper sheets might come in handy.
  12. Do not resist the psychedelic experience.
    Many bad trips seem to occur because the tripper is struggling to let go. If the experience is overwhelming, meditate. Curl up in a cozy place, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Remember this sentence: Step down, let go, you are in control.
  13. Exercise / Do Yoga
    In some cases solely focussing on breathing may catalyze paranoia. Instead try to get your mind free by focussing on your body instead. Yoga, Tai Chi, or any other meditative form of exercise can help controlling anxiety during a challenging trip.

    Thank you for reading! If you like this post make sure to check out our many other posts. For example, click HERE for a Thought-Transcript written on LSD
    Or, click HERE for an extensive academic essay about psychedelics, demystification, The Doors of Perception (Huxley), and The Matrix (Movie).
    Thanks to the Psychedelic Society of the Netherlands for mentioning Yoga, Tai Chi, and the different durations of individual trips.