If you or someone you know is going through a challenging psychedelic experience, you can employ this guidance to navigate the intricate and distressing emotions it might evoke.

Many individuals turn to recreational drugs like magic mushrooms, LSD, MDMA, cannabis, and ketamine in search of euphoria, excitement, and wonder. Users often describe heightened sociability, increased fascination with the world, and a stronger sense of connection to the universe and those around them while under the influence of certain drugs.

However, the emotional impact of recreational drug use is not always positive. Predicting the effects of a drug, especially psychedelics, can be challenging. Users may find themselves experiencing panic, depression, and paranoia during a drug high, commonly known as a ‘bad trip.’

Understanding ‘Bad Trips’

The term ‘trip’ refers to the altered state induced by drug use, commonly associated with psychedelic substances like mushrooms and LSD, often involving visual hallucinations or ‘visuals.’ While bad trips are more commonly associated with psychedelics, negative emotional side effects can accompany the use of various drugs.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a bad trip, consider the following strategies to minimize the unpleasantness of the experience.

Ensuring Physical Safety

Before offering harm reduction advice, ensure the person in question is physically safe. Impaired judgment and altered depth perception, common effects of drug use, increase the risk of accidents or injuries. Keep the individual away from high places, bodies of water, traffic, or other physical dangers.

Providing a Calm Environment

If the person experiencing a bad trip is not already in a safe environment, such as their home or a friend’s home, guide them to a peaceful and quiet place. Loud, public settings like festivals can intensify the discomfort associated with drug use. Avoid leaving the person alone, and consider seeking help from on-site volunteers or welfare tents at events.

Hydration and Communication

Offer water to the person experiencing a bad trip, encouraging slow sips to prevent nausea. Maintaining gentle hydration can aid in rehydration if vomiting occurs. Encourage open communication about feelings, whether you’re experiencing the bad trip yourself or assisting someone else. Sharing experiences can reduce distress and potentially help ease the emotional spiral.

Reminding of Temporariness

Reassure the person that all trips are temporary, emphasizing that the drug’s effects will wear off. The altered perception of time during a bad trip may lead to concerns that it will last indefinitely. Remind them that the intense feelings are transient and will eventually subside.

Avoiding Self-Medication

Resist the temptation to use additional drugs, such as cannabis or alcohol, assuming they will help calm the individual. Introducing more substances can be unpredictable, especially when mixed with drugs already in the system. Dispelling myths, benzodiazepines are not a guaranteed solution; their use should only occur under medical supervision.

Grounding Techniques and Breathing Exercises

If distress or panic arises, employ grounding techniques, such as the 54321 technique, engaging the five senses. Additionally, breathing exercises, like ‘box breathing’ or the 4-7-8 technique, can help regain composure during heightened anxiety.

Buddy System and Support

A person experiencing a bad trip should not be left alone, as the gentle presence of another person can alleviate fear. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s essential to communicate your feelings to a trusted friend. Implement a buddy system to ensure someone is always available for support.

Can a Bad Trip Be Avoided?

While it’s impossible to guarantee a positive drug experience, pre-planning can minimize the likelihood of a bad trip. Consider your emotional preparedness, support system, and environment before taking psychedelics or any drugs. If drugs are used, do so in a safe and controlled setting, preferably with trusted individuals.

Planning for a Positive Experience

Reflect on your mindset, choose a calm environment, avoid solo drug use, start with a low dose if you’re new to psychedelics, plan your activities, and ensure you have supplies on hand. Have a plan for emergencies, and know who to contact for support.

Support Services

In times of need or uncertainty regarding drug-related concerns, various helplines are available to provide support, guidance, and information. If you or someone you know is facing challenges related to drug use, consider reaching out to the following helplines:

Netherlands:

  1. Trimbos Institute Helpline:
    • Phone: 0900 1995 (Mon-Fri, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM)
  2. Jellinek Addiction Care:
    • Phone: 088 – 505 1220 (Mon-Fri, 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM)

Europe:

  1. Europe-wide Helpline – EU Action on Drugs:
    • Phone: 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11 (Available in many European countries)

United States:

  1. National Helpline (SAMHSA):
    • Phone: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (24/7)
  2. Crisis Text Line:
    • Text “HELLO” to 741741 (24/7)
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Helpline:
    • Phone: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (Mon-Fri, 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM)

United Kingdom:

  1. Frank – National Drug Helpline:
    • Phone: 0300 123 6600 (24/7)

Germany:

  1. Drug Helpline (Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung – BZgA):
    • Phone: 0221 89 20 31 (Mon-Fri, 10:00 AM – 10:00 PM)

France:

  1. SOS Suicide – France:
    • Phone: 01 45 39 40 00 (24/7)

Remember, these helplines are designed to offer assistance, information, and support. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger or experiencing a medical emergency, please call emergency services in your country without delay.