What To Do When You Have A Bad Trip

Last edited :
Published :
Categories : BlogDrug EducationPsychedelicsSmoking & Consuming Cannabis

Bad Trip

Statistically, psychedelics are extremely safe. Knowing how to avoid a bad trip and knowing what to do when things do go wrong should be part of every psychonauts repertoire. Here are a few easy things to remember to keep safe.

On the cover of that famous guide for galactic hitchhikers, one may read, in big friendly letters, "Don't Panic!". And, there is the often recited cliché, "There's nothing to be fear, but fear itself." Both are certainly true, but they can seem pithy when your psychedelic of choice has taken a wrong turn on you. Anxiety or feelings of general distress may arise. Your psyche may seem to balance the edge of the abyss or your worst fears may seem to be coming true.

Psychedelics may cause a bad trip. Know what to do when it happens!

Bad trips are a real thing. The mind and imagination are powerful things when left au natural and unadulterated. Supercharged on psychedelics, some of them can give you a big scare. Psychotic breaks are also possible.

So just what is a bad trip?

Timothy Leary LSD

Firstly there is no denying that bad trips occur. Although they are not anywhere near as prolific as the hysterical anti-drug media may have you believe. In fact, Dr Timothy Leary claimed that bad LSD trips were so rare as to be considered inconsequential. As with cannabis and mushrooms, the reports of bad trips are limited and their prolific occurrence is more to do with anti-drug hysteria than actual objective reporting.

Clinically a bad trip is considered to be a drug-induced temporary psychosis or psychedelic crisis. This condition can be caused by a number of compounds. For the sake of this article, we will exclusively look at psychedelics or hallucinogens that can cause a bad trip: Cannabis, magic mushrooms (psilocybin) and LSD.

If you are tripping responsibly it is safe to assume that there is someone there who is not under the influence. You have considered your set and setting and you are in a safe place. Inexperience with the compound of choice is often a factor with bad experiences but not exclusively so. Anybody taking mind-altering drugs can be susceptible, no matter how experienced.

There is no chemical reason for a bad trip. They are purely psychological manifestations, just like good trips are. Psychedelics are emotional amplifiers and can be disassociative. The thoughts the person has prior to and during the experience play a large part in how the altered state of mind is experienced.

"Bad trip" is a term that can cover a host of conditions. There can be mild anxiety and paranoia or full blown distressing hallucinations. Disassociation from reality can make some people feel that they are going insane or experience utter terror. Reactions can differ from individual to individual and from drug to drug.


Bad Trip On Weed

What is it: As psychoactive hallucinogens, magic mushrooms and LSD are far more powerful than cannabis. They are also active considerably longer per dose compared to cannabis. However, cannabis can still cause psychic distress in some individuals. Especially with contemporary strains being so high in THC content, sometimes up to 30%.

A bad trip on weed may include amplified negative feelings or anxiety, paranoia or panic attacks. Symptoms may include racing heart, hot and cold sweats, tingling skin and difficulty communicating. Occasionally a very intense high can give the feeling of not being connected to the world. Most people enjoy this sensation where others can panic, as they feel they are losing control and don't know how to behave.

How to avoid it: Set and setting always play an important role when discussing drug use. Cannabis is no different. A friendly place with friendly people will unlikely generate scenarios that could induce a bad cannabis trip. Novices should take it easy with contemporary cannabis. Take small hits to begin with, just to test the waters. Even experienced aficionados are reporting anxiety like side-effects from potent modern weed. General health must always be a consideration. Get enough sleep, eat well and drink plenty of water. Missing any of the basics can set the scene for a negative reaction. Especially lack of sleep and hunger.

What to do: Keep calm. Drink water and breathe consistently. Refrain from breathing too deeply as hypoventilation can trigger anxiety just as effectively as hyperventilation. If you are with friends you should be in safe hands. Talk it through. You might find benefit in expressing your state of mind and turn a negative into a positive. Caring vibes from people you know will help you feel safe. Music or movies you know and love are touchstones. Play or watch your favourites as calming reminders of the ordinary.

There is some good news for when a cannabis session goes wrong. By the nature of the compounds involved, it will all be over in 2 - 4 hours and you will undoubtedly go into a nice deep sleep afterwards.


Bad Trip On Magic Mushrooms

What is it: Bad trips on magic mushrooms occur so infrequently that a bad trip is statistically hard to define. The nature of the experience itself is so intrinsically eschatologically satisfying that even novices report deep states of calm connectedness.

Typically set, setting and state of mind are also important factors when taking psilocybin. Feelings of depression or a negative mind frame may be amplified by psilocybin, causing distress. A higher than expected potency can lead to discomfort, but the nature of the compound does not promote panic or anxiety persé. However, intense and frightening hallucinations can occur, especially if tripping when already depressed or suffering anxiety. As with other psychedelics, there is always the chance that latent psychotic disorders may be triggered by the intensity of the hallucinogenic experience.

The worst trip would be a trip to the hospital with an acute case of poisoning. Misidentification can put more people in the hospital than bad trips. Many truly poisonous mushrooms resemble the wide variety of magic mushrooms that grow in the wild. Unless you are very sure please refrain from picking wild mushrooms, especially when easy-to-use grow kits of good quality mushrooms are prolific.

Refrain From Picking Wild Mushrooms

How to avoid it: Be absolutely, positively sure of what you are eating. Incorrect identification can put you in the emergency room. Trust your source about strengths and dosage, or take half then the other half an hour later after you can feel how strong they actually are. Be of a good frame of mind and be sure that you feel safe and empowered where you are. Looking after the general health side of things is a simple caution. Food, water and sleep make sure the brain and body function as they should.

What to do: The tried and true methods frequently used to calm stress-and-anxiety-prone people work well. Talk gently and calmly. In an agitated hallucinatory state, words can be lost, but the calming tone will help them come down. Help them breathe evenly and to slow their heart rate. Remain calm and quiet, your secure presence and gentle voice will get a positive response.


Bad Trip On LSD

What is it: Statistically, LSD is similar to psilocybin when considering bad trips. Less than 1 in 1000 LSD trips could be considered bad. Set, setting and mood - again - play an important part in the LSD psychedelic experience. Emotions are intensified substantially and people suffering anguish or depression should avoid LSD unless under clinical supervision. Feelings of despair, hopelessness and other negative emotions are amplified by LSD and are triggers for a bad trip. Paranoia or the belief that they are dying can result from the panic that arises due to the intensity of the experience.

There is never any guarantee about the strength of LSD, nor is there any guarantee that what you have purchased is actually LSD at all. There is the danger of ingesting an unknown concoction of drugs made to mimic LSD, which can have dangerously adverse effects. Misinformation about strength can also lead to unintentional overindulgence where total loss of control may occur. There can be irrational beliefs about capabilities or one may become convinced that self-harm is the solution to some imaginary problem.

Set & Setting

How to avoid it: Check and confirm your source. Make sure the LSD on hand is exactly that and not a mimic, and that it is reputably the strength as claimed. From the very beginning, when studying LSD, set and setting have played important roles in the appreciation of the experience. The father of LSD, Dr Albert Hofman, counselled that set and setting were of primary importance when planning an acid trip. So make sure your environment is as it should be prior to lift off.

What to do: As mentioned with psilocybin, use a calm voice and gentle actions. Encourage steady breathing. Accidental overindulgence with heavy hallucinations can mean the person is beyond understanding you or their environment. Direct physical restraint may be needed to stop them from hurting themselves or others. If there is a lack of response to calming or an escalation in negative behaviour, then a medical visit is in order. Medical professionals will be able to administer appropriate and effective care.


The term "Bad trip" could be considered poor nomenclature. There is the thought among mental health professionals that bad trips are related to important fundamental psychological matters; that the distressing information dredged up from the psyche concerns primary personal issues and inner conflicts that need healthy resolution. In these instances, suppressing or ignoring a bad trip are missed opportunities for personal healing and growth.

Perhaps the appropriate response for a bad trip is to rush the victim into emergency psychiatry or hustle them off to a shaman, where the psychotic mind frame could be put to cleansing effect. Guided by a therapist or shaman, the experience could have profound psychological and eschatological benefit.


Guest Writer

Written by: Guest Writer
Occasionally we have guest writers contribute to our blog here at Zamnesia. They come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, making their knowledge invaluable.

Find out about our writers

Related Products