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How to Avoid a Bad Trip

A document with some good advice for first-time trippers.

I plan to post some mushroom trip reports here, but, since advice from others has helped me avoid any bad trips to date, I feel it's my "civic duty" to post my precautions for newbies.

I like to compare psychedelic drugs with rock climbing. In neither case should you attempt the adventure without proper preparation. You should thoroughly educate yourself about what you're doing, preferably from somebody experiened whom you trust. Make sure you are fully cognizant of the dangers involved. Treat the activity with the respect it deserves. Understand that things do not always go as planned, and be prepared for the worst. Just as you wouldn't try to go out and try to conquer Mt. Everest on your first rock climbing excursion, you wouldn't want to go out and eat 3 grams of mushrooms or drop a hit of acid (I choose to abastain from acid/LSD after my own research) as your first foray into psychedelics.

The only two pschedelics I've researched and experimented with thoroughly are marijuanna (pot) and Psilocybin mushrooms; these are the only two I personally can say are relatively safe, benign, and enjoyable. I recommend against LSD and Ecstacy, and in fact most other drugs, as too too strong or as having (known or believed) medical dangers, or has having inadequate research and/or history (although others who are willing to take greater risk than I (or who are foolhardy) will choose to take LSD. Other (naturally) occuring psyhchedelicssuch as peyote and DMT may be candidates for safe research/exploration (but are much stronger than pot and shrooms). I have read and heard often that while cigarettes and alchohol are known to cause hundreds of thousands of deaths per year in America alone, nobody has ever died from marijuanna usage. I also read recently that the required dosage to die of a Psiloscybin overdose would be 20 pounds of mushrooms - about 700 times the typical dosage - and you'd die of stomach distension long before you could ingest that much. (the greatest (and real) risk of taking mushrooms is ending up eating the wrong kind, the kind that causes total kidney failure and/or death. It is only their illegality that creates this danger, it is worthy to note, as otherwise we'd have safe, regulated supplies).

The key to safe, wise and fun recreational drug use is KNOWLEDGE. Research the drug the thoroughly before you try it. You should educate yourself to:

  • How to get the drug you think you're getting in the dosage you think you're getting (generally only get it from somebody you know and trust, and who has experience with the drug, preferably with the same batch as you'll be using).
  • How to make sure the drug has no other undesired drugs intermixed (for example, if you take enough Tylenol Cough Syrup to "trip" on its DXM, you're also getting so much Acetomenophine (sp?) as to ensure total kidney failure in about 16 hours.
  • What dosage you should take for your first time.
  • The effects of the drug (what you may expect to experience)
  • The side-effects of the drug (what else you may expect to experience, or what else might happen to you that you may not even know).
  • Any known dangers using the drug (besides the obvious danger of addiction and abuse inhernet to any drug).
  • Possibility of "bad trips" on the drug - how frequently to users of the drug panic due to its (potentially scary) effects
  • Any rumored dangers. The final word is not in on all drugs. It pays to educate yourself about what is believed to be potentially dangerous about the drug, even if it may not yet be proven (for instance, currently LSD is suspected of causing genetic damange, and Ecstacy (MDMA) is suspected of causing brain damage).

Only when you know all the potential dangers are you capable of making an intelligent, educated choice, as an adult, as to whether or not to risk the experiment (I naturally don't recommend the use of heavy psychedelics by minors). Also, knowing all the effects in advance, as well as potentials for bad trips, can help you to avoid having scary or unpleasant experience.

Only an intelligent, rational adult, with all the appropriate information, is qualified to make the personal decision as to what risks they personally are prepared to accept in order to use "mind-expanding" or psychedelic drugs recreationally and/or spiritually.

Somebody considering trying mushrooms or any other psychedelic drug for the first time should be mature, stable, and fairly confident in their ability to flow with the experience, to manage fear if it arises, and not panic and create a big mess. The way to avoid a bad trip is thoroughly educate yourself as to what effects to expect, and then plan what you'll do if you start to get scared. Whenever I start to panic on a trip, I say to myself "No, I don't want to do this. I want to feel good. Then I just focus my mind on relaxing and the fact that everything's okay, and I'm safe and sound, and I just need to relax, I know what drug I took, I know how much I took, I know it's safe, I know I'm going to come down, so why stress out? That usually does it, and boy does it feel good to put down a panic and feel relaxed and mellow. Another thing I sometimes say to myself, vehmently, is "I CHOSE to do this, and I'm going to brave it out!" almost like a parent scolding a child.

Again, the most valuable thing you can do to avoid a bad trip is to study the drug in depth before you use it; read as many trip reports as you can (or talk to as many people as possible who've tripped). That way, when something really wierd happens, instead of saying to yourself, "Holy shit, what is happening to me" and getting all worried, you say to yourself "Oh, okay, yeah I've heard about this, what a trip." The key is not to allow yourself to be taken by surprise. Recently I was tripping on a new drug (DXM), alone, and started to panic. As the drug was coming on stronger and stronger I asked myself a dumb question ("Should I be doing this?" - it was too late to be asking that). All of a sudden I felt like I was sinking deeper and deeper to I knew not where. I started to panic.

I quickly regained control of my mind and brought it back to tranquility (by saying to myself the things I recommend above). That felt so incredible I grabbed my pen and wrote enthusiastically in my notebook "Relaxation is the gateway!". Tripping more than anything else has taught me that relaxation is the key to solving any distressing problem. Later on in the trip my mind was really exaggerating things. I was writing in my notebook all sorts of interesting or heavy things that came to mind. Suddenly it occurred to me that if I died my writings would be interpreted as a suicide note. From this my mind somehow jumped to "Maybe I am dying, maybe this is a suicide note." I started freaking out again. I started thinking about calling up a friend or a relative and confessing I'd taken a drug and I was scared. Then I thought of the look on their faces and the ensuing consequences and that brought me back to reality. Before doing anything on a bad trip, you might think to yourself "How will this look tomorrow, when it's all over." That should snap you back to reality. This goes for any interaction with non-trippers you may be considering. For instance, on the above trip, I got it into my mind that I'd seriously wronged a co-worker of mine. I was tempted to pick up the phone right then and there and call and apologize, even though it was late in the evening. Then I said to myself "No, I'm not going to do anything stupid while under the influence of a drug." (The next day I could see that I was correct in that I'd been unfair to this co-worker, but it was not as serious as it had seemed a the time, and was of course very glad I had not made the call). Later, I almost went looking for one of my neighbors to explain to them that I'd discovered the meaning of life. Thinking about the consequences the next day of what you're considering can often provide a necessary perspective. But the biggest key of all, once again, is knowing what effects to expect. This particular drug had dissociative effects. There was one point where I looked down and my arm and leg did not appear to be part of me. They looked foreign. If I had not read in advance about this, I probably would have thought for sure that I was dying. This drug in heavier doses also is said to make you feel like your heart has stopped beating (you can no longer hear or feel it). Imagine having that happen to you if you weren't expecting it!

Make sure you're tripping ideally with others who are more experienced and whom you trust. Also, take a smaller dose than them so you know you're "safer" than them. If you're not tripping with more experienced users, you should still try to trip with a trusted friend. Another option is to trip by yourself, but have a sober friend who knows what you're up to stay with you in case you get into rough waters. Unless you're really brave, I don't recommend tripping alone for you first time.

Make sure you have a safe sanctuary you can retreat to if you start losing control (laughing uncontrollably or getting scared). I would never trip, for example, on an airplane, or at work. If you intend to venture out into public, have a retreat plan mapped out in advance. Camping trips are very popular for tripping.

NEVER, EVER take a psychedelic drug if you're feeling down. It will only magnify your negative feelings 1000 times. Take it only if you're feeling relaxed and positive. You should only trip on a day when you don't have to work (don't trip before or after work). Preferably after at least one full day off of relaxation. Some like to prepare for a trip by fasting before the trip (possibly eating fruit and other very light foods only), and meditating. Another bad trip avoidance guide I read recommended packing well (your mind) the day before the trip - fill your mind with beautiful sights, sounds, thoughts, and feelings. The worst thing you could do is to take a drug while depressed in order to help you feel better. In some cases it might work, but that's an inappropriate use of drugs which leads quickly to habit or addiction, but more than likely it will only make you feel worse and lead to a bad trip. If you have a borderline mental illness, a trip could send you over the edge into mental illness that does not go away when the drug wears off.

I recommend against mixing in other drugs on your first trip. Don't drink after eating shrooms, or get stoned after dropping acid (if you choose to drop acid (take LSD) - which in my educated opinion is overly dangerous). Marijuanna sometimes causes things to take on an extremely deep, serious, intense look (as well certain things should appear to us, not the least of which is simply being alive, a mortal being on a fragile planet hurtling at 60,000 miles per hour around a burning star which is in the arm of a gargantuan galaxy which itself is rotating (at our radius) at billions of miles per hour), but you don't want to view the world from such an intense, romantic, existential look on life when you're already embarking on trip of the mind/imagination with the other drug. Alcohol is a depressant and also can cloud your judgement, thinking, and overall stability. This is the opposite of the direction you want your mind to go in on a psychedellic trip (you want it bright, light, cheery, happy, and bouncy, vibrant, inside of you and without). I ususally smoke pot, even on a trip, but only becuase I'm very, very experienced with pot.

Potency of mushrooms is said to vary widely, and if you accidentally get ahold of the wrong kind, you could get very sick or die. Accordingly, always start out with a very small dose as an experiment with any new batch. The more unsure you are, the smaller the piece of your first bite should be. Wait at least two hours after a tiny bite to see what happens. If you're really unsure (such as if you picked the mushrooms yourself), I'd wait at least 24 hours after a small bite to make sure its not toxic. And under all circumstances, don't panic, realize that you will come down in a few hours and everything will be back to normal, so if you go freaking out you're only needlessly causing yourself alot of grief, and drawing undue attention to yourself. The peak of a shroom trip doesn't last for more than about 2 hours (but I suppose that can be a long time if you've never experienced an altered state of consciousness and decide you don't like it or get nervous or scared, or just decide you don't like it). After eating shrooms, your stomach will fill a little upset. You may feel naseous, and you may even vomit and feel really sick. However, the nausea is usually very brief and mild. You also may feel short of breath, like you can't seem to get enough air, and you might feel a little dizzy. This phase is when the shrooms are starting to come on. In about 15 minutes, all of these effects will subside and you'll start feeling flowing, relaxed, giggly, and generally good.

Rock climbing is inherently dangerous. It can and sometimes does result in injury or even death (most often by those who took foolish risks or weren't adequately prepared - but rarely also with even safe and experienced climbers). This does not mean that rock climbing should be outlawed or its crazy to do it. It means that it should be entered into only with proper knowledge, training, and respect. All the same is true for psychedelic drugs.

A safe and experiened climber or tripper maintains a calm, relaxed, and focused mind, manages fear if it arises, and makes only smooth, fluid movements of body and mind, never allowing her/himself to be swept away with sudden thoughts, emotions, or circumstances into reckless deeds or senseless panics.

Here's to safe, sane and enjoyable tripping!

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