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What Is a Bad Trip?

Psychedelic drugs can induce fear or distress

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

A trip is a period of intoxication from a hallucinogenic drug, such as lysergic acid (LSD) or magic mushrooms (psilocybin). It is called a “trip” because your perceptions of the world change so dramatically, it can feel as if you have taken a trip to a strange, new land.

You hope that it will be a pleasant experience, and it might be, but it can quickly turn unpleasant; sometimes, it is unpleasant from the beginning. This unpleasant experience of hallucinogen intoxication is known as a “bad trip.”

It is common for occasional unpleasant sensations, hallucinations, and thoughts to occur during a trip, and this does not necessarily mean you are having a bad trip. These experiences can sometimes seem interesting or funny, rather than upsetting or frightening, and they can pass quite quickly.

One of the earliest documented bad trips was reported by Albert Hofmann, the chemist who discovered LSD. He had started experiencing a bad trip, and in an attempt to soothe himself, requested some milk from his next-door neighbor, who appeared to have become “a malevolent, insidious witch.”  

Are Certain People Exempt From Bad Trips?

When people first start experimenting with psychedelic drugs, they sometimes go through a “honeymoon period” causing them to believe all trips are good.

They might believe that they are “safe” from bad trips or that bad trips only happen to people with the wrong attitude. Some believe that bad trips are a myth dreamed up by the establishment to try and discourage people from becoming enlightened or having a good time. Others think that taking the drug with friends or a “guide” will prevent a bad trip.

None of these beliefs are correct—although sometimes they can provide a false sense of security and a carefree attitude that can help keep the mood positive. The more times you take psychedelic drugs, the more likely you are to eventually have a bad trip.

A bad trip can even cause you to think that the people you previously thought were “safe” can no longer be trusted.   If this happens, it can be upsetting both for the person experiencing it, and for their companions, who can feel powerless to help.

Are Certain Drugs Exempt From Bad Trips?

Some psychedelic drug users believe that bad trips can only happen with a drug such as acid or PCP. They think that they can’t experience a bad trip from drugs they perceive as “safe” like ecstasy or magic mushrooms.

Sadly, many people don’t know what a bad trip is until they have one, so it is helpful to know ahead of time what you could experience, and what you should do if you have a bad trip or one of your friends does.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a “safe” drug. In fact, all psychedelic or hallucinogenic drugs can cause a bad trip, even ecstasy or magic mushrooms. Other drugs, such as weed (marijuana) and cocaine, can also produce intense, distressing effects, even in people who usually have a good time when intoxicated from these substances.

Signs and Symptoms

Bad trips symptoms vary a great deal and it’s impossible to predict how a hallucinogen will affect you. They can be mild or intense and can range from upsetting and overwhelming thoughts to frightening hallucinations and delusions that can lead to accidents.  

Incidentally, many accidents that occur while under the influence of hallucinogens happen as the result of delusions that are not part of a bad trip. For example, someone might believe that they can fly or that they are indestructible. These kinds of delusions are unusual, but serious injuries and deaths have happened in these situations.  

Though a highly individualized experience, there are some aspects that are often described by people who have had a bad trip.

Time Dilation

This is the experience of time standing still. This can make it feel as if the other unpleasant aspects of the trip will never end.

Tip: If someone is having a bad trip, it can be reassuring to tell them it won’t go on forever, even if they feel as if it will.

Negative Reinterpretations and Paranoia

Previously positive or neutral interpretations of life or relationships can suddenly become negative. Someone having a bad trip might feel that their life is worthless, that they or someone else they normally feel fine about is bad or acting against them, or that the whole world is bad or corrupt.

These feelings can be all-consuming and can cause the person having a bad trip to panic and try and get away from the people around them.

Tip: Generally, it is unwise to allow someone who is having a bad trip to go off on their own, but be aware that acting confrontational or following them may increase their feelings of antagonism or paranoia. Try to have a trusted friend accompany them, saying they want to help them stay safe.

However, a stranger who comes across as caring, genuine, and calm may be more acceptable. Although involving police or medical personnel may be highly upsetting for someone having a bad trip, it is preferable to having them hurt themselves.

Hallucinations

Most of the hallucinations that people have while tripping take the form of visual distortions—such as walls “breathing,” colored or geometric formations, or illusions.  

Sometimes these distortions are extremely vivid, such as a familiar person’s face morphing into that of a demon. Occasionally, hallucinations take the form of seeing beings or objects that don’t even exist.

Tip: Usually, people who are tripping are aware that these hallucinations are the effects of a drug, and can be reassured that what they are seeing is part of the trip.

Mood Swings

Your mood can change dramatically when you are tripping, and feelings of sadness and despair can reach new depths, while anxiety can quickly develop into panic.  

Tip: Although acts of violence or self-harm are unusual while tripping, tell someone as soon as possible if you are having any thoughts about harming yourself or someone else—you are not thinking clearly and indulging in these thoughts may have regrettable consequences.

How to Stop a Bad Trip

Although it is not possible to “switch off” the effects of hallucinogenic drugs, a bad trip can be transformed into a more positive experience if the person having the trip is open to being supported or comforted. Often, lying down and listening to soothing music in the presence of a calm support person can help.

The most intense period of the trip typically occurs from one to three hours after the drug is consumed, so time will usually ease the most intense aspects of the trip, but the effects will often continue for an additional six to twelve hours after that, during which time the person will not be able to sleep.  

Having a bad trip can possibly be averted by the presence of a good friend, and by avoiding people or places that you usually find upsetting. But again, there is no guarantee that this will keep a trip good.

One of the characteristics of hallucinogenic drugs is that they can cause you to see and think about the world in a very different way from how you usually do, so the previously trusted friend can quickly change and appear to be deceitful, mean-spirited, even evil.

If the person is open to receiving medical help, which they may be if they think the intensely unpleasant aspects of the trip could be alleviated, you could accompany them to a walk-in clinic or the emergency room. There may be medical interventions that could help.  

Never attempt to self-medicate by taking other drugs—this is risky and could worsen the effects of the trip or cause drug interactions. It can also lead to developing problems with other drugs taken in an attempt to calm down, such as heroin.

A Word From Verywell

The only way to avoid a bad trip is to avoid hallucinogenic drugs. While you may be intrigued by the idea of tripping, there is a reason that people don’t usually take them for long—sooner or later, they have a bad trip, and never want to repeat the experience.

A bad trip is an unpleasant experience that can happen after taking psychedelic drugs such as lysergic acid (LSD) or magic mushrooms.

Bad Trip? 3 Tips on How to Overcome Getting Too High

Reading Time: 5 min 43 sec

I t’s hours later after ingesting an edible, when out of nowhere, things seem to get a little too intense . We’ve all been there – a relaxing evening suddenly turns into an experience full of anxiety and fear. Do you need to hold on for dear life, or is there a way out of this bad trip?

Luckily, there are a few ways to bring yourself out of one, but we first need to recognize what a bad trip consists of. What we experience as a bad trip, in reality, can be a domino effect from discomfort to full-blown panic.

Our mind gets caught in a vicious cycle that drives us to feel more and more fear and anxiety the higher we get. This elevated anxiety can then raise your heart rate, and possibly cause minor breathing discomfort. However, these side-effects seem more intense than they usually are, and it might be comforting to know that nobody has ever died directly from an overdose on weed .

Despite that, having a bad trip can be an incredibly uncomfortable or even terrifying experience. They can leave a lasting negative impression, making us fearful of having another similar experience.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to get out of a bad trip when you are having one, and what you can do to prevent them from happening.

#1 Prevention Is The Best Remedy

“One of the best ways to keep from getting into a bad trip is to be in a positive and calm environment.”

Before we jump into the ways to rescue yourself from a bad trip, we need to discuss the ultimate remedy – prevention. It’s much easier to keep yourself from getting too medicated than it is to get out of it.

One of the best ways to prevent yourself from getting into a bad trip is to be in a positive and calm environment. The more you have control over your surroundings, the less likely you’ll have a negative reaction.

Try to be in a place that is familiar to you, and one where you can be comfortable. Your own home, a close friend’s house, or perhaps a peaceful park are all good starts.

It’s also a good idea to be with friends that you’re comfortable with, and not with others you don’t know so well. Being alone can also be a good strategy, since sometimes just being around others can be stressful.

Another way to keep yourself from having a bad trip is to limit the amount of cannabis you consume. If you’re smoking or vaping, take a puff or two and then relax. The effects are immediate, and within 20 minutes, you’ll probably know if it’s safe to have more or not.

With edibles, it’s a different story. Since edibles sometimes take hours to have an effect , it may be difficult to initially gauge what is too much or too little. We recommend starting with a small dose (2.5mg for most), and to only have more after at least 8 hours.

We know this process may take all day to figure out your specific edible dosage, but trust us, it’s worth it. When you have your edible dose figured out, you can almost always eat the perfect amount of a THC gummy bear without going overboard.

#2 Getting Out of a Bad Trip

“The number one thing to do is try to stay calm. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but it will keep you from spiraling into a panic.”

Sometimes it just happens out of nowhere, and there’s no warning when the bad trip will strike. Maybe you had a little too much cannabis, or perhaps you’re not in the best mental state. Whatever the reason, there are a few ways to help you get back on track.

The most important thing to remember is to avoid panicking. It may feel like your heartbeat is louder than normal, or the weight of the world is crashing on top of you – but it’s not.

The number one thing to do is try to stay calm. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but it will keep you from spiraling into a panic. If you feel yourself starting to panic, try to relax your body and focus on your breathing.

Practice some light meditation by breathing in deeply and exhaling slowly. As you do this, relax each part of your body to keep yourself from being too tense.

As you breathe, remind yourself that there’s nothing actually wrong, and you’re just feeling too medicated. Remember that in some time, the feeling will pass and that it’s all temporary.

Once you partially calm yourself down, then you should try to do something else. Putting on some calm music or watching a movie can help you focus on something other than being too high.

If that doesn’t seem to help much, then a change of scenery might be in order. If you’re inside, try getting some fresh air outside, or even go on a brief walk. If you’re having an uncomfortable trip outside, then going inside might help calm you down.

Another thing to always keep in mind is hydration. We recommend drinking a lot of water, even when you’re not on a bad trip. However, during a problematic high, hydration can help keep you from spiraling out of control.

You can also have a relaxing tea or juice if you’d like, but definitely avoid alcohol. Drinking a beer or hard liquor can increase the THC levels in your blood , potentially making things worse.

If you’re around friends, they can help calm you down too. If you’re alone, then picking up the phone and getting some reassurance from someone can be a “lifesaver”.

When you have simple conversations with someone, it helps your mind stay grounded in reality. As long as they are calm and relaxed, their energy can rub off on you too.

#3 Always Have CBD On Hand

“Cannabidiol behaved as a non‐competitive negative allosteric modulator of CB1 receptors.”

CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is a non-intoxicating compound that’s often used to help reduce anxiety. Aside from helping you to relax during a bad trip, research shows that CBD can actually decrease the intensity of THC.

CBD is an allosteric modulator , which means it decreases or increases the receptor size that THC binds to. By doing so, THC is unable to bind to receptors at the same capacity, therefore making you less high. Be careful though, as you may need a very high dose of CBD to calm you down, and small doses could intensify the psychoactive effects.

If you’re worried about experiencing a bad trip from cannabis, then CBD is a must-have on hand.

Never Experience a Bad Trip Again

By following these tips, you should never experience a bad trip again. There’s nothing worse than getting too high , and it’s always best to take too little rather than too much while indulging in cannabis. If you’re ready to experience the best effects that edibles and other cannabis-based products have to offer, always keep these tips in mind.

* Disclaimer * Baked Bros NEVER recommends avoiding medical treatment if you truly think you need it. We are not doctors, and pre-existing conditions can be exacerbated by cannabis. If you feel you truly need medical attention, please seek it out. Trust your body and know your dose!

Reading Time: 5 min 43 sec It’s hours later after ingesting an edible, when out of nowhere, things seem to get a little too intense. We’ve all been there – a relaxing evening suddenly turns into an experience full of anxiety and fear. Do you need to hold on for dear life, or is there a way out of this bad trip? Luckil