Magic mushrooms are incredibly beneficial and are showing promising signs in the world of research. However, these are powerful experiences that can knock down the strongest psychological barriers. They can create experiences someone doesn't want to sit with. And when a person tries to control a psychedelic experience, a trip can go south. Bad trips are a thing, granted we learn more from these challenging times than we do when all goes well. Such is life, right?
Should you find yourself in a situation where someone in your group is having a tough time with psychedelics, you’ve come to the right place.
While we’ll go through different ways to help a person going through a tough psychedelic time, the best place to start is the Fireside Project. Their Psychedelic Peer Support Line, which you can text or call any day from 3am to 3pm PST, is 623-473-7433. They hold space for any and all psychedelic experiences; past, present and future.
If you'd like to hear from a Support Supervisor at Fireside, check out our podcast with Fola. She's also a shamanic practitioner, lovable human, and wise woman.
What Is A Bad Trip?
A bad trip is an overwhelming negative experience while being high on any kind of psychedelic. Bad trips can happen if a person looks over the importance of set and setting, takes too big of a dose than they’re ready for, or fights to control whatever they’re feeling, imagining, or experiencing.
Getting too high on magic mushrooms can happen, especially when people consume mushrooms in an uncontrolled environment without a trip sitter.
While there might be periods of bliss, beauty, or love, a bad trip can begin when the tripper is starts fighting to control how their trip is unfolding.
Different psychedelics give us different degrees of control while we’re high on them. A common saying in the psychedelic realm is that when you take mushroom, you’re along for their ride as they drive your trip. With LSD, there’s more wiggle room to dictate the direction.
How Long Does A Shroom Trip Last?
A shroom trip lasts between four to eight hours.
Your consumption method is the biggest factor that impacts the length of your trip. Shroom tea and lemon teks create shorter, but more intense journeys. These trips last between four to six hours whereas edibles and raw consumption last five to eight hours.
The onset of most psilocybin experiences includes temporary body weakness, nausea, a sense of drowsiness, or mushroom yawns. This is because our body is breaking down substances, like chitin - the cell walls in the fungi, just like our body breaks down any other food. To avoid the excessive body discomfort, people prefer shroom tea or lemon tekking. Most, if not all, of these physical sensations, will completely dissolve after the first hour.
How To Help During A Bad Trip
Magic mushrooms are one of the world’s natural gifts, but you shouldn’t take them lightly. Some people are utterly unprepared for the ride of a psilocybin trip and can suffer adverse affects as a result. If someone is on a bad psilocybin trip, sitting with them and supporting them will be life-changing.
A significant mistake that some people make is not supporting their friends through a bad trip. You can cause considerable trauma for your friend if you’re not understanding, and even worse, you make fun of the situation. That’s a massive no.
The people you trip alongside can determine the entire experience. So choose wisely. As the great Anthony Bourdain says, "Don't take
Contact Fireside Project
They’re open everyday from 3pm to 3am PST. Some people will trip during these times because they know if things take a turn, they have a trained support network to help them navigate any psychedelic situation.
Gently Change Their Setting
Changing the scenery could help someone suffering from a bad trip. For example, if you have a magic mushroom trip in a city — which is usually a bad idea — you could get into natural surroundings. It’s highly beneficial to enjoy a shroom trip in quiet, tranquil, and natural surroundings.
Cities are full of noise, people, and stimuli. When we're on psychedelics, we begin to process a high amount of information and energy.
Taking your friend into nature can transform the experience and help them out of the potential downsides of a bad trip.
If you’re in nature, ask them if they’d like to sit down, stand by the river, lean on a tree, or move away from the place they’re not enjoying.
If they’re at a party, a concert, or out in public without nature close by, go for a walk to somewhere quiter.
Play Some Familiar Or Psychedelically Inclined Music
Music is medicine. Music and psychedelics work together to facilitate therapeutic processes in the brain and music can be used as a psychedelic agent in and of itself. There's something about certain qualities of the musical experience within a psychedelic experience that more easily leads to positive outcomes.
When someone's going through a tough time, try playing music that makes them feel safe or tunes created with tripping in mind. Ask them if they have a favorite song, artist, or album. Or you can search 'East Forest' or 'Jon Hopkins' in any audio player and play anything they've made.
Music is grounding. It can help someone having a bad trip break the loop they're engaging with. These melodic sounds can act like a hot knife through butter, cutting right through the chatter and bringing the journeyer back into the moment, back to breath, back to themselves. All it takes is one song to bring someone back home.
When you’re happy, you enjoy the music. When you’re sad, you understand the lyrics.George Jones
Have Them Interact With Objective Reality
Typically when someone is having a hard time with psychedelics, they've lost touch or are quickly losing touch with reality. They might be stuck in thought loops which completely disconnect them from the outside world.
An excellent way to ground the individual is to have them interact with objective aspects of reality. Maybe you have them touch the ground, hug a tree, or touch something tangible.
If you notice your friend slipping, find a stick and let them hold it. As they inspect the piece of nature, ask them "how many inches do you think the stick is?" This brief exchange allows their unconscious to process objective reality which can shift them out of their slippery narrative into a place of sureness.
Remind Them They’re High And Whatever They’re Experiencing Is Okay
Drugs can be overwhelming. From cannabis to alcohol to psychedelics.
They took a drug that is altering their sense of self and relationship to reality. What's happening can be big or profound or just a lot to take in. Remind them they're okay and the mushrooms are making them more sensitive and aware of their experience. Remind them to consciously breathe, as this will take their attention aware from their mind and into their body.
When a person is having a tough time, remind them it's okay. That they are safe. A great way to support a bad trip can be having them share their thoughts, their questions, their struggles. Making their invisible conversation real with words can help to lighten the burden or confusion they're stuck in.
Breathe And Relax To Find A Center
Breathing is a significant contributor to anxiety and panic attacks. Of course, when a situation is uncomfortable, your breathing may shorten, and your body might tighten up.
As a result, you may experience panic attacks and anxiety. Unfortunately, that is very common on a bad trip. Ask them to feel where their breath is going in their body. Is it getting stuck somewhere? Can you breath into the stuckness? See your breath opening up the sticky spot so that you can release to it.
Once they’re breathing consciously and fully, the discomfort should be much less, if not dissolved. Maybe they even begin to deeply enjoy their shroom trip, thanks to you. By getting a grip over our breath, we begin to gain a sense of control over ourselves and our experience.
Maybe this Youtube video can help.
Stay At Their Side
There are two things that you shouldn’t do when someone is on a bad trip — leave the person or make fun of their situation.
You should stay with your friend for the duration of the bad trip. Of course, it could take hours. Extreme paranoia can begin when someone is experiencing bad trips alone, and you can help reduce that by keeping them company.
Stay with them, and just listen. Don't advise. Just hear them, ask questions, and speak softly. Chances are they'll appreciate you as a person and a friend for years to come by holding space for them to get the psychological challenge out of their mind and off their chest.
Remind Them Their Experience Can Only Last So Long
A bad psilocybin trip is different for everyone. Some things will work for some and won’t work for others. However, reminding your friend that these negative feelings will end is a way of guiding them through the bad trip. Remind them that these hard things can only last so long. Have them imagine a bow and an arrow. The arrow can only be pulled so far back before it's moved forward.
As we’ve already established, a magic mushroom trip can last for up to six hours. Unfortunately, people on shrooms tend to lose all sense of time, which can feel like a neverending panic attack, dark narration, or uncomfortable sensation.
If you remind them that the trip will end, you can reduce those feelings of stress and anxiety and bring them through the experience as the shroom comedown begins.
Challenging Psychedelic Trips Are Usually Transformative
While no one wants to go through a challenging trip, they can happen. Sometimes it's something out of our control that triggers the onset of negativity, confusion, prolonged uncertainty, and feelings of dread or panic. It's okay. Being human means we experience these bouts throughout life. No human has ever had a great, wonderful, happy life every moment of their existence.
If you've recently, or maybe even historically align with a challenging trip, the great news is, firstly you're alive to realize this and secondly, these adverse experiences actually make us better, stronger, and more empathetic in the long run.
Johns Hopkins University shared that of 2,000 people who were asked about their most difficult psilocybin experience, 84% said they benefited from it and 46% said they'd do it all over again, difficulties and all.
These experiences put us in touch with the rawest parts of ourselves. And by spending time with the big pieces that make us human, we get to be a stronger, more aware version of ourselves as a consequence. A challenging trip doesn't define you. How you respond to it, reflect upon it, and carry yourselves after it's over, does.
The Come Down
Psilocybin offers the human race incredible mental health and psychological benefits. You should treat shrooms with respect. If you don’t, you may experience negative outcomes from shrooms and other psychedelic drugs.
That said, if you stick to the guidelines, relax, and prepare yourself for the experience — it will be the best thing you’ve ever done.