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Learn | 02.08.2022

Recent Study Asks Individuals About Their Experiences With Bad Psychedelic Trips

Participants found that bad trips often result in “deep existential and life-altering insights.”

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that bad trips from psychedelics can be an uncomfortable life-changing experience and one that might keep you from ever using the substance again. A recent study touched on how individuals get themselves through a bad trip, referred to as BT. 

Not only did the study find that BT’s made people pretty on edge and mentally holding on for dear life, but they also offered “deep existential and life-altering insights.” The small study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy shared some pretty neat findings regarding how individuals handle their bad trips and talk themselves out of it through storytelling narratives that help them understand what’s going on in a friendlier and less frantic way. 

The study consisted of 50 Norwegians who were all linked in a private Facebook group with fellow psychedelic users. In the group, 42 men and eight women were recorded using substances like psilocybin, LSD, DMT, or ayahuasca anywhere from 10 to 50 times. Interestingly, out of the 50 participants, two had confirmed they’ve never experienced a bad trip. 

Photo by Flickr / Frerk Meyer

The study wrote that bad trips “started out just like any other trip,” with hallucinations, visions, and “feelings of unity and well-being.” However, when the individual experiences a “challenging” encounter, the trip heads south and leaves “the user in distress, struggling for a solution to what was perceived as the problem.”

The team also found that one correlation between individuals and a bad trip was an excessive dosage of their chosen substance. It turns out taking a little too much than what your body and mind can handle can result in experiences like panic attacks, confusion, paranoia, dizziness, heart palpitations, and disturbing visuals.

One participant who identified herself as Helen explained how one night, after dosing a psychedelic substance, she was relaxing on a hammock in a sleeping bag and gazing at its zipper. “Then it started to look like DNA symbols. I thought, ‘Did I die now? Maybe I choked, and now I’m dead. I’ve killed myself because I haven’t had enough air to breathe.'”

Photo courtesy of PSR

Participants like Helen who’ve experienced similar bad trips have found helpful tips to keep in mind when taking any psychedelic substance. Take Nicholas, for example, another study participant who understands how taking mushrooms can be “overwhelming.” 

He encourages users to “meditate a lot” in order to learn the “necessary skill to observe what’s happening and not get stuck in it.” He concluded that the key to getting through these bad trips all starts with focussing on your breath and observing “everything without judgment.”

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