Isra, a community activator at The Level, writes a guide on how to best prepare for a psychedelic experience, from someone who’s been there.
Psychedelics (like LSD, shrooms, DMT and mescaline) have been used for centuries in ceremony, for mind-expansion and just for fun. Psychedelic experiences can be mind-blowing, eye-opening, challenging, hilarious, terrifying and magical – sometimes all at once. If you're choosing to use psychedelics, there are a few things you can do to help make things go more smoothly, even if that tree starts looking at you weirdly.
1. Check your drugs and make sure to properly identify your shrooms
It’s very important to know what you are taking so that you can anticipate the effects and take a dose that's suitable for what you want. This is especially important if you are mixing drugs.
If something is not what you think it is, it can react with the other drug(s) in your system in a much different way than you expect, including potentially being very dangerous to your health.
Drug checking is free, legal and confidential. Find a drug checking clinic near you using our calendar tool or read more about drug checking in our 'Safer using' section.
Identifying your shrooms is incredibly important for your safety. Taking poisonous shrooms could lead to severe health complications. Read our article for info on staying safer through learning about shroom identification.
2. Research your dose and start low and slow.
Recommended dosage is very dependent on the individual but there are many general dosage guidelines online that can be useful to follow. Tripsit or PsychonautWiki have some suggested dosages.
One of the things you should remember is that each tab or each mushroom may not have the same amount of active ingredient in them as other tabs or mushrooms, even those in the same batch.
The best way to work out what doses work for you is by starting with a low dose and waiting at least an hour before deciding if you want to take more. Talk to your friends about what doses they take, but keep in mind your body is unique and you may react differently.
Our 'Safer using' page has more info on what to consider when thinking about your dosage.
3. Make a plan about when you are going to trip
It’s important to think about how long the drug you are taking is going to last and if you will have time to recover before you need to do anything important.
Some psychedelics last five minutes while others can last for longer than 12 hours. If you are planning on taking long lasting psychedelics, I've found it's a good idea to have a clear schedule that day, and ideally the day after as well.
That being said, try not to feel compelled to trip on the day you planned to, if a distressing situation comes up in your personal life, or a friend has to cancel, etc. It can be beneficial to postpone the trip for a more suitable occasion.
4. Take care of your physical needs
At some point in your trip there’s a good chance that you’ll start to feel a bit off, and since psychedelic drugs can alter your perception of reality, you may not know why. The questions you should ask yourself in these moments are:
- Have I eaten?
- Am I well hydrated?
- Have I rested enough?
- Am I a good temperature?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, it’s likely one of the reasons why you aren’t feeling good.
Psychedelics can enhance sensory inputs in the world around you while simultaneously making it harder to tell where those sensory inputs are coming from. This means that you may feel the effects of hunger, thirst, tiredness, hot or cold more severely while not knowing what is making you feel that way. That's why it's important to be prepared.
- One of the best ways to avoid the mid trip crash is to have a good meal beforehand. You may be tempted to take your drugs on an empty stomach to enhance the effects, I would strongly suggest you don’t do this. The only times in my life where I have had distressing experiences with psychedelics have been when I have not eaten enough before or during the experience. You will almost certainly feel better and have a more enjoyable and fulfilling experience if you make sure to have some food in your system before during and after your trip.
- Even if you eat before you trip, you will likely still get hungry during. It can be hard to eat when tripping and even harder to prepare kai or talk to someone to order food. Having a comfort food prepared beforehand can be incredibly helpful. You may not even feel hungry, so having something ready to eat that you really enjoy can help encourage you to eat when you need to.
- Have water nearby. Staying hydrated is going to make you feel better - think about how bad you feel when you’re sober and dehydrated, then multiply that feeling.
- Make sure you can regulate your temperature. If it’s cold, have jackets and/or blankets. If it’s warm, have plenty of cold water, cool clothes and sunscreen
- Rest up! This one mostly applies to people who are doing multi-day psychedelic sessions but it’s still important to be well rested for any trip. Exhaustion is rarely fun and just like dehydration, the effects tend to be multiplied if you’re tripping.
5. Trip somewhere you are comfortable, or have an escape plan
Psychedelic drugs can be very overwhelming in certain situations. It’s important to have a plan as to how you can make yourself more comfortable. If you start spiralling, you can often stop yourself if you can do something that helps you relax. This could include being with people who you trust and feel comfortable around, getting huddled up under some blankets and watching a familiar movie, putting on music that helps you relax, etc.
The easiest way to have an effective escape plan is to trip in a place that you’re comfortable in. Tripping in public places or just places you aren’t comfortable in can be very overwhelming and can make it difficult to do things that could calm you down.
If you have some experience using psychedelic drugs, you may be comfortable tripping in public, but it’s still important to have an escape plan that allows you to get back to a more comfortable place.
Be aware that you won't be able to drive while you're tripping, and walking may present its own challenges. Have a plan for how to get home (or to a comfier place) safely if you need to.
Another important part of your escape plan should be to have a sober friend either with you or on call who can talk to you or even just sit with you if you're having a challenging experience. However, some people may not have this as an option. There a few alternatives that may be useful:
- If you are at a festival in Aotearoa there are often festival care organisations such as Deepspace or Psycare that are specifically there to help people who are having a bad time, or even just people who would find it helpful to have a chat with a kind, non-judgemental and understanding person.
- A good alternative could be to visit online anonymous web forums such as chat.tripsit.me or the Tripsit Discord channel.
6. Check in on your mental health.
While it’s important to pack your physical bag, packing your emotional bag is just as important. Psychedelics amplify your emotional and sensory experiences, so if you aren’t feeling great mentally, you are much more likely to have a weird time.
It's generally recommended that if you are in a negative mental state, especially if you are heavily depressed, suicidal or experiencing psychosis you shouldn’t take psychedelic drugs as you could experience a severe mental health crisis. If you're feeling anxious, or you've just had news that your childhood dog died, that could be a sign to reschedule your trip for another time.
That said, few people are immune to discomfort during their trip. You could feel worried, have thought loops or experience unwanted or intrusive mental imagery.
If this is happening, sometimes just changing your physical comfort levels can help – like grabbing a blanket or drinking some water. You could also try:
- mindfulness exercises, like spotting 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and one thing you can taste
- taking deep, slow breaths
- touching something soft, fluffy or otherwise comforting
- talking to an understanding friend
- reminding yourself that the trip will end soon, that you're safe and you will be okay
A common tip is that if you begin to feel overwhelmed, accepting that feeling and exploring it can have more positive outcomes than fighting it. Gently feel into the sensation. Notice you're feeling in your body, what emotions are coming up and if it's changing. This too shall pass!
Ultimately, how to best prepare for a psychedelic experience depends on the individual. Some people like to take psychedelics when they are at their lowest point as a form of self-medicating, some people like to take psychedelics and watch horror movies, others like to take them in a tightly packed club with no plan on how to get home or take them while camping in a storm. Whatever your plan is, preparing before you trip can help you have the most enjoyable, safe, and fulfilling experience possible.
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