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What Happens in a Bad LSD Trip

Having a 'bad trip' on any psychedelic drug means that you experience intense negative symptoms such as fear, paranoia, and anxiety during your time on the drug.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the most potent of the psychedelic drugs is d-lysergic acid diethylamide or LSD. If you have read anything about LSD, you have probably heard of a bad trip. This is an occasional side effect of taking LSD.

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What is LSD?

D-lysergic acid diethylamide or LSD is synthesized from lysergic acid. Lysergic acid is found in ergot fungus. This fungus grows in on rye bread when it spoils and is responsible for many of the stories about settlers and colonials going insane. Pure lysergic acid causes hallucinations so intense that it permanently damages the brain and in high doses death. After synthesis, LSD is relatively safe. Most of the effects of LSD are harmless but sometimes disturbing.

lsd effects

You may experience frightening hallucinations while on a bad trip from LSD.

The first time LSD was synthesized was in November of 1938. At the time, Swiss scientists, one of which was Arthur Stoll, were searching for a circulatory or respiratory stimulant. It was not until five years later that Stoll discovered the psychedelic properties of it. He found this quite by accident. He was working with LSD and accidently got a bit on his hand. The results were startling. He described visions, colors, patterns, and objects projected on his eyelids. This was the first time anyone hallucinated while on LSD.

Although according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, LSD is a schedule I drug, meaning it does not have any medical value. This may not be true. Recently government regulations for LSD began to include research for medical purposes again.

What Symptoms are Considered “Normal” When you are on LSD?

Normal is a subjective term, particularly when it comes to LSD. Everyone experiences LSD in a differently way. The most common occurrences are:

  • seeing light, color, and sound, (yes seeing sound, it is called synethesia)
  • a feeling of well being and connection,
  • overall sense of happiness with euphoria,
  • visual hallucinations, things fluctuate as if they are breathing,
  • seeing patterns and shapes, and
  • hallucinating conversations, sounds, or other circumstances.

These sensations are what is normally described when someone is tripping on LSD. It is called a trip because it causes you to experience things in new and interesting ways. Most people who take LSD experience these sensations.

The Bad Trip Phenomenon

The first ever bad trip, was recorded on April, 19, 1943 by a researcher who took too much to see the effects that Arthur Stoll described. He documented the events in detail describing how he thought his neighbor was a bad witch who was out to get him. He also believed the LSD poisoned him and he was insane. A doctor determined that he was physically fine. Once he realized this his mood changed, lifted, and he started enjoying himself. This experience was later named, “Bicycle Day.” Today people consider this a mild bad trip.

A bad trip is technically a bad experience on LSD. People say that they become too introspective or wind up falling too far into the trip. Some of the things people experience are:

  • irrational intense fear,
  • nightmarish visions,
  • melting,
  • feelings of hopelessness and despair,
  • fear of losing control,
  • fear of insanity, and
  • darkness.

These are all experiences that are associated with bad trips.

What to Do During a Bad LSD Trip

If you or someone you are with is experiencing a bad trip there are things that you can do to turn it around. Since a bad trip is an emotional and mental state rather than a physical one there are ways to stop it or at least lessen its effects.

  • Changing the way you are thinking – although this is not easy when you are not tripping, it is considerably easier when you are. By thinking of good things or if you are with someone talking about positive things, you can change the way that you are thinking. Rather than spiraling downward a good mood can be established.
  • Changing your environment – sometimes bad trips are due to location or the people around you. LSD puts you in a highly suggestible state. When your environment is bad the trip can also be bad.
  • Keeping a good stable friend around when you trip – do not underestimate the power of someone you trust. Since you are in a suggestible state, you will want people around you that suggest good things rather than bad. If things start going bad it is good to have someone that can turn it around.
  • Having an anchor – an anchor can be an object, phrase, or person. This is something that you can turn to when your trip starts to go bad. It reminds you that the trip is not real. An anchor can also help you come down when you need to.

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The Danger of a Bad Trip

Although taking LSD does not always result in a bad trip, when it does there is some danger. LSD has a profound effect on the mind. People who experience a bad trip can wind up with:

  • permanent psychosis,
  • anxiety,
  • depression,
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and
  • Flashbacks to the bad portions of the trip.

All of these are typical symptoms of a traumatic event. Those that have these symptoms need to seek professional help. Although LSD is not typically addictive, it is difficult to get over once you have had a bad trip. If this is a problem, talk to your doctor about counseling and therapy for the symptoms.

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