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Having a Bad Trip on Psychedelics

While the effects of psychedelics always alter one's perception and cognition, someone who is having a bad trip will experience very frightening alterations.

Psychedelics are drugs that alter a person’s perception and cognition. These effects may already sound scary to many people, and those are the desired effects. Undesired effects, however, are sometimes felt and are called having a ‘bad trip’. A bad trip on psychedelics is a disturbing experience that can have a wide range of symptoms, and can last either for the whole ‘trip’, or just part of it. Bad trips are sometimes associated with seriously dangerous consequences such as self harm or harming others. A bad trip is sometimes referred to as a ‘psychedelic crisis’.

Symptoms of a Bad Trip

The experience on psychedelic drugs is commonly referred to as a ‘trip’, and a ‘bad trip’ is therefore a bad experience with psychedelics. This can involve many symptoms, ranging from mildly frightening and uncomfortable to completely terrifying.

psychedelic drug effects

Having a bad trip can be an extremely frightening experience.

According to Princeton University symptoms may include:

  • Vague feelings of anxiety
  • Feeling alienated
  • Terror
  • Feelings of cosmic entrapment or cosmic annihilation
  • A general sense of fear and anxiety
  • Feeling like you are going insane
  • Feeling like you will never be the same
  • Falling into an intensely depressive mood
  • Feeling like you want to harm yourself or others

These effects have been known to cause people to harm themselves of the people around them. Sometimes the harm is intentional, and results from suicidal ideation or the desire to harm others. Other times it is due to the thought that the universe is collapsing or some other supernatural occurrence is imminent, so suicide is thought of as a good idea. On the other hand, some people commit harm to themselves or others by accident. Their fears and distortions can be such that they jump off of roofs, drive a car into people or things, walk into traffic, or cause harm in some other way. They may experience delusions where someone is out to get them, and seek to harm this person in some way.

Causes of Bad Trips

What exactly causes a bad trip is unknown, but the person’s psychological state and environment are thought to contribute to them. According to Columbia University, a bad trip might be caused by things that are going on in your life at the time that may not even be immediately bothering you, such as stress at home, work, or school. Your mood on that particular day may cause it, for example if you had been emotionally distressed before taking the drugs. If you are having doubts or fears before getting high on the psychedelic drugs you also may have a bad trip.

What to Do in the Event of a Bad Trip

If someone around you is having a bad trip, the most important thing to do is to make sure they are not capable of harming themselves or others. This may require physical restraint, providing them with a safe and comfortable space to wait out the drug’s effects in, and will definitely require supervision. Bringing them to a hospital could be a good idea as it is a safe place, though it is important to remember that the drug’s effects are irreversible and even in a hospital the person will have to wait until the effects naturally wear off.

If you are having a bad trip, the most important thing is to remind yourself that you are on drugs, and that their effects will wear off. This is difficult to do, as psychedelics alter your perception and cognition in such a way that being able to convince yourself of something like that may be very difficult, and you may not even be aware of what is happening to you. Do your best to stay calm, stay hydrated, do not drive or take other drugs, and find a safe place to wait out the effects of the psychedelics.

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