Using psychedelics safely
To start with a quote from Dr. Timothy Leary:
Acid is not for every brain - only the healthy, happy, wholesome, handsome, hopeful, humorous, high-velocity should seek these experiences. This elitism is totally self-determined. Unless you are self-confident, self-directed, self-selected, please abstain.
This article will not be about acid (LSD), in this article we'll only deal with the psychedelics which come directly from mother nature. But this quote is also true when you desire to take natural psychedelic drugs. In general, they amplify your mood, so that mood has to be positive! Whenever you go tripping, keep this in mind.
There are several categories, each carrying several varieties of psychedelics (or entheogens, psychoactives, whatever you prefer to call them). Each of these has different effects, and then again those effects often vary from person to person. So it's a bit difficult to list do's and don'ts in general or to set up guidelines in order to, first of all, make sure your trip will be fun and meaningful, and second to somehow avoid a bad trip or negative experiences. However, for your safety, we will still give it a shot! To make this more complete we'll now first list some of the most commonly used psychoactives, to make sure you won't miss the essential information on the substance of your choice.
Do not eat 4 hours before taking the mushrooms. During the trip drink enough water, fruit juice or caffeine-free tea. Experience the effects of the mushrooms in a quiet, familiar and safe environment and with people, you feel comfortable with. During the first hour of the trip, you may feel a little nauseous. This feeling usually disappears when the active substances really start doing their work.
The peak of a mushroom trip typically lasts between four and six hours. The active components in shrooms are psilocybin and psilocin, which are chemically related to dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a substance which naturally occurs in the human brain. From a physical point of view, psilocybin and psilocin are completely safe. Psilocybin often makes people yawn without being tired and cry without feeling sad.
Psilocybe cubensis is not a mushroom that should be taken often, even though it's not addictive. Because of the excitement about the trip people often want to do it again soon afterwards. But that way you could develop a tolerance for psilocybin. Especially if you would take them within a week time, the effect will be less, giving a less impressive experience. If you take them only a few times a year, the voyage will be new and fresh every time.
The effects of Amanita muscaria is based on other active components than those of Psilocybe cubensis and Philosopher's stones. Stomach complaints are more common, and the trip typically lasts longer. In many cases, nausea can be diminished by smoking cannabis prior to consuming the mushroom.
It is important to use Salvia Divinorum in a quiet, dark or dimly lit environment. Of all psychedelics, salvia is definitely not a party drug! Watching television could be scary and overwhelming. If you have no experience with salvia or other entheogenic substances, having a sober sitter present is a must.
Some people do report a mild headache, bronchial irritation, insomnia or irritability. These symptoms are usually reported by people who smoke salvia rather than those who chew it.
Ayahuasca can be made out of different plants.The potency of this brew varies radically from one batch to the next, both in strength and the nature of the psychoactive effects. To a large extent, this depends on the skill of the shaman producing it, as well as other admixtures that are sometimes added. Ayahuasca doesn't lend itself well for mere tripping for fun (the taste of the brew is very bitter, and nausea is very common), but is rather taken for obtaining insights.
Every trip can take a completely different direction. As one enters other dimensions, things may feel like one is leaving the plane of the physical body, and for example, a sense of floating in the air may occur. The most common and perhaps most satisfying way to use ayahuasca is in a natural setting. Many people seek answers from the plants of ayahuasca and try to improve their lives based on what they've experienced.
Ayahuasca contains MAO-inhibitors and should not be combined with some other drugs, medicines and foods, please read our MAO page!
These seeds contain LSA, which is closely related to LSD. Try not to eat 4-6 hours before you eat the seeds. The seeds must be chewed for as long as possible because the active substances are absorbed by the mucous membrane of the mouth.
Do not combine LSA with alcohol, MAO inhibitors or other drugs.
Of all the natural psychedelics, potency varies most strongly in cacti like San Pedro and Peyote. Therefore it is best not to take the dosage all at once, but to build it up gradually: take half of the dosage, wait 60 to 90 minutes to see what the effect is, then if desired, take half of what is left over and if necessary repeat.
These cacti also might give some nausea before the actual trip begins. This is completely normal and will disappear as soon as you start tripping.
Do not combine with alcohol, MAO inhibitors or other drugs.
Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is not a plant that generates heavy hallucinations but it still is a psychoactive. Keep in mind that its effects are stimulating in lower doses and sedative when taken in a higher dose. We advise you to not use kratom too often: not more than once a week, and preferably not more than once or twice a month. This prevents habituation and will help you enjoy the effects of the plant more fully. Do not use kratom in combination with MAO inhibitors.
When it's your first time take a small dosage (0,5 - 1 gram) to test your sensitivity to iboga. An iboga trip can be intense and people can react differently to it. Taking this herb is safer with a sober, preferably experienced sitter standby to avoid any accidents.
If you are depressed, excessively annoyed at the world, sick, or solely interested in forgetting about your problems and having a good time, do not take psychedelic drugs. LSD-like substances, including psilocybin, are mental magnifying glasses, and if you already feel like shit you will merely spend the trip grovelling in your own insignificance and feeling even worse. The skilled voyager may be able to use this to his advantage and resolve a problem during the trip, but it's not pleasant and not recommended for beginners.
If, on the other hand, you are healthy, happy, and looking forward to the trip as an interesting voyage to a far-off land you've always wanted to visit, you are in good shape.
The group of people that wish to have the experience together must not be too large because that might cause tensions and conflicts. Two to four people would be ideal. Tripping alone is generally not recommended, but there are some people who prefer to trip alone. It's nice if your fellow travellers already have some psychedelic experience, but it's not necessary. It's also not necessary that one of you stays completely sober, but it's certainly better if one experienced person present (the sitter) takes only a low dose.
The most important thing is that all members trust each other. When it comes to decision-making, everyone has to basically agree. For example, when someone suggests something like putting on some music, he should not do it if another person doesn't feel comfortable with that. It's a good idea to discuss such issues prior to the trip.
The location has to be familiar: safe and comfortable for everyone. In the living room would be best for the first time, but also outdoors in a garden, the fields or a park can be nice. Preferably some distance from noise and chaos of the city, so you can enjoy the peace and quiet of nature.
We do not recommend, especially during your first trip, to make contact with the 'outside world', like going to public places, phoning friends or sending emails.
Consider 'packing' a couple of days before the trip: loading your brain with interesting and uplifting information like documentaries, movies or books. Try to be peaceful and avoid stressful situations. This may all have a positive influence on your trip, making it even more fascinating.
Do not eat heavy and high-fat foods in the hours preceding the trip, avoiding all food 3 hours before the trip. Make sure you have some drinks and snacks to eat while you are tripping or come down afterwards.
For an optimal visual experience (closed eye visuals), turn off all the lights. This is especially important with higher doses.
For an optimal experience, tripping requires some practice. You must learn which things can and which things can't be influenced. It's a useless effort resisting that which cannot be influenced, and it would be a waste if you would not make use of ways to direct the trip. Once the effects of a psychedelic have started, you cannot stop the trip. When your consciousness is flooded by vivid imagery and overwhelming thoughts, do not panic. Do not desperately stare at the clock to see when you'll be back to normal again, and keep the phone unplugged. It is usually a much better idea to stick to your original plan, for example keeping the lights turned off, to remain seated or lying down, to keep breathing calmly, and to recognize the beauty in the dynamic images you see, even if they initially make you restless or scare you. If however you keep feeling the need for help, get it from someone who has experience with psychedelics. Do not directly call family or emergency services, for in general, these people have no idea how to best take care of you while you're in the dissociative cognitive state.
It may happen that during the trip you interpret bodily signals differently. So when you feel irritated or dissatisfied, try going to the toilet or drink something.
Please avoid taking other drugs while tripping. Only one exception we find worthy of being mentioned, and that is cannabis. Smoked during the trip it can have three effects: If smoked beforehand or at the onset, it usually 'takes the edge off'. If smoked during the peak, it will intensify the trip. If smoked after the peak, it will make the trip 'come back' for a while. Note that these are only 'usual' effects, and individual response may vary. A pleasant "side effect" of cannabis is that it reduces nausea, which is quite common with many of the natural psychedelics.
If you follow all these recommendations, you may still go through some less enjoyable moments, and vice versa ignoring these do's and don'ts certainly won't result in a bad trip. Every trip is a challenge, and as a rule of thump has both pleasant and unpleasant moments. So when you're having a disturbing moment, don't think you have ended up in a bad trip that will invariably continue until the drug's effects wear off! Usually, the panic episodes last only a few minutes, unless of course, you keep resisting the experience, something that to a large extent is in your own hands (good preparation, able sitter/guide etc.). Surrendering to the experience, even when that feels odd because of your familiar self-image dissolves ("ego-death"), is the best way to get out of a "bad phase".
Based on The Psychedelic Experience FAQ - Erowid.
Erowid says about dosages: "Setting the right dosage can make the difference between a positive and negative experience. Taking too low a dose can be irritating and uncomfortable. Taking too high a dose can be frightening or possibly dangerous. Each individual reacts differently to various substances and dosages, so just because you know people who do a certain dosage doesn't mean that same dosage is right for you. Finding the right dosage is the trick.
Some people like higher doses, some like lower. There's nothing wrong with either as long as they're each done responsibly. Lower doses are cheaper, they're generally safer, and there's less of a chance that you'll find the experience overwhelming. They're often better for public experiences where you'll need to interact with other people in any particular way. Higher doses are generally more intense and there's less of a chance that you'll have an under-reaction or no reaction at all. Many people like higher doses for the level of exploration they afford. Higher doses are often better in a safe setting where it's possible to move around or lie down as you like.
When choosing a dose, consider where you're going to be for the duration of the trip, what state of mind you're in and what sort of experience you're looking for (set and setting). Body weight, gender, prescription or non-prescription drugs you're taking and general health can all affect dosage, as can what, when, and how much you've eaten in the past day"
Based on Psychoactive Dosages - Erowid.
- Do not operate heavy machinery. Do not drive.
- Do not use psychoactives when pregnant.
- Individuals currently in the midst of emotional or psychological upheaval in their everyday lives should be careful about choosing to use psychedelics, as they can trigger even more difficulty.
- Individuals with a family history of schizophrenia or early onset mental illness should be extremely careful as psychedelics have been known to trigger latent psychological and mental problems.
- Do not use when you're under 18.
- Always consult your health physician when in doubt about your health situation before or after taking psychedelics.
This guide only concerns the use of herbal psychedelics. When taking chemicals, the risk of going through an emotional or physical crisis is greater. Read here what to do when such a thing happens.
The following educational video from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies shows how users of psychedelics can minimize psychological risks:
One more advice: If you can, read up before you ever trip if you can. It is good to know a thing or two about psychedelics before you actually have a psychedelic experience. For this, you can visit the recommended links below. Remember: knowledge empowers you and can help you get through difficult situations. And: the more you know about tripping, the more you will understand, and enjoy.
A must-read: Leary was the guru of LSD, and he wrote many books. "The Psychedelic Experience" is the trip guide for many psychonauts around the world.
Like Leary, Terence McKenna was a well known psychedelic philosopher and shaman. Terence McKenna is not as easy for newbie trippers to approach as Leary. In his books and lectures, he often takes on very difficult topics.
A poetic look into the mescaline trip as experienced by renowned intellectual Aldous Huxley. A wonderful introduction to psychedelic thought in general.
Erowids Vaults on many different psychoactives: Spiritual & ritual use of psychoactives
According to Dade Murphy, "I've found this practical guide to be very informative and accurate. It's more concise and easier to navigate/understand than, say, the Vaults of Erowid or Shulgin's books. Of course, it leaves out a lot of points that more lengthy resources might go after."