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What Having a "Psychedelic Trip" Means -

What Having a "Psychedelic Trip" Means

October 11, 2022
Psychedelic Trip and Woman
Psychedelic Trip and Woman

You’ll often hear the term “psychedelic trip” in reference to LSD, magic mushrooms, ketamine, and other drugs. But what exactly is a psychedelic trip, how does it compare to other drugs, and is there any way to achieve these effects without drugs?

What is a Psychedelic Experience?

The term “psychedelic” is used synonymously with “hallucinogen”. It refers to a type of psychoactive drug that produces visual/auditory distortions, perceptual changes, and hallucinogens.

All drugs can impact the way that you think and act. Cannabis can make you giddy. Opioids can slow you down. Cocaine and methamphetamine can lead to racing thoughts. But psychedelics are a little different.

Psychedelic experiences are more intense. Users typically notice significant changes in their environment, including sharper colors and sounds, twisting and distorting objects, and a sense that walls are throbbing. Psychedelics can also produce something known as synesthesia, whereby the senses blend together.

What are Psychedelic Drugs?

A psychedelic drug is one that produces psychedelic effects. These drugs are typically found in cacti and fungi, and they are available in natural and synthetic forms.

Psychedelics are usually separated into categories such as “classic psychedelics” and “non-classic psychedelics”. They can also be classified based on their associated alkaloids, origins, and the way they interact with the brain.

The most common psychedelic drugs include:

  • Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD): A psychedelic drug extracted from a substance found in ergot, a hallucinogenic drug that infects grain and has been known to humans for many centuries.
  • Psilocybin: A naturally occurring psychedelic substance found in many species of mushrooms, also known as magic mushrooms.
  • Mescaline: Found in multiple species of cacti, including peyote and San Pedro.
  • DMT: The primary component of a drink known as ayahuasca, which is consumed during spiritual ceremonies in parts of Central and South America.
  • Bufotenine: Also known as “5-HO-DMT”, this psychedelic substance is found in the venom and skin of certain toads.
  • MDMA: Also known as “Molly” and “Ecstasy”, MDMA is often used as a rave drug and has strong stimulant and empathogenic properties.

What Physical Effects Will I Experience?

A psychedelic experience can vary based on the drug, dose, user, and a number of other factors.

The physical effects are usually not as intense or as varied as the mental effects, but they can include:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Higher body temperature
  • Faster heart rate
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Tremors

What Mental Effects Will I Experience?

The term “set and setting” is often used in reference to a psychedelic experience. It refers to the “mindset” that you have prior to psychedelic use and the “physical environment” that you place yourself in.

Unlike stimulants, sedatives, and opioids, it’s not as easy to force a good experience with psychedelics. If you’re in a bad headspace and an uncomfortable environment, you may have a very uncomfortable and challenging trip.

Some of the mental effects you may experience on psychedelic drugs include:

  • Nervousness
  • Paranoia
  • Panic
  • Spiritual Experiences
  • Changes in Perception
  • Hallucinations

What are the Risks of Psychedelics?

If used in carefully controlled settings, with consideration given to the dose and the user’s mindset and environment, psychedelic experiences are usually very positive and safe. What’s more, psychedelics like LSD and magic mushrooms are not considered to be addictive and they don’t carry the same overdose risk as many other drugs.

There are some issues to be aware of though, and these can occur in both novice and experienced users:

Bad Trip

Bad trips are arguably the biggest fear when it comes to taking psychedelics. They occur when the user gets anxious and scared, at which point a pleasant trip can turn into a living nightmare.

A bad trip can be dangerous, as the user may be a threat to others and to themselves if they lose control and the fear takes over.

Such issues are rare, though. We’ve all heard the story of the babysitter who put the baby in the oven while on LSD, and there are many other equally terrifying stories. The vast majority of these are lies, and others are exaggerations. The same goes for most of the stories you’ve heard about people who jump from buildings believing they can fly.

Hallucinogen Persistent Perception Disorder (HPPD)

HPPD is a rare condition that causes flashbacks, whereby the user experiences psychedelic-like experiences even after the drug has worn off. These effects can continue for days, weeks, and months after the trip.

The flashbacks are not always as intense as the actual psychedelic experience, but they can be.

HPPD is more common with LSD than other psychedelics, but it’s still very uncommon.

Mental Health Issues

Psychedelic drugs like LSD and magic mushrooms are best avoided by anyone with a history of psychosis and schizophrenia, as they can trigger incidents of psychosis. Hallucinogens may also trigger schizophrenia in people who are predisposed to the condition.


Psychedelic tolerance can develop very quickly, much more so than other drugs. In fact, users who take drugs like LSD and magic mushrooms several times a month may need to adjust their dose to feel the same effects.

This can make it difficult to find and maintain the perfect dose and may lead to the user consuming higher doses.

If they take a break and the tolerance drops, only for them to return to the same high dose they took during their last trip, it could lead to a very challenging experience.

This is how many heroin and opioid deaths occur, with the user relapsing, not realizing their tolerance has dropped and then taking a dose that was once recreational and is now deadly. There is very little risk of this happening with LSD and shrooms, but consuming such a large dose is more likely to trigger a bad trip.

Can You Have a Psychedelic Trip Without Drugs?

Technically, you can have a psychedelic trip without drugs, and it has nothing to do with staring at magic eye pictures and listening to Sgt. Pepper.

People can “trip” using something known as Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique (REST). It involves abstaining from all sensory inputs for an hour or so.

In most cases, it provokes a relaxing and self-reflective experience. In others, it triggers hallucinations akin to psychedelic drugs.

There are a few ways to achieve this effect, but the most common is via the use of a sensory deprivation tank.

Also known as flotation tanks, the pods are filled with water and Epsom salts. The user climbs inside and floats in the water, which has been heated to body temperature. The lid of the tank is closed and all light, noise, and sound is blocked.

When external stimuli are blocked, your brain begins making things up to fill in the gaps, leading to auditory and visual hallucinations.

You may also experience hallucinations if you are heavily sleep-deprived, although this is not something we would recommend. A lack of sleep can have a catastrophic effect on your mental health and even your physical health.

Summary: Good Trips, Bad Trips, and Psychedelic Therapies

Many users of psychedelic drugs report experiencing extremely positive emotions and even life-changing experiences. They can have a notable impact on a user’s mood and outlook, and this seems to last for many days and even weeks after use.

For this reason, psychedelics have been studied for their therapeutic potential, with research suggesting that they could help to treat end-of-life anxiety in cancer patients, as well as major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse.

However, there’s still a lot we don’t know about psychedelic therapy and further research is needed before we can make any concrete conclusions.