How to Process A Difficult Psychedelic Experience

Many people have had positive and transformative experiences with psychedelic medicine. However, these aren’t the only types of experiences you can have when working with psychedelics. Some people undergo a profound and calming experience, while others find it intense, challenging and almost alien. 

Thankfully, with proper preparation, understanding and ongoing support, many people can discover the true potential of psychedelic medicine

What Is a Difficult Psychedelic Experience?

A challenging psychedelic experience occurs while under the influence of a hallucinatory substance like psilocybin mushrooms, LSD or MDMA. There are many types of difficult experiences a person can have when taking psychedelic medicine, from adverse physical symptoms to a negative emotional or spiritual reaction. 

Challenging psychedelic experiences can stem from:

  • Taking higher doses of a psychedelic drug.
  • Being in a negative emotional state before the event.
  • Being in settings with excessive external stimulation.
  • Combining psychedelics with alcohol or other drugs.
  • Undergoing a psychedelic experience without the help of professionals.
  • Having certain physical or mental health conditions.
  • Not drinking enough water.

During one of these negative experiences, symptoms might range from unpleasant to traumatic, with many feeling out of control through paranoia, anxiety, overwhelming hallucinations or stress. People can also be confronted with painful memories of the past or existentially challenging experiences. Examples of a bad physical trip can include feelings of nausea, dizziness and slurred speech.

Just know that you are not alone, and these experiences are common. Psychedelics, even those taken clinically, have the power to uncover difficult emotions, with some feelings lasting weeks, months or even years.

5 Techniques to Work With Challenging Experiences

Often, bad psychedelic trips are intrinsic to the experience, as they result in the impactful mental, physical and spiritual growth you desire. And thankfully, each type of psychedelic challenge comes with its own remedies and ways to heal. 

Here’s how to deal with a bad trip: 

1. Prepare Yourself

While it can feel overwhelming at the moment, properly preparing yourself before taking a psychedelic medicine can put you in a suitable headspace to effectively deal with the feelings that come your way. 

Preparation involves:

  • Learning about the specific substance you are taking.
  • Taking the correct dosage under the supervision of a medical professional.
  • Preparing mentally and physically.
  • Preparing your environment for the trip itself.

Before psychedelic trips, write down your intentions to help anchor your thoughts — think about what you hope to achieve through the experience. Proper rest, hydration and good nutrition are also critical to a positive trip, as they will help your endurance. It’s also important to set yourself up in a comfortable area with no outside interruptions and create a safe, inviting space for your experience. 

2. Remember the Experience is Temporary

If you start to feel overwhelmed, remind yourself that the experience isn’t real and all feelings in this moment will pass. Remember that many people encounter negative trips, which are temporary. Sometimes, just reminding yourself that these feelings are fleeting can provide the endurance needed to get through discomfort safely. 

While waiting for the feelings to pass, you might express yourself in a new way, such as moving around, changing scenery or making art. Breathwork may also help you lower anxiety, depression and stress. If you start feeling overwhelmed, breathe through one nostril while holding down the other and alternating. 

While you cannot turn off the drugs, making these simple changes at the moment might help you get through the experience. 

3. Don’t Resist

As much as possible, do not resist the psychedelic experience. While it might initially seem difficult, resistance can add another unwanted layer to the bad experience. Often, trauma can be repressed from childhood and is something you must work through. Pushing away these feelings can make the trip worse and make it more challenging for you to experience the positives of the medicine.

Surrender yourself to the experience and acknowledge your challenges by saying, “I’m not sure why you are here, but I’m listening. What are you trying to tell me?” Note the answers in a journal and reflect on them after the trip. Doing so can help you learn why you had that specific challenge and use it to grow before safely releasing it. 

Keep an open mind and let your curiosity guide you through the trip. You can use the experience to get the desired message and, eventually, the feelings and healing that you need.

4. Care For Your Needs 

You must have proper physical and emotional sustenance for your experience with psychedelics. While you might experience uncomfortable symptoms you believe result from a bad trip, your body might actually be signaling something — such as the need for food or water, to use the bathroom or that you are too hot or cold.

After a negative psychedelic experience, take time to rest, recover and decompress. Take your self-care seriously, such as walking in nature, listening to your favorite music or spending time with loved ones. Recover your strength and center yourself to return to the experience with calmness and strength. As a rule of thumb, avoid making significant life changes for at least two weeks after a psychedelic experience.

5. Connect With Someone 

After a challenging experience, connecting with a trusted friend or loved one can make all the difference in healing. Seeking out support can help you reduce stress and provide essential insights and outside perspectives to move forward. You might also turn to a mental health professional and use them as a soundboard to explore your experience healthily. 

Professionals can provide the proper support you need during and after psychedelic experiences. They have the expertise to facilitate the event, are familiar with the specific substance and are trained in harm-reduction techniques to help you during the trip. With psychedelic integration coaching, you can work through trauma and negative health symptoms and gain insights from them.  

Explore Psychedelic Integration Coaching at The Sanctuary

Psychedelics have the power to help you through negative experiences and work toward a more rewarding future. It’s also common to run into roadblocks during a psychedelic journey. Thankfully, with each challenge, there are many ways to heal and move forward healthily.

At The Sanctuary at Sedona, our health professionals have the expertise and training to help you safely through psychedelic experiences. Through psychedelic integration coaching, we can help you overcome unwanted feelings or emotions and gain the insights needed to make healthy changes in your life. Our integrative and holistic approach to addiction treatment is designed to target your unique needs to help you achieve a healthier future. 

To learn more about our services, contact us today. 

He is the Founder, Administrator, Counselor at the Sanctuary at Sedona.

He has a BA in Political Science and is currently Senior teaching staff at Four Winds Society, an international school of energy medicine. His credentials also include being an Ordained Minister; a Certified Shamanic Breathwork® Facilitator; a Founding Member Society for Shamanic Practitioners; a Member of Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology; a Member of the National Institute for Holistic Addiction Studies. [email protected]