How to Stop Acid Trip

Learn how to manage or stop a bad acid trip with practical insights and interventions. 

Overview: LSD, commonly known as acid, can induce profound altered states of consciousness, with effects ranging from heightened senses to challenging emotions like anxiety or paranoia. While most trips are positive, some can be distressing, known as “bad trips.” Preparation, a supportive environment, and management strategies like adjusting the setting or seeking support can help manage challenging experiences. In extreme cases, pharmacological interventions like benzodiazepines or antipsychotics may be used, but only as a last resort under medical supervision. Prioritizing safety and well-being is key to navigating LSD experiences effectively. 

Understanding Acid Trips

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), also known as acid, is a semi-synthetic psychedelic drug. Acid was one of the first synthetically-produced psychedelics, and its use has had far-reaching influences on society and culture, particularly in the U.S. around the mid-20th century. Producing powerful effects at just the microgram (μg) level (one-millionth of a gram), acid is extremely potent.

The effects of acid are difficult to put into words and describe for those who have no experience with psychedelics. Briefly, use of LSD typically produces profoundly altered states of consciousness involving changes in thought patterns, heightened emotions, and shifts in perception of oneself and the surrounding environment.

One's perception of the world and their place in it may undergo a drastic shift. Usually repetitive internal thoughts and dialogue can be disrupted, making room for different perspectives and new insights. 

Senses are often intensified, which can enhance activities like listening to music and going for a walk in nature often making them more enjoyable, beautiful, or interesting. However, it is important to note that individuals may also experience strange sensations, uncomfortable memories, or challenging emotions such as anxiety, paranoia, or fear.

Despite its favorable safety profile — being non-addictive, non-toxic and causing only mild increases in blood pressure and heart rate during its effects — acid has always been considered a controversial substance. However, attitudes are gradually becoming more accepting, particularly with growing research supporting its therapeutic potential.

For instance, studies suggest it could be beneficial in treating alcoholism and potentially alleviating mood and anxiety disorders. It’s worth noting that while MM120 mentioned in the linked press release is the same compound as LSD, it is being developed by MindMed specifically for anxiety disorders and differs slightly in formulation. 

Still, experimenting with acid is not without its risks, particularly for those currently experiencing or with histories of mental health challenges, and it should not be used without due caution. 

Bad Acid Trips

While the majority of acid trips are generally positive, pleasant, and enjoyable, it's important to acknowledge that there is potential for a negative experience as well, often referred to as “bad trips.”

Negative experiences during an acid trip can include feelings of anxiety, fear, panic, or paranoia. The come-up refers to the initial phase of an acid trip, which is the period when the effects of LSD gradually begin to manifest after ingestion. During this phase, which typically lasts around 30 to 90 minutes, one may begin to have doubts — “Should I have taken this?” “Is it really acid?” “What if (insert problem/fear)?”

It's possible to experience what's known as a “negative thought loop,” where distressing thoughts or emotions repeat continuously, leading to feelings of being stuck or overwhelmed. Doubts and concerns like this typically last for just a short duration (seconds to minutes), although LSD can alter one’s perception of time making the experience feel longer. Importantly, with the right mindset, this phase usually transitions into a more enjoyable experience, especially with the assistance of an experienced and skilled therapist or trip sitter. 

As mentioned above, however, uncomfortable memories or emotions can also surface during a psychedelic experience, which can be challenging to confront and process in the moment. These aspects of the psychedelic experience highlight the importance of proper preparation, support, and guidance to navigate challenging moments safely and effectively. 

AI-generated image showing a person with a distressed expression, holding their head in their hands. The background is filled with chaotic and unsettling patterns, indicating a depiction of someone experiencing a bad acid trip.

Are Bad Trips Always Bad?

While bad trips can be very distressing while they are happening, they may not always be entirely negative. Research has shown that for some individuals, the most challenging psychedelic trips have also been the most insightful and life-changing.

One study revealed that fear and confusion are often prevalent during challenging psychedelic trips, but participants still report experiencing positive long-term effects resulting from these experiences. Some believe that bad trips are not truly negative, but rather view them as challenging experiences crucial for personal growth and leading to positive outcomes. They argue that bad trips are often just misunderstood or not properly integrated into the person’s everyday life. 

However, it's crucial to take a nuanced view and recognize that certain individuals might have profoundly negative psychedelic encounters. These experiences can be deeply distressing, destabilizing, and even traumatic, yet they're often sidelined in conversations. It's important to acknowledge that some people do face adverse effects from psychedelic journeys, and it's not merely a matter of inadequate integration.

Protecting Against Bad Acid Trips

Bad trips can arise due to various factors such as the individual's mental state, the environment they're in, or the dosage of the substance. Tripping with the wrong people or in an unsupportive setting can create feelings of unease and discomfort. Similarly, setting unrealistic or high expectations for the experience can lead to disappointment.

Additionally, insufficient preparation, such as a lack of knowledge about the substance and its effects or a lack of mental and emotional readiness, can increase the likelihood of negative acid trips. It's important for individuals to be aware of these potential negative effects and to approach acid experiences with caution and mindfulness.

Before embarking on an acid trip, it is crucial to be well-prepared. This involves considering the “set and setting,” where “set” refers to the individual's mindset and “setting” to the physical and social environment in which the experience takes place. 

Understanding the effects of acid and its safety profile also helps users prepare by giving them a clearer idea of what to expect. Knowing that acid has a very good physical safety profile alleviates concerns about harmful physical effects, easing worries during the experience.

Thorough research on dosage is highly recommended. It's generally better to start with a smaller dose (“start low, go slow”) to avoid overly intense experiences and associated risks. Building experience with lower doses (20-70 μg) is advised before trying higher doses (70-150 μg). 

Having a trusted trip sitter or therapist, preferably experienced with psychedelics, present during the trip can provide additional safety and support and is strongly encouraged. They can offer guidance, reassurance, and assistance if needed, which can help individuals navigate their psychedelic journey more comfortably and with greater peace of mind. 

Tips for Managing a Bad Acid Trip

Acknowledging that persistent negative feelings, thoughts, or sensations during an acid trip can be challenging, it's valuable to be aware of some strategies that can help users navigate such experiences effectively. Here are some ways to manage a difficult acid trip:

  • Adjust the setting: You can modify the environment to create a more calming and supportive space, which may help manage a bad trip. Playing soothing music or surrounding yourself with beautiful art can promote a positive atmosphere and enhance relaxation. Additionally, changing into more comfortable clothing or wrapping yourself in blankets can be helpful. 
  • Seek support: Communicate with a trusted trip sitter or therapist about your feelings and preferences for emotional support. For those in the US without a suitable trip sitter, consider contacting the Fireside Project. Open everyday 11:00 am - 11:00 pm PT, Fireside Project is a psychedelic support line staffed by trained volunteers that offers emotional support for challenging trips.
  • Engage in calming activities: Mindfulness activities such as gentle breathing exercises, yoga, or meditation can help to relax the mind and body. Incorporating these practices may help shift thoughts and emotions and bring comfort. However, mixing psychedelics with yoga or meditation can intensify the experience and is generally recommended only if the individual has a regular practice and feels comfortable doing so. 
  • Remember the trip is temporary: Remind yourself that the effects of the drug will diminish with time. Practice patience and focus on what can be done to make the best of the situation, knowing that it will eventually pass.
  • Embrace challenging experiences: Instead of resisting, try embracing challenging moments with acceptance and curiosity. Resistance can sometimes worsen bad trips, while accepting it and surrendering to it often leads to resolution.

Remember, no two acid trips are the same. It is impossible to predict what a psychedelic experience is going to be like, and so it is crucial to prioritize safety and well-being. By following the above steps and getting the right support, it is hopeful that challenging experiences can be carefully managed and potentially transformed into moments of learning and personal growth.

Using Drugs to Stop a Bad Trip: A Last Resort

As a final option, pharmacological intervention (using drugs) can be considered to manage challenging psychedelic experiences. In rare cases where a bad trip becomes overwhelming, such additional measures may be needed.

Two commonly used classes of medications in these situations are benzodiazepines and antipsychotics:

  • Benzodiazepines work by interacting with the GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) system in the brain, which helps regulate brain activity and reduce excessive firing of neurons throughout the nervous system. By binding to specific GABA receptors, benzodiazepines enhance the inhibitory effects of GABA, leading to increased relaxation, reduced anxiety, and sedative effects.
  • Antipsychotic medications can also be used to counteract psychedelic effects. They work by blocking the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor, which psychedelics must bind to to produce their psychedelic effects. However, antipsychotics also affect other receptors for dopamine, histamine, and norepinephrine, potentially causing unpleasant side effects.

Ketanserin, a medication for high blood pressure and a selective antagonist of the 5-HT2A receptor, has shown promise in stopping acid trips. When administered after LSD ingestion, ketanserin has been shown to reverse psychedelic effects within 2 to 2.5 hours. This approach has demonstrated good tolerability and may provide relief during challenging experiences.

Another alternative is valerian, a perennial herb native to Europe and Asia known for its calming properties. With a history of use as a natural remedy for sleep disorders, anxiety, and stress, valerian is commonly available in dietary supplement form, and is often used as a natural alternative to pharmaceutical sleep aids or anti-anxiety medications. The root of the valerian plant contains compounds that are believed to have sedative and anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects, and there is some evidence to suggest that it may stop psychedelic trips by increasing GABA, similar to benzodiazepines. However, this has yet to be scientifically determined. 

Stopping a bad trip with the use of certain drugs can be a valuable option to have as it can help to bring people out of unnecessarily frightening experiences. Knowing that it's possible to stop a bad trip may provide a sense of added security to psychedelic users, study participants, and therapy patients.

That said, it's generally advised to consider pharmacological interventions like benzodiazepines or antipsychotics only after trying other options or in extreme cases like psychotic reactions. 

Conclusion: Navigating Acid Trips Safely

Despite its potential for positive experiences and profound healing, LSD can also induce challenging trips, often characterized by anxiety, fear, or paranoia. While some challenging trips can lead to beneficial insights and personal growth, it's important to acknowledge that not all of them result in positive outcomes.

Preparation, including understanding dosage and having a positive mindset and supportive environment, can help to minimize the risk of having a bad trip. If challenging moments occur during a psychedelic experience, seeking support from trip sitters or therapists, modifying the environment, engaging in calming activities, and surrendering to the experience with curiosity can help users to navigate such difficult experiences.

Pharmacological interventions, like benzodiazepines or antipsychotics, may be necessary in extreme cases, but should only be considered as a last resort and preferably under medical supervision. By prioritizing preparation, safety, and well-being, individuals can approach acid experiences with greater confidence, and minimize the risk of having a bad trip.

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