Psychedelics are substances that can alter perception, mood, and various cognitive processes. When someone consumes a psychedelic substance, LSD, Psilocybin Mushrooms, or DMT for example, it interacts with serotonin receptors in the brain. This interaction alters the usual patterns of serotonin transmission, leading to the effects associated with a psychedelic experience. This experience can be both positive and negative. Therefore, in order not to fall into the abyss of a Bad Trip, we need to know how to stop a psychedelic trip.

We have a separate article about Bad Trip and first aid during it. Here we will talk about situations when the trip can still be corrected by wrapping, directing it in the other way, reducing the intensity of experiences, or helping the body with additional substances. But first, what are the phases of a psychedelic trip?

Stages of a Psychedelic Trip

Stages of a Psychedelic Trip

A psychedelic trip, depending on the substance and dosage, can be broken down into several distinct stages. Each stage has its own set of characteristics and effects.

1. Onset

This is the initial phase where the individual starts to notice the first effects of the psychedelic. There might be a sense of anticipation or anxiety. Physical sensations, such as tingling or warmth, might be felt. Visual changes, like enhanced colors or patterns, may begin to appear.

Onset duration is typically 20-60 minutes after ingestion, depending on the substance and method of consumption.

2. Come Up

The effects of the psychedelic become more pronounced during this stage. Visual and auditory hallucinations may intensify. There might be a heightened sense of emotion, and thoughts can become more rapid or profound. Some people might experience nausea or physical discomfort during this phase.

This phase can last anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours.

3. Peak

During the peak, the full effects of the psychedelic are felt. Hallucinations can be intense and all-encompassing. Time perception might be altered, with moments feeling much longer than they are. There’s often a dissolution of the ego, where one’s sense of self might fade, leading to feelings of oneness with the universe. Emotions can be heightened, ranging from euphoria to introspection to anxiety. This is the most intense phase and this is where a lot can go wrong.

The peak can last several hours, depending on the substance.

4. Plateau

The effects remain strong but are no longer intensifying. Many of the peak experiences, like profound insights or intense visuals, continue but at a more manageable level.

After the peak, there’s often a period where the intensity stabilizes, lasting a few hours.

5. Come Down

Visual and auditory hallucinations begin to fade, and there’s a gradual return to baseline consciousness. Thoughts start to become clearer, and emotions stabilize. There’s often a period of reflection on the experiences and insights gained during the trip.

This phase can last several hours as the effects of the psychedelic gradually decrease.

6. Afterglow

After the primary effects of the psychedelic have worn off, many people report feeling a sense of renewal or clarity. There’s often a lingering sense of well-being, introspection, and a heightened appreciation for life. Some might also experience fatigue or a need for extended rest.

This can last for a day or even several days after the trip.

7. Integration

Integration involves reflecting on the psychedelic experience and incorporating any insights or lessons into one’s daily life. This might involve journaling, discussing the experience with others, or seeking therapeutic support.

This is an ongoing process that can take days, weeks, or even longer.

It’s essential to note that the duration and intensity of each stage can vary widely based on the specific psychedelic substance, the dosage, the individual’s physiology, mindset, and the environment in which the trip takes place.

Why psychedelic trip can go wrong?

Why psychedelic trip can go wrong?

Psychedelic experiences can be profound and transformative, but they can also be challenging or even distressing. Understanding the reasons why a psychedelic trip can go the wrong way is crucial for Harm Reduction and ensuring the safety and well-being of users. Based on the available research, here are some reasons why a psychedelic trip can become challenging:

1. Set and Setting:

  • Set (Mindset): The individual’s current emotional state, expectations, and unresolved psychological issues can influence the trip. Negative emotions or traumatic memories can be amplified during the experience.
  • Setting (Environment): An unfamiliar or uncomfortable environment can contribute to feelings of unease or paranoia. Loud noises, bright lights, or being around unsupportive people can negatively impact the experience.
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2. Dosage:

  • Taking a higher dose than one is prepared for can lead to overwhelming and intense effects. The potency of psychedelics can vary, making it challenging to determine the appropriate dosage.

3. Lack of Preparation:

  • Inadequate knowledge about the effects of the substance, lack of mental preparation, or not having a plan in case the trip becomes challenging can contribute to negative experiences.

4. Physical Discomfort:

  • Some psychedelics can cause physical discomfort, such as nausea, which can negatively impact the overall experience.

5. Mixing with Other Substances:

  • Combining psychedelics with other drugs or medications can lead to unpredictable effects and increase the risk of a challenging trip.

6. External Triggers:

  • Unexpected events during the trip, such as confrontations, accidents, or other stressors, can steer the experience in a negative direction.

How to make your almost bad trip turn good

How to make your almost bad trip turn good

Navigating a challenging or “bad” psychedelic trip and transforming it into a more positive experience is a topic of interest for many. In most cases, no additional medications are needed to change the course of the trip to more light and calm direction. It is enough to work with yourself, support from outside, and a suitable environment. Based on the available research and insights, here’s what can be suggested:

  1. Recognize the Nature of the Experience:
    Understanding that the psychedelic experience is temporary and influenced by the substance can provide some reassurance. Reminding oneself that the effects will wear off can be grounding.
  2. Change the Environment:
    The setting plays a significant role in shaping the psychedelic experience. If someone is feeling overwhelmed, moving to a quieter, more familiar, or more comfortable space can help. Adjusting lighting or turning off intense music can also make a difference.
  3. Grounding Techniques:
    Physical grounding exercises, like touching an object, focusing on one’s breath, or even walking barefoot, can help reconnect with reality.
  4. Seek Comfort and Support:
    Being with a trusted friend or “trip sitter” can provide emotional support. They can offer reassurance, distraction, or simply be there to listen.
  5. Redirect Focus:
    Engaging in simple activities, like drawing, listening to calming music, or watching a light-hearted show, can divert attention from negative thoughts or feelings.
  6. Positive Affirmations:
    Repeating positive affirmations or mantras can help shift the mindset. Phrases like “I am safe,” “This too shall pass,” or “I am in control” can be calming.
  7. Avoid Resistance:
    Resisting or fighting the experience can intensify negative feelings. Instead, trying to let go and surrender to the experience, while reminding oneself of its temporary nature, can be helpful.
  8. Post-Trip Reflection:
    After the effects have worn off, reflecting on the experience can provide insights. Discussing it with trusted friends or writing about it can help process any challenging emotions or thoughts.

The study titled Day Trip to Hell: A mixed methods study of challenging psychedelic experiences by P. Johnstad delves into the nature of challenging psychedelic experiences. The research found that challenging trips have a broader thematic range than previously identified. Despite the often intense narratives, many participants believed that the experience had positive long-term consequences.

But sometimes simple efforts may not be enough. And people want to enlist the support of other substances to stop psychedelic trip, and abort it. Below I will analyze the most common supplements and medications and try to tell you which ones can really help, which ones will do nothing, and which ones can harm.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Vitamin B3, commonly known as niacin, has been discussed in various contexts related to psychedelic substances.

Historically, niacin has been suggested as a potential means to counteract or “terminate” the effects of a psychedelic trip. This idea stems from the belief that niacin can counteract or diminish the effects of certain drugs.

Niacin is known to cause a “flushing” reaction when taken in large doses. This flushing is due to the dilation of blood vessels, leading to increased blood flow to the skin. The sensation can be intense and might distract or override some of the sensations of a psychedelic experience.

While there are anecdotal reports of niacin being used to counteract the effects of psychedelics, there is limited scientific evidence to support this claim. Most of the discussions around niacin and psychedelics are based on personal experiences rather than rigorous scientific studies.

Taking large doses of niacin in hopes of ending a psychedelic trip can pose risks. High doses of niacin can cause side effects like nausea, liver damage, and other health issues. Moreover, the sudden onset of the niacin flush can be alarming and might exacerbate anxiety during a trip.

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Valerian and psychedelics

Valerian is a herb that has been traditionally used for its sedative and calming properties. It’s often used to treat insomnia and anxiety. When it comes to its interaction with a psychedelic trip, Valerian is believed to interact with the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) system in the brain.

GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning it reduces the activity of the nervous system. By enhancing the action of GABA, valerian can produce a calming effect. Given its anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties, valerian might help reduce the anxiety that can sometimes accompany a psychedelic experience.

Valerian’s sedative properties might counteract some of the stimulating effects of certain psychedelics, potentially leading to a more relaxed and calm experience. It is worth taking Valerian in advance, knowing your dosage, tolerance, and susceptibility to this herbal remedy.

Just as with benzodiazepines, there’s a possibility that the calming effects of valerian could dull or diminish the intensity of a psychedelic trip.


Benzodiazepines and psychedelics

Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs primarily used for treating anxiety, but they also have properties that can affect a psychedelic trip.

These medications enhance the effect of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) at the GABA-A receptor, leading to sedative, hypnotic (sleep-inducing), anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), anticonvulsant, and muscle relaxant properties.

One of the primary effects of benzodiazepines is the reduction of anxiety. Given that anxiety can be a significant component of a challenging psychedelic experience, benzodiazepines can help alleviate this aspect of the trip.

Benzodiazepines can induce drowsiness and calmness, which can counteract the stimulating effects of some psychedelics.

While benzodiazepines can help manage a challenging trip, they might also dull or diminish the intensity and depth of the psychedelic experience.

In clinical research settings where psychedelics are administered, benzodiazepines are sometimes on hand as a potential trip terminator. If a participant has an extremely challenging experience, a benzodiazepine can be administered to help calm them down.

It’s essential to be cautious when combining any substances, including benzodiazepines and psychedelics. There’s always a risk of unexpected interactions. It is also worth knowing and remembering that benzodiazepine tranquilizers are powerful medications. They should not be taken without a good reason, and without consulting a doctor.


Antipsychotics and psychedelics

Antipsychotic medications, also known as neuroleptics, are primarily used to treat symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking. Their potential interaction with psychedelic substances is of interest given the hallucinogenic properties of the latter.

Antipsychotics primarily work by blocking dopamine receptors in the brain, particularly the D2 receptor. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, motivation, and reward, and its dysregulation is implicated in psychotic disorders. But this is a very general characteristic. Neuroleptics are a large class of substances, they are different and their actions may differ.

Given that antipsychotics are designed to treat hallucinations and delusions, they can potentially counteract or reduce these effects if they arise during a psychedelic trip.

Antipsychotics might diminish the intensity and depth of the psychedelic experience. This is because many psychedelics exert their effects through the serotonin system, and antipsychotics, by modulating the dopamine system, can alter the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain.

Combining antipsychotics with psychedelics might lead to unpredictable effects or exacerbate side effects. For example, both antipsychotics and some psychedelics can affect heart rhythm, so combining them could increase the risk of cardiac issues.

In settings where psychedelics are administered for therapeutic purposes, antipsychotics might be on hand as a potential intervention if a participant experiences severe psychotic-like symptoms or has an extremely challenging experience.

I cannot justify and recommend the use of antipsychotics in any other case, except in medical and research institutions. And even there they should not always be applied.

What about Кetanserin and LSD?

Acute subjective effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) over time on visual analog scales (VASs).
Ketanserin reversed LSD-induced subjective effects compared with placebo. LSD was administered at t=0 hours. Ketanserin or placebo was administered at t=1 hour. The figure from the study mentioned below.

The interaction between ketanserin and LSD is particularly interesting in the context of psychedelic research. Here’s a detailed description based on the available study Ketanserin Reverses the Acute Response to LSD.

LSD is being investigated for its potential in psychedelic-assisted therapy. Its effects are primarily mediated through the stimulation of the serotonin 5-hydroxytryptamine-2A (5-HT2A) receptor. Previous research has shown that administering the 5-HT2A antagonist ketanserin before LSD can almost fully block the acute subjective response to LSD.

The study aimed to determine whether ketanserin can reverse the effects of LSD when administered after LSD has already been taken.

The study used a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover design involving 24 healthy participants. They underwent two 14-hour sessions and received ketanserin (40 mg orally) or a placebo 1 hour after taking LSD (100 µg orally). The study measured subjective effects, autonomic effects, acute adverse effects, plasma brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels, and pharmacokinetics up to 12 hours.

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Ketanserin was found to reverse the acute response to LSD, significantly reducing the duration of subjective effects from 8.5 hours (with placebo) to 3.5 hours. Ketanserin also reversed LSD-induced alterations of the mind, including visual and acoustic alterations and ego dissolution.

While ketanserin reduced some adverse cardiovascular effects and pupil dilation associated with LSD, it did not affect the elevations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels. Importantly, ketanserin did not alter the pharmacokinetics of LSD.

The findings suggest that ketanserin interacts with LSD and supports the idea that LSD produces its psychedelic effects only when it occupies 5-HT2A receptors. Ketanserin can effectively be used as a planned or rescue option to shorten and attenuate the LSD experience in both research settings and LSD-assisted therapy.

This study provides valuable insights into the potential of ketanserin to modulate the effects of LSD, especially in therapeutic contexts where controlling the duration and intensity of the psychedelic experience might be beneficial.

The Value of Stopping a Trip

Stopping a Psychedelic Trip

The value or importance of stopping a psychedelic trip can be understood from various perspectives, including safety, mental well-being, and therapeutic contexts. Here’s a breakdown of the significance:

  • Safety Concerns
    • Physical Safety: In some cases, individuals under the influence of psychedelics might engage in risky behaviors, such as wandering into traffic or attempting to self-harm. Being able to stop or mitigate the effects of the trip can prevent potential physical harm.
    • Mental Distress: A particularly challenging trip can lead to intense feelings of fear, paranoia, or even psychosis. Terminating the trip can alleviate this distress and prevent potential long-term psychological harm.
  • Therapeutic Context:
    • Controlled Environment: In therapeutic settings where psychedelics are administered, having the ability to stop or control the trip ensures a safe and controlled environment. This is especially important in clinical trials or therapeutic sessions where the patient’s well-being is paramount.
    • Tailored Experience: In therapeutic contexts, the ability to modulate the duration and intensity of the psychedelic experience can be beneficial. For instance, if a patient is revisiting a particularly traumatic memory or feeling overwhelmed, the therapist might decide to shorten the session for the patient’s well-being.
  • Personal Comfort and Well-being:
    • Avoiding Prolonged Distress: Not all psychedelic experiences are positive or enlightening. Some can be distressing, confusing, or even terrifying. Being able to stop the trip can provide relief from prolonged distress.
    • Ensuring Positive Integration: A bad trip can leave lasting negative impressions or trauma. By stopping a trip that’s heading in a negative direction, individuals might have a better chance of integrating the experience positively afterward.
  • Ethical Considerations: Informed Consent. Especially in research settings, participants should be informed about the potential risks and benefits of the psychedelic experience. Having the option to stop the trip if it becomes too challenging is an essential aspect of ensuring participants’ rights and autonomy.
  • Enhancing Public Perception: Reducing Stigma. One of the criticisms or fears surrounding psychedelic use is the potential for “bad trips” or negative experiences. Demonstrating that there are safe and effective ways to stop or control the trip can help reduce stigma and increase public acceptance of psychedelic therapies.In summary, the ability to stop a psychedelic trip is valuable for ensuring the safety, well-being, and rights of individuals undergoing the experience. Whether in recreational, therapeutic, or research contexts, prioritizing the individual’s mental and physical health is of utmost importance.

Final Thought

psychedelics - powerful substances

Navigating the intricate landscapes of the mind during a psychedelic experience can be both enlightening and challenging. While these journeys can offer profound insights and transformative moments, they can also lead to distressing or overwhelming situations.

The ability to stop or modulate a psychedelic trip is not just a safety measure, but a testament to our evolving understanding of these powerful substances. As we continue to explore the therapeutic potential of psychedelics, it’s crucial to prioritize the well-being and autonomy of the individual.

Whether through pharmacological interventions, supportive environments, or grounding techniques, or some medications and remedies ensuring a safe and positive experience is paramount. As with any journey, having the tools and knowledge to navigate challenges can make all the difference.

This marks the finish of today’s session. It is my hope that this piece was enlightening.

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