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Psychoactives 101
Fundamentals of Responsible Psychoactive Use
by Fire & Earth Erowid
Jun 2009
Citation:   Erowid F, Erowid E. "Fundamentals of Responsible Psychoactive Use" Erowid Extracts. Jun 2009;16:21.
When "Towards a Culture of Responsible Psychoactive Drug Use" appeared in the September 2008 issue of Cato Unbound, the Cato Institute's online publication, we introduced a list of principles called the Fundamentals of Responsible Psychoactive Use. Similar to the "set and setting" meme introduced in the 1960s to bring attention to the importance of context when using psychedelics, the Fundamentals highlight additional factors to consider when using psychoactives. Based on one of Erowid's earliest documents, the "Individual Code of Conduct for Primary Religious Practices", first drafted in 1996, the Fundamentals of Responsible Psychoactive Use have been gleaned from the insights and experiences of thousands of people, and are a work in progress. Since publication in Cato Unbound, a new point has been added about awareness of legal issues.

Fundamentals of Responsible Psychoactive Use (v2.1)
  1. Investigate the health risks and dangers of the specific psychoactive and of the class of drugs to which it belongs.

  2. Learn about interactions and contraindications with other recreational drugs, medications, supplements, and activities.

  3. Review individual health concerns, predispositions, and family health history.

  4. Be aware of relevant laws and penalties.

  5. Choose a source or product carefully to help ensure correct identification and purity. (Try to avoid materials with an unknown source or of unknown quality.)

  6. Know whether the drug is likely to impair the ability to drive, operate equipment, or pay attention to necessary tasks.

  7. Take oneself "off duty" from responsibilities that might be interfered with (job, child care, etc.), and arrange for someone else to be "on duty".

  8. Anticipate reasonably foreseeable risks to oneself and others, and employ safeguards to minimize those risks.

  9. Choose an appropriate occasion and location for use.

  10. Decide how much to use and measure dosages carefully.

  11. Begin with a low dose until individual reactions are known and thereafter use the minimum dose necessary to achieve the desired effects: lower doses are safer doses.

  12. Reflect on and adjust use to minimize physical and mental health problems.

  13. Note changes in health over time that may be related to use.

  14. Modify use if it interferes with work or personal goals.

  15. Check in with peers and family, and accept feedback about one's use.

  16. Track reactions to specific drugs and dosages in order to avoid repeating mistakes.

  17. Seek treatment if needed.

  18. Decide not to use if the time isn't right, the material is suspect, or the situation is otherwise problematic.

As discussed in the Cato Unbound essay, this list applies not only to people who consider themselves "drug users", but also to the vast majority of the population who at one time or another use any psychoactive substance. We live in a world filled with materials and technologies that affect the mind, including alcohol or coffee, over-the-counter DXM-containing cough medicines, prescription antidepressants, legal plants and herbs such as Piper methysticum (kava), and illegal chemicals like LSD. Users of any of these could benefit from following the guidelines above.

Regardless of legal status or societal acceptance, responsible psychoactive use requires access to accurate, detailed, and practical information.

Revision History #
  • v1.0 - Sep 2008 - Fire & Earth Erowid - A version of The Fundamentals of Responsible Psychoactive Use first appeared in the article "Towards a Culture of Responsible Psychoactive Drug Use" published in Cato Unbound.
  • v2.0 - Jun 2009 - Fire & Earth Erowid - First published in Erowid Extracts.
  • v2.1 - Dec 2009 - Fire & Earth Erowid - First published on
  • v2.11 - Jan 2017 - Added Translations section.