The Psychedelic Experience FAQ
v 1.1 - Jan 20, 1996
Erowid Note: This FAQ was not authored by Erowid. It may include out-of-date and/or incorrect information. Please check the version date to see when it was most recently revised. It appears on Erowid as part of our historical archives. For current information, see Erowid's summary pages in the substance's main vault.
|Erowid||(HTML and layout)|
|Thanks to :|
|Timothy Leary, Ph.D.||(for writing "The Psychedelic|
|Ralph Metzner, Ph.D.||Experience")|
|Richard Alpert, Ph.D.|
|Bob Wallace||(for many comments)|
|the Visionary Plants mailing list|
|all the anonymous net-people who added or corrected info|
|special thanks to our fellow innerspace astronauts for research, companionship, and just being there when needed|
This document in other languages:
Brazilian Portuguese, Finnish, Hungarian - Daath.hu
This FAQ is presented for informational purposes only. We do not advocate illegal activities. We do believe in the right of the individual to have free access to information and ideas. We strongly recommend that the reader learn about applicable local and federal laws regarding possession, production, and sale of these are realted cacti.
Much has been written about the varieties of the psychedelic experience, and there is some excellent material floating on the net, such as the 200K transcription of the "Psychedelic Experience" mentioned above. Yet to date, there is no file that prepares the first-time user or covers the experience from a point of view comprehensible to people who have not tripped previously. This FAQ is an attempt to create such a file.
The file originally stemmed from the Psilocybe Mushroom FAQ, which included quite a bit of information that turned out to be applicable to all psychedelic drugs, not just shrooms. Thus, we separated the applicable chunks and expanded them when necessary into this file. As before, "we" and "I" alternate randomly between the authors and their assistants.
This file is divided into 5 main parts. Parts 2 through 4, "Before", "During" and "After" describe the preparation for the trip, the trip itself, and the aftereffects. Part 5 gives extra advice to the first-time tripper; part 6 gives extra advice to the first-time guide.
An additional "High Dose Supplement" (HDS) to this FAQ will be published at a later date; its purpose is to give some additional information for high-dose explorers.
Comments and criticism are welcome, as always. Enjoy your flight.
All aspects of preparation, mental and otherwise, for the voyage.
3a. Choice of Substance
By far the most popular psychedelic drugs are LSD and mushrooms; cannabis, while in a way psychedelic, is not within an order of magnitude of the effects of the 'real' hallucinogens (at normal doses at least). It does still provide a way of demonstrating to the alcohol/nicotine/ caffeine user that not all drugs are downers. MDMA is in a class of its own, much of what is written here is applicable. However, at least the way it is commonly used, it tends to be not so much mind-expanding as physically ecstatic (pun intended). Then there are of course DMT, 2C-B and other funky designer drugs, but the average person is not likely to run into them. More information on these will be given in the HDS.
For the first-timer lucky enough to have a choice, I would recommend shrooms. A shroom trip lasts at most 6 hours, while LSD can last up to 12 hours, and at least some of those extra 6 hours are nearly always too much especially when tripping for the first time. However, some people think that LSD is a more 'positive' or 'up' psychedelic than shrooms, which depend more on your mood. Personally, I think the short duration is more important, negative first trips are extremely rare anyway.
Dosage should be aimed low; after all, you can always increase the dosage next time if you aim too low, but you can't decrease a bad trip. In the black market it is unfortunately most difficult to estimate the strength of a dose, so having an experienced tripper gauge the batch beforehand is a good idea. See LSD/Psilocybe FAQs for exact dosage info. Especially with LSD, don't fall in the trap of "nothing's happening, guess I better take some more" after ingesting the first dose. Wait at least one hour with psilocybin and at least two with LSD before taking more to 'upgrade' a trip.
However, in the words of Dave Gross email@example.com :
But not too low. The first trip is important, and there seems to be added potential when first encountering the psychedelic realm. IMHO, it can be good for the first trip to be a powerful one (i.e. dive in rather than wade in). There are two considerations -- reduce the possibility of and the severity of a potential bad trip, and increase the power and baffling intensity of a good trip. Both are important. If safety were the overriding consideration, the person wouldn't be considering an illegal mind-fucking chemical in the first place. There needs to be a balance between safe conservatism ("How to trip safely") and enthusiasm ("How to see god, be god, and make god obsolete while listening to Pink Floyd").
3b. Choice of Companions
The dynamics of the group selected for the trip are crucial. Let us consider the aspects one at a time:
- Type of friends
- To quote an anonymous file, which describes the choice of suitable tripping companions brilliantly:
"Choose someone willing to listen to you sing the same song over and over again, offkey with broken lyrics. Someone you won't mind seeing you, and who won't themselves mind seeing you, drool, or laugh, or cry, or piss your pants with fear, or talk to God. Someone who will hold your hand while you take a shit to keep you from falling in and getting flushed down the drain. Someone, perhaps, a little stronger than you physically.
Definitely, someone who has tripped before, more than once. Someone who has stories to tell -- and things they won't say. Someone who seems to take it all seriously, but still has a sense of fun.
Definitely, someone with some degree of compassion and, gosh darn it, Wisdom.
Definitely, someone who won't leave you by yourself, even for a second.
If you choose someone you might get sexual with, be sure they will accept a clumsy, giggling fool as a lover, and that they won't be offended if you can't perform or forget to. Someone that can keep cool and keep you cool if you get pushy.
If you find anyone who meets all these criteria, consider marriage. Try to be worthy."
- Size of group
- Tripping alone, especially for the first time, is quite foolish. There are two significant factors in selecting group size. First of all, with inexperienced people, having several friends present will reduce the chances of somebody panicing. On the other hand, as the group size increases geometrically, the tensions and conflicts within the group will increase exponentially, generating a tense atmosphere and increasing the possibility of bad trips. Even numbers are also preferable, if/when the group breaks up into pairs being the one 'left out' is not nice. Thus our recommended total group sizes are as follows:
All people inexperienced: 3-4
One person inexperienced: 2-3
All people experienced : 2
An experienced guide, such as a psychotherapist or shaman, can sometimes work with a larger group, such as 8-16 people, but usually all the people involved have at least some experience.
- Trust in group
- This is probably the single most important characteristic. If you can trust the people you are tripping with, you will feel at ease with them during the trip and can use the time 'productively', instead of fretting over the hidden motives of everyone present. Being able to trust the judgment of the guide is thus especially important.
- Gender issues
- Tripping with members of the appropriate sex present is fun, but it also brings with it the problem of sexual tension. Feelings may bubble to the surface during a trip, but it's also possible to misread others' signals, and you may do something that will prove embarrassing afterward. Also note that people who have a troubled relationship (just broke up, fighting continually, etc) should not trip together, otherwise the trip is likely to focus on these negative aspects.
The central issue is, once again, trust. If all members of the group are willing to trust each other, there should be no problems. Discussion of all issues that may crop up and "share-water-grow-closer" type exercises like group meditation should prove useful. Also consider an MDMA (only) experience together, perhaps with a facilitator.
One of our tripping crews ran into problems with this; for several months there was a highly uncomfortable atmosphere of mutual distrust and paranoia between three members of the group. Eventually the situation became intolerable, it was confronted directly, and through frank discussion the problem was solved before it blew up in our faces.
The moral of the story is: don't let this happen to your group. Discussing issues like this directly may go against etiquette and prove somewhat embarrassing, but it's a _lot_ better than having to deal with constant uncertainty and a poisonous atmosphere.
- Conflicts of interest may arise when tripping with larger groups. A set of recommended guidelines:
- Always ask everybody present whether it's OK to change the music, turn on the lights, etc.
- Each group member should have an absolute veto power, ie. if everybody else wants to do Z but one person really doesn't want to, then the group will not do Z.
- The guide is the final arbiter of any disputes.
- Dosages within group
- The guide should take the drug himself to allow better communication with others and to make those 6 to 12 hours of babysitting more interesting; however, his dose should not be so high that he loses contact with reality. Level 2 or so is probably best. Except maybe for the guide, all people present should be under the influence, otherwise the non-tripper(s) will stick out and drag everyone else down to reality as well.
The ideal tripping location is at once:
- secluded, so that you don't run into friends/relatives/neighbors during the trip
- in the countryside, so you can get away from the bustle and noises of the big city and enjoy nature
- familiar, so that you feel safe and comfortable there
- comfortable, ie. enough mattresses and beds for everybody
For the first few trips I would recommend staying indoors, at least for the peak, with maybe a casual excursion into a neighboring park when the effects are wearing off. Another choice is between day trips and night trips. At night, you can see the hallucinations better and the dusk enhances the general trippyness of things, and going outside is easier since there are few people around. Tripping at night also offers the advantage of being able to sleep right after the trip ends, so you wake up refreshed in the morning. Conversely, at night things may also look just a bit too freaky, and getting mugged when tripping would _not_ be pleasant.
Once you get more experienced and can handle interacting with non-tripping people during the trip, be adventurous and go camping in the woods, try the beach, an amusement park, a rave... Leary (I think) once said that the biggest reason people get bored of psychedelics is that they always do the same things while tripping, instead of trying out new stuff.
Get into "packing" a couple of days before the voyage. Load your gear (brain) with everything you think will be useful. Personally I like documents about nature as they are easy to pack (video or TV). Books are fine but bit slower to load. Walking in nature, quiet and peaceful, and meditating ensures I get enough mental energy and happiness along. Try to break the normal circles of work, and if you are stressed, take few more days away from everything before leaving on the expedition.
Consider what you eat the 8-12 hours or so before a trip. You may want some stored food energy for your trip, so a small meal of complex carbs and protein about 3-4 hours before a trip can be useful, especially for the longer LSD trips. On the other hand, fasting or only having juices the day of the trip can give you quality of lightness which is good for the more religious or shamanistic journey. If you eat a meal within 1-2 hours of ingesting you material, it will be absorbed more slowly (unless you use LSD and absorb it under the tongue), and can increase nausea and gut discomfort for those prone to it. You may want to avoid high-fat foods the day of the trip, although a little chocolate is a Mexican tradition with mushrooms.
Avoid unpleasant situations immediately before a trip. If you watch too many horror movies or have a 2-hour shouting match with your parents/S.O., the emotional baggage is likely to resurface during your trip.
One of the important factors of the setting is music - especially in urban environment music may be necessery to camouflage and change the every-day-soundscape. Music can tingle your imagination in a myriad different ways. Music can take you away, comfort or make you feel unbelievalably good. It can also make you sad, jumpy or angry. Therefore it is very important to make the right choice of music. There is tripping music and there is tripping music - depending on the results one wishes to achieve. I will concentrate on the deeper side; music for shamanic voyages, spacetravels and intense mushroom-magic-trips.
I speak from my own experience, thru my own frame of reference, so all of the material recommended might not be on your wavelength - I was often skeptical myself but results often are awesome and surprising. Music you like during your normal states of conciousness is probably not ideal - for instance lots of the ambient done today is not very nice for tripping, but probably ideal listening both before and after the trip. For a voyage try to find music that is calm, not too hectic or fast, not too structured and stays in the background if desired.
A usual program of tripping music goes like this:
- 1st hour
- Upbeat, relaxing, perhaps not terribly profound music. The Orb's _Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld_ is a favorite, "Little Fluffy Clouds" is guaranteed to put you in the right mood.
- 2nd-3rd hour
- This is when the peak will occur, so the musical selection must be made very carefully. Pick something very quiet and soothing, there are plenty of suggestions coming up.
- 4th-6th hour
- More of the same or perhaps nothing at all. By this stage the music is purely in the background and your selection won't matter all that much.
lots of music goes under this name today, and it may very hard to find something truly ambient among all those new ambient- techno/dub releases... All time favorites of mine and many others include Ashra Temple, John Cage, Cluster, Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, Steve Hillage, Daniel Lanois, Pink Floyd, David Toop & Max Eastley, Tangerine Dream and Tuu. All of these move on the more serious tangents - worth checking out. Many music stores lump these under the misguided heading "New Age" next to crystal-healing music, bleah. On the lighter, more techno side of the ambient - try Aphex Twin, James Bernard, FFWD, FSOL, Pete Namlook, The Orb (especially the newer releases), William Orbit, Seafeel, Sun Electric or Terre Thaemlitz for instance.
music from the different cultures around the world and especially music by shamen or music aiming to a religious or spiritual experience - shamanistic drumming, australian dijeridoo sounds or chantings by gregorian or buddhist monks, for instance. "Meditative music" compilations can be excellent. There are huge volumes of this sort of music published around the world.
Minimalism especially Terry Riley. Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Lamonte Young have all made "psychoacoustic music". Riley is especially- er.. "beyond words" - something unbelievalable. For connoisseurs.
either complete or 'The music of Mother Nature' - best tripping music for as long there have been humans around to trip. The patter of raindrops falling surpasses just about any music humans can come up with. A must try. Perfect.
some people get off on listening to, for example, industrial or rap. While both are undoubtedly great when 'enhanced', they also tend to feature unpleasant or downright scary themes that are best avoided until one is thoroughly familiar with the drug. At times, more 'meaty' techno (trance, acid, progressive) is excellent - personally, I find Orbital's _Orbital 2_ to be brilliant - but usually too much percussion (beat) is not a good thing. Many people also like classical music. Basically, try out the music you normally like, but with a bit of caution.
Anyway, for a real "trip" I say: after the takeoff, turn the lights off, turn the volume to the edge of subliminal, and relax & tune into the vibe of the Earth.
Triptoys should only be pulled out after the peak is clearly over and your group has entered the phase where you have some energy again instead of just floating in hyperspace. Of course, some people just continue with music or more spiritual pursuits. In alphabetical order:
- Books are an acquired taste. Most people find reading difficult, but for others reading while tripping is the only way to understand, for example, Joyce.
- Citrus fruit, especially oranges. A mindblowing combination of smell, texture, and taste. Juice is a decent substitute.
- Crayons or paints for drawing.
- Drumming can provide a nice trance-inducing experience, either one person doing it for everyone (the Michael Harner shaman approach) or the group doing a drumming circle.
- Gelatin-based foods, ie. Jell-O, chocolate pudding, etc. Wiggle wiggle wiggle... Gummy worms are nifty too.
- Glow-in-the-dark anything, preferably not skulls and skeletons though for obvious reasons.
- Flourescent anything.
- Flowers (fresh ones) look gorgeous and smell wonderful.
- Food is another category of its own. In addition to the perennial favorites of citrus fruit, candy and Jell-O, try ice cream, baby food (the fruit-and-berry kind), carbonated soft drinks... Only small portions are needed though, during a trip you can't really _eat_, only _taste_.
- Incense, especially when it's dark and you can wave the glowing end of the stick around and create serious tracers, or watch the smoke drifting with a flashlight. The smell also adds a nice touch to the atmosphere.
- Koosh balls, the bigger the better, are positively cosmic. I especially recommend the "Rainbow Koosh" which is big and colorful.
- Mirrors can be interesting, but also risky. Unless you have high self-esteem, and most people don't, it's common to see your face become covered with hair/bugs/pimples/whatever when you look... but then again many people love mirrors when they trip, and there have been cases where people's self-esteem improved after an extended mirror-staring session.
- Movies almost deserve their own section. Since everybody has their own favorites, I'll just list the most popular ones. _The Mind's Eye_ and _Beyond the Mind's Eye_, both pure computer animation, are classics. So are Disney's _Fantasia_ and _Alice in Wonderland_. _Koyaanisquatsi_ (sp?) is another favorite. Avoid 'mind-fuck' films like David Lynch's works, _Natural Born Killers_, _Tetsuo_ etc; they're too scary and hard to follow when under the influence.
- Musical instruments, esp. guitars, are fun to play with.
- Nature is the ultimate triptoy, period. I extremely strongly recommend going outside, especially at night; I am fully convinced that the forest at night when tripping is *the* coolest thing in the universe. Along with the beach when it's sunny outside, and a lake at sunset, and a snow-covered field on a moonlit night, and...
- Stroboscopes set to around 20-30 Hz are neat. Warning: Strobe lights may cause seizures in people with undiagnosed epilepsy, test them out beforehand.
- Stuffed animals are a must, they're a familiar link to reality, and more importantly they're fun to hug, play with or throw around.
- Television is an ambivalent one; some people like it, others can't think of anything they'd want to do less during a trip. If you want to give it a shot, cartoons (esp. "Reboot") are probably best.
- Vocal play. Toning (playing with only vowel sounds) or glossolalia (made-up language using vowels and consonents) can be very interesting, either as a group or going around the circle one at a time.
- Water: you can drink it, you can splash it, and if there's enough you can even wade around in it or (eek!) immerse yourself entirely in it. I would not recommend actually swimming during a trip though, especially in unfamiliar waters.
3g. Drug interactions
Most drugs, prescription and otherwise, mix badly with psychedelics so avoid them. Obviously, OTC stuff like aspirin won't matter much - although you really don't want to have a headache when tripping - but for example antidepressants have all sorts of unpredictable reactions, some (e.g. Prozac) reduce the effect but others (e.g. lithium) make it way too much stronger. Hyperreal has a separate file on the interactions between antidepressants and psychedelics, consult it for more info.
There are three notable exceptions to the above rule though:
- Marijuana, if smoked during the trip, has three usual effects. If smoked beforehand or after dropping, it usually 'takes the edge off'. If smoked during the peak, it will the trip stronger. If smoked after the peak, it will make the trip 'come back' for a while. Note that these are only /usual/ effects, and individual response may vary.
- MDMA (Ecstasy) combines well with both acid and psilocybin; mixing MDMA and LSD is called "candyflipping" while MDMA and mushrooms is called an "MX-missile" (mushrooms = M, Ecstasy = X).
- Nitrous oxide (N2O) will often propel the trip into level 4/5 for a few minutes. Don't forget to breathe air every now and then when trying this.
Clothing should be loose and easy to put on or take off. Your body temperature is likely to rise by a few degrees, so dress lightly.
Bring something to drink (preferably water, although carbonated soda is a neat triptoy in itself) and light snacks to eat afterward.
Keep lights off or turned low. Avoid red lights, having your vision warp towards red during the trip is common and you don't want to make it worse.
Many people prepare for the trip with some form of bodywork, esp. yoga or massage. Especially if combined with fasting/light eating, these can set a spiritual tone for the trip and reduce "noise" during it. Guided meditation/visualisation at the very beginning is also popular.
While tripping, you may not interpret your body's signals in the same way that you usually do. For instance, if you are hungry or thirsty or hot or cold or need to go to the bathroom, this impression may be delayed or changed on its way to your consciousness. If at some point in the trip you feel agitated, dissatisfied, or grumpy and you can't put your finger on exactly why:
- Change the music if you're playing music
- Change the lighting
- Go to the bathroom
- Have a cup of water
Directly quoting _The Psychedelic Experience_:
What is the goal? Classic Hinduism suggests four possibilities:
- Increased personal power, intellectual understanding, sharpened insight into self and culture, improvement of life situation, accelerated learning, pofessional growth.
- Duty, help of others, providing care, rehabilitation, rebirth for fellow men.
- Fun, sensuous enjoyment, esthetic pleasure, interpersonal closeness, pure experience.
- Trancendence, liberation from ego and space-time limits; attainment of mystical union.
[...and now a section from another part of the guide: ]
People naturally tend to impose personal and social perspectives on any new situation. For example, some ill-prepared subjects unconsciously impose a medical model on the experience. They look for symptoms, interpret each new sensation in terms of sickness/health, and, if anxiety develops, demand tranquilizers. Occasionally, ill-planned sessions end in the subject demanding to see a doctor.In other words, it's a good idea to decide ahead of time what your goal for the evening is, and to check with your companions so you can synchronize your activities, music, etc. Attempting to reach nirvana through za-zen meditation is a little difficult when the person you are tripping with wants to find out what it feels like to rave to 300 bpm hardcore techno blasted out at 100 dB.
Rebellion against convention may motivate some people who take the drug. The naive idea of doing something "far out" or vaguely naughty can cloud the experience.
[Psychedelics] offer vast possibilities of accelerated learning and scientific-scholarly research, but for initial sessions, intellectual reactions can become traps. "Turn your mind off" is the best advice for novitiates. After you have learned how to move your consciousness around - into ego loss and back, at will - then intellectual exercises can be incorporated into the psychedelic experience. The objective is to free you from your verbal mind for as long as possible.
Religious expectations invite the same advice. Again, the subject in early sessions is best advised to float with the stream, stay "up" as long as possible, and postpone theological interpretations.
Recreational and esthetic expectations are natural. The psychedelic experience provides ecstatic moments that dwarf any personal or cultural game. Pure sensation can capture awareness. Interpersonal intimacy reaches Himalayan heights. Esthetic delights - musical, artistic, botanical, natural - are raised to the millionth power. But ego-game reactions - "I am having this ecstasy. How lucky I am!" - can prevent the subject from reaching pure ego loss.
The counterpart of this is that you should try to avoid defining the nature of your experience beforehand _too_ precisely. In the end, you can only influence the way the trip goes, not control it, and not being able to reach a rigidly fixed objective will simply frustrate you needlessly. As it says above, "turn your mind off."
What will happen during the voyage and what to do about it.
4a. General Advice
Once you are in the air it is relatively easy to forget that you can alter the course of trip. Visuals and thoughts come and go, and everything follows some strangely familiar yet divine and unknown path. So one is left gawking at all this jaw open, as if watching TV. But changing pathways is easy - provided you don't forget it is possible =) Always decide and ponder what you want to see and where you want to go before the experience. A shamanic voyage to the underworld is a snack, as is seeing the future. Usually every tripper forms his own way, follows his own paths, be it for good or evil. _Anything_is_possible_!
And remember the immortal words of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
_____ _ _ . . ___ __ . . . . _ ___ _____ / \ | \ / \ |\ | / | | | /| |\ | | / \ \ / / \ | | | | | )( )| \| | |--' /-| | \| | ( V | | | | | \___/ | | / \_/ | | | | / | | | | \_/ o | \___/ | \_____/ ******************* ******************** *** \_____/4b. Physical interference
In addition to the possible nausea in the beginning, which invariably wears off by the time the hallucinations start, the mushrooms can cause physical or psychosomatic interference. You will feel odd, weird and maybe scary physical sensations like liquid skin or distorted body-proportions. You may feel that you have trouble breathing; you may feel that you've just pissed or shit in your pants; you may feel that you're sinking into the ground or into yourself. If you really start worrying about this, you may start to feel like there are worms crawling inside your stomach, that the roof is about to collapse on you, that the sheet you are lying under is trying to eat you...
You guessed it, it's a bad trip coming on. Don't panic! This is normal, and nothing has really happened or is really happening, it's just your mind exaggerating and creating things. Most importantly, YOU CAN STILL STOP IT. Learn to distract your thoughts on other tangents at moments like this. This is not easy, but it's a very important skill to learn for high-dose trips.
One of the largest benefits of tripping with a well-selected group is that at a moment like this, you can reach out and touch someone and convince yourself that you are still sane. And if you have a good guide, they'll notice that you're whimpering in a corner and they'll come over, reassure you, change the music and get you out of it.
4c. Flight plan
[ Comments about the timing for LSD welcome, I have no personal experience with the stuff... -G ]
|FLIGHT||MINUTES AFTER INGESTION|
|Usually the first effects of the drug are perceivable after ten or twenty minutes. Funny or strange things may pop into your mind. One may feel very relaxed or like jumping all over the place. Next you may feel like you were blasting off, up towards the stars, rising high.|
|If you get any physical symptoms, this is when they will hit. You can avoid or at least reduce nausea by not eating very much before the trip and not moving around too much during this phase. Throwing up is uncommon but not entirely unheard of; having a barf bag around, especially on the first few trips, is a good idea. If you find that your body *really* doesn't like shrooms, a motion sickness pill (Dramamine and similar anti-histamines) beforehand may help. But don't worry about it too much, even if you feel queasy the nausea will end quite quickly.|
|LEAVING THE ATMOSPHERE||60||40|
|One will begin entering the realms of the experience; often the first real signs are simple hallucinations with the eyes closed or in darkness,
little colored pixels floating around etc. If one is going to go to the toilet, it should be done now.|
|By now the more powerful effects are starting to set in. The body will feel heavy and drowsy.|
|The peak of the experience. Often quite awesome.|
|By now one will again start to remember the concepts of normal reality and may feel like getting something to drink and eat, or talk and do some
|By now most of the effects have disappeared and sleeping becomes possible.|
|REALITY||16 h||12 h|
|If you trip at night and fall asleep when the trip is ending, this is when you'll wake up... and the odds are you'll feel GRRRRRREAT!|
On that note, it is often a good idea to stay together with your group, or at least some members of the group, and share experiences. The day or two immediately afterwards people will tend to be somewhat inwardly focused, still analyzing what they have found out during the voyage and its importance for them, but after this initial stage of analysis comparing what has happened with other people is quite useful.
4d. Differences between psychedelic drugs
LSD and psilocybin, while similar, are not the same. Here's a nice article by Ellis Dee (firstname.lastname@example.org) summarizing the differences:
"Here's a partial list of differences between the effects of LSD and psilocybin, as I see them (your mileage may vary) ---
(key -- P: psilocybin; L: LSD-25)
P: onset: 30 minutes; peak 90 minutes; duration: 6 hours
L: onset: 60 minutes; peak 2-3 hours; duration: 10 hours
L: pronounced stimulant effect, similar to phenethylamines
P: little stimulant effect, sometimes inducing mild sleepyness
- scope of effect
L: all sense fields -- visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic
P: primarily visual [Eds: We disagree with this one.]
- perceptual integration
L: profound synesthesia in high doses, especially visual perception of auditory stimuli
P: limited synesthesia, even in high doses
L: general, wide spectrum of possible effects
P: somewhat specific, with recurrent forms
L: neutral, visuals ranging from the banal to the sublime
P: visions of sublime beauty the norm
L: primary or spectral colors
P: 'earthy' composite warm colors
- color-object association, mobility
L: abstract, colors moving and changing freely
P: concrete, colors fused to objects
- other qualities
L: transparent, neutral
P: rich, lustrous
L: fine detail, fractal-like quality
P: little emphasis on detail
L: great variety of form; small lines, facets elucidate structure
P: broad interlocking regions containing different colors bounded by curved, clean edges
- consciousness, general
- ego dissolution
L: profound depersonalization accompanying experience of the underlying unity and boundlessness of everything
P: mild depersonalization accompanying experience of beauty in and empathy with other beings/phenomena
L: very expansive, multiplicity of thought and emotion, sense of boundlessness
P: mildly expansive
- cognition and perception
L: cognition and perception are intimately associated, perception seeming to be largely directed by cognitive processes
P: perception is little affected by cognition
L: high degree of continuity imparted (apparently) by the mediation of perception by cognition
P: little continuity as one intense sensation replaces another
- ego dissolution
- scope of effect
Some of the differences are exaggerated slightly for clarity."
Describing hallucinations and visual effects is not possible; not only are they literally undescribeable but they're different for different people. But nevertheless, we shall attempt the impossible and provide the following short list of some distinct types we have run across, in approximate order of how high a dose is needed for the effect.
CEV = Closed Eye Visual
OEV = Open Eye Visual
- Red/green/blue blips (CEV or OEV)
Possibly the most common type of hallucination, this usually occurs at the onset. The basic idea is that a layer of red, green, and blue blips - kind of like looking at a TV set from real close - is superimposed on everything. Most visible in darkness.
- Pixelization (OEV)
The second stage of the RGB effect is "pixelization", ie. everything seems to be composed of separate little bits, like pixels on a computer screen. This effect is difficult to describe, all I can say is you'll know what it is when you see it. People who aren't computer freaks think it looks like a fine mesh or web placed over your field of vision.
- Tracers (OEV)
Moving objects that contrast sharply with their background (tip of lit incense stick against a dark room, ball flying against the blue sky, etc) leave colorful trails.
- Red shift (OEV)
Everything looks like you're looking at it through glasses with their lenses dyed red. Now you know why hippies loved red sunglasses so much... =)
- Breathing (OEV)
A very common effect at medium to high doses, the object in question starts to pulse in and out, bubble, shift, split into multiple layers, morph to the point of being entirely unrecognizable... Usually visible in bigger objects, such as expanses of sand, clouds, textured walls and carpets, etc.
- Melting (OEV)
The direct corollary of breathing, best seen in plants and trees. The object in question starts acting like it was made of plastic, and somebody started to heat it; it distorts, flows downwards, maybe wiggles a bit from side to side in a cosmic dance of sorts. Shadows may exhibit a special form of melting: they move by themselves.
- Haloing (OEV) [description by email@example.com]
Usually my shroom visuals start off as a "haloing" of misty rainbow colors off of anything I look at. Eventually, as the trip intesifies, I get what I call "kodaking" or "poloroiding" - the "halos" around the mundane 3-D objects begin to morph into "snapshots" - usually of family members or past experiences recalled from differing perspectives.
The "snapshots" have a kind of "infinite ripple effect" around the edges, as if they are evaporating away in time... this is not exactly right, but I don't know how else to describe it. Ooh, maybe this... They are fractalized around the edges. I have studied this effect for quite some time and I have come to believe that this "hallucination" is due to a shift in the speed at which I perceive light. The "fractalized edges" tend to strobe and flicker and recede off into infinity. The closer I scrutinize the edges the more complex they become - ad infinitum. Good music, good pot, or a combination of both will "animate" the snapshots - get them morphing and oozing into different scenes more rapidly. I call this "imagination grease".
- X-Ray Vision (OEV) [description by firstname.lastname@example.org]
I remember riding on a bus with a friend of mine while I was moderately dosed with shroomahuasca (1.5 cubensis shrooms + 1 rue capsule). When I looked at his face, I could see the network of blood vessels pumping blood through his head and brain. I could see through his skin and see his skull. It was really creepy but really cool too. I started laughing so hard I had to put my head in my hands to stifle the noise. On another trip (similar dose - it's my usual), I was looking up at a tree and suddenly I could see every vein in the tree and the sap running through it in very slow but steady progression. I could also see "specks" like little ants coarsing through everything, including my own body. They flowed through space in organic patterns - from the tree, to the deck, to my legs, etc. I do not know what these "specks" were. I first assumed they were some kind of insect, but they were far too small. No one with me (dosed or sober) could see them so I shrugged it off as "tripper's delusion". However, when hiking once (dosed), I was lying on a rock and noticed the SAME THING. This time I scrutinized it and found that there were actually tiny little "bugs" of some kind scurrying along the rocks.
They were smaller than the tiny dirt particles dusting the rocks, but they definitely moved in insectlike patterns. I showed them to my firend, who was also tripping, and he couldn't see them. Then I said "no, they're REALLY tiny, like ATOMS," and suddenly HE saw them too. We were both blown away. I still don't know what they were - mites, bacteria, etc - but they were unmistakeably there. The were eating or excreteing some type of lichen that was all over the rocks and trees in the area we were in. It was amazing. I had been hiking in the same area sober many times and I had never seen them. When I went back once sober, I could see them if I looked REALLY close, but only in the tiny area I stared at, and it really strained my eyes. When dosed, I saw them everywhere (like millions of trails of ants...) Talk about visual accuity!
- The Guardian (CEV or OEV)
A few people, including yours truly, are lucky enough to have a constant hallucination that lasts for the duration of trip and even afterwards; Castaneda mentions these in his books and calls them "guides" or "guardians". Two forms include a little blue lattice containing red and green blips, and a bright red star. These may or may not recur in different trips and also flash back after the trip itself is over.
- Geometric patterns (CEV)
One type of hallucination is the geometric pattern. There are many subtypes of these: Mandelbrots, spirals, wave interference patterns,etc. The unifying feature is that they tend to be in primary colors and of a fractal nature, ie. the same basic pattern is repeated continually. These are two-dimensional with lower doses, but they become 3D on higher doses. _Psychedelic Experience_ calls this "The Internal Flow of Archetypal Processes".
- "The Fire-Flow of Internal Unity" (CEV)
Another type taken from _Psych Exp_, this involves more of *feeling* something than *seeing* it, although there are undescribeable hallucinations accompanying the feelings. The distinct difference to the last one is that the visuals are not geometric and separate, but amorphous, dim shapes directly linked to the emotions one is experiencing, which can be positive (bliss, love, peace) or negative (isolation, withdrawal, sadness).
- Traditional patterns (CEV)
Visuals containing imagery from Aztec, Mayan, Native American, Indian and African cultures are quite common. These vary from seeing something exactly like a picture/statue of a native god to more vague visions of scriptures and temples to just a fuzzy idea of the hallucinations being 'drawn' in a specific style.
- Hallucinations (CEV, rarely OEV)
Actual hallucinations - ie. objects that are recognizable and appear real, but are not there - may occur on high-dose trips. If lucky, the tripper may even be transported into a literal, as opposed to merely figurative, Alice-in-Wonderland type alternate universe. This is not the same as merely feeling things like "I felt like a satellite" or "I was transported by the music", with real hallucinations the visuals are equivalent to a color 3-D movie on a 360-degree screen.
- Entities (CEV, rarely OEV)
Encounters with other beings are a recurring feature of high-dose trips. I will not tackle the complex philosophical issues of what they are (if anything), how they got there, and what they mean; all I know is that they exist. Some common types:
- The "mantid", an alien-looking insect-headed creature that tends to appear extremely intelligent and aware and neutral/negative towards the tripper. Can be green or grayish-white.
- The so-called "DMT elf", a gnome-like playful, funny and usually friendly entity.
- Happy dancing little people that appear in large groups.
- Shapeless, but conscious, masses of hyperspace protoplasm.
- Clear Light of Reality (CEV or OEV)
Nirvana, ego loss, Non-Game Ecstasy, enlightenment, ultimate truth, "the infallible mind of the pure mystic state", etc. One thing's for sure, you'll recognize it if you get there. =) Again, while any decent trip will seriously reduce the domination of the ego and let you see quite a lot that you wouldn't normally notice, the "Clear Light" kind of total ego loss is quite rare and even experienced trippers consider themselves lucky if they've had a single one of these so-called 'Level 5' experiences.
4f. Psychedelic level
For discussions with other psychonauts, a scale for ranking the 'psychedelic level' of a trip is necessary. The de facto standard at least on the Internet is Graeme Carl's scale of 0 to 5, which has proved to be more detailed and workable than Shulgin's "3 plusses" system. Here's what Graeme (email@example.com) himself says about it:
[...] In just over seven years I have "tripped" around 60 times. During this period I have been paying careful attention to the effects of various dosages and have come to the conclusion that the dosage-response curve for both Psilocybin (mushrooms) and LSD is non-linear. This non-linearity is different from person to person but the essential shape of the graph is consistent. The following ascii diagram is an attempt to portrey this information:
5 I ooooooooo I 4 I ooooooo L I E 3 I ooooooo V I E 2 I ooooooo L I 1 I ooooooo I Iooooo______________________________________ 0 2 3 5 13 20 40 D O S A G E (in Fresh Mushrooms)
[...] The essential shape of the graph is all I want to get across here, since the actual dosage varies from person to person sometimes by a factor of two.
The dosage figures given above apply only to the obscure Australian mushroom Psilocybe subaeruginosa, so ignore them; the basic idea of the scale works well enough for any psychedelic. As for individual response, an acquaintance of mine has a threshold 3 times weaker than usual, ie. 1g for her == 3g for most people. ]
- Level 1:
- This level produces a mild 'stoning' effect, with some visual enhancement (ie. brighter colours etc) Some short term memory anomalies. Left/right brain communication changes causing music to sound 'wider'
- Level 2:
- Bright colours, and visuals (ie. things start to move and breath) some 2 dimensional patterns become apparent upon shutting eyes. Confused or reminiscent thoughts. Change of short term memory leads to continual distractive thought patterns. Vast increase in creativity becomes apparent as the natural brain filter is bypassed. (*)
- Level 3:
- Very obvious visuals, everything looking curved and/or warped patterns and kaleidoscopes seen on walls, faces etc. Some mild hallucinations such as rivers flowing in wood grained or 'mother of pearl' surfaces. Closed eye hallucinations become 3 dimensional. There is some confusing of the senses (ie. seeing sounds as colours etc.) Time distortions and `moments of eternity`. Movement at times becomes extremely difficult (too much effort required)
- Level 4:
- Strong hallucinations, ie objects morphing into other objects. Destruction or multiple splitting of the ego. (Things start talking to you, or you find that you are feeling contradictory things simultaneously) Some loss of reality. Time becomes meaningless. Out of body experiences and esp type phenomena. Blending of the senses.
- Level 5:
- Total loss of visual connection with reality. The senses cease to function in the normal way. Total loss of ego. Merging with space, other objects or the universe. The loss of reality becomes so severe that it defies explanation. The earlier levels are relatively easy to explain in terms of measureable changes in perception and thought patterns. This level is different in that the actual universe within which things are normally perceived, ceases to exist! Satori enlightenment (and other such labels) (**).
* In order for the human entity to survive, it must learn from an early age how to shut out (or filter) the masses of information reaching the brain. This process of selective filtering allows us to become centred on a single thought. (Imagine being completely aware of all the signals coming into your body at the one moment, imagine being aware of every square inch of your skin and how it felt. Imagine being eternally aware of your tounge in your mouth, that itch on the end of your nose or the sound of the air conditioning hissing softly in the background. I believe that tripping brings back those awareness that have been shut out ever since we were three.
Have you ever noticed children walking into a shopping mall? If you notice next time, they appear to be tripping, staring wide eyed at all the amazing colours, walking along looking up at the ceiling and and watching themselves in the mirrored surface. As childred age, they gradually learn to shut out the onslaught of information, they no longer seem to notice the world as their younger siblings do! By the time adulthood is reached, these sensations are even lost to memory. Perhaps this explains why so many first time trippers, seem to feel a strange sense of familiarity, a feeling that the trip reality is somehow more real than their straight reality.....
** Satori enlightenment, instant Zen, Nirvana etc etc. You may find many of these Eastern terms used in conjunction with psychedelic drugs. In my (humble) opinion, true Zen enlightenment is reached only when the ego has been completely overcome, only when the 'ox' has been tracked, tamed and ridden back to town. This, unfortunately cannot be achieved in the altered reality of the tripping universe. The 'flashes' of Satori which may be experienced by the fortunate whilst tripping, are perceived as momentary periods of absolute peace and calm, periods where for a short time, the ego is so diffused, that the mind is no longer enslaved by many of the passions that normally arise.
The non-linearity of the scale is debatable, especially at the lower end of the scale (0-2) it's rather fuzzy. Personally, I think that an additional distinguishing characteristic between lvl 2 and 3 is that at level 2 you can control OEVs, ie. they only appear if you look, while at level 3 they appear everywhere without any effort. Also, level 5 is in a class of its own, you will not reach nirvana just by taking a gigantic dose.
The entire text of the Psychedelic Levels file, which includes a number of nice examples of the levels, is available on hyperreal.
What will happen afterwards, physically and mentally.
Afterglow of the experience will persist anywhere from few days to several weeks; what you've learned may change your life. Occasionally this learning will be negative and you'll be depressed for a while as you assimilate the fact that you've been wrong about something for all your life, but the depression is never extreme and - cheezy as it may sound - you will be a much better person afterwards.
5b. Post-trip effects
All the following effects share one characteristic: their frequency and/or intensity decreases with time. Fully returning to baseline usually takes around one month, although most of these disappear entirely within a week. Here's a list, categorized by frequency of occurance and alphabetized:
- Common effects [most people will experience these]
- Sounds a bit too nasty, but perhaps this is also the most unpleasant side effect. In short, after the destruction of the ego and seeing through the games people play in life (see _Psychedelic Experience_), you often start to feel alienated from non-trippers, because they simply cannot *see* through the games they play, and that there are more important things in life than running after pieces of paper with pictures of dead presidents on them. Also, since psychedelics *are* illegal, one has to constantly maintain their guard about what one says to 'non-enlightened' people; "what if my parents/neighbors/teacher/ boss finds out I use drugs?". Even with good non-tripper friends, the overwhelming experience which you have experienced, but they have not, forms a kind of barrier. There is no cure for this, other than time and the development of cynicism; and, of course, 'converting' your friends.
- Your mind, faced with the daunting task of sorting through all the information it has been force-fed during the voyage, often feels a bit sluggish for a day or two. Concentrating on things and preventing your mind from drifting off into more interesting areas is difficult. You may even experience 'awareness flashes' where, at the most random moments, you'll start to ponder The Meaning of Life, or worse yet, Who Am I, What Am I, and Why Am I? This is why it's advisable to take a day off if possible after a trip.
- "LIFE IS WONDERFUL!!!" This is one post-trip effect that nobody should complain about, unfortunately it rarely lasts longer than a day or two. A milder form of euphoria, which I would term "appreciation of the general wonderfulness of things" and consists of being able to enjoy sights such as a clear blue sky even on Monday mornings, may last months, years, or even forever.
- The mind's corollary to impulses (see below), these include such brilliant observations as "Cars are machines!", "People are three- dimensional objects!" and "Mud is cool!". Don't laugh: these are all things you would never have thought of without psychedelic lubrication of your head. And some, maybe even most, of the insights are ones into your personal life and/or philosophy that are likely to prove useful.
- Random impulses
- During the week or so after a trip, completely random desires or impulses to do something strange are very normal. Typical forms (although these vary widely) include "I *must* jump up on that rock and bounce on it!" and "Grapes! I *must* eat a bunch of grapes!". The impulses are invariably harmless ones (ie. not "I must jump off a cliff"), even if other people may look at you a bit strangely if you carry them out. Following these impulses is a good idea, because it's FUN!
- Rare [happens every now and then]
- Bi-polar syndrome ("emotional rollercoaster")
- A form of depression. As the name indicates, the syndrome consists of alternations between mania (happiness) and depression (sadness), with no obvious reason for the cycling up and down. The period of cycling varies from days to minutes, with the amplitude of the effects eventually dying down to zero within two weeks or so. Unfortunately, there isn't much one can do about it except wait it out and enjoy the fun parts, but maybe just being aware that the depression is chemically induced and will end may help. Oddly enough, unlike other post-trip phenomena, it appears that this syndrome does not correlate with dose and this may well happen even after a non-spectacular low-dose trip.
- Conversion experiences
- A sudden and complete reorientation of one's value system, as opposed to the more or less gentle rejiggling of priorities that psychedelics tend to cause. "Everything you know is wrong, but you can be cured."
- Probably the least rare of the rare effects, often triggered by a negative trip, esp. one in which you learned something unpleasant about yourself or others; but something appears for no evident reason. Like bi-polar syndrome, it will usually pass in a week or so.
- The most famous post-trip effect, and without a doubt the most exaggerated one as well. Full-fledged "pathological" flashbacks, where you for a moment relive a segment of the trip entirely and which are the only type the media ever refers to, belong to the "very rare" category. What is much more common is that something reminds you of the trip, and for a moment you experience trippy phenomena: often a simple hallucination or that cosmic feeling of floatyness. This is nearly always fun and provokes a reaction of "Wow!", frequent trippers refer to these as "freebies". In computer terms, flashbacks aren't a bug, they're a feature.
- Psychotic episodes of 48 hours or more
- Or in other words, an episode of serious insanity that does not end along with the trip. This is quite rare, .08% (8 out of 10,000) according to one study of LSD users. Even in these rare cases, the patient nearly always had a history of mental illness, but there have been exceptions. Even a serious psychotic episode does not mean you'll go permanently nuts.
- Very rare [less than a percent of all users]
- Post-hallucinogen perceptual disorder (PHPD)
- After their first trip nearly all trippers find that the visuals they get with their eyes closed (without drugs!) brighten or change, often permanently; this is usually attributed to being able to notice things that you couldn't see before. But very, very rarely, an extreme form of this shows up:
"With PHPD, individuals experience a persistent perceptual disorder that they describe as like living in a bubble under water. They also describe trails of light and images following movement of their hands... This perceptual disorder is aggravated by any psychoactive drug use..."
"With PHPD, the individual often suffers anxiety, even panic, and becomes phobic and depressed. With the PHPD sufferers, our experience has been that individuals do not have a disturbed psychiatric history prior to the onset of psychedelic drug use..."
"For PHPD, drug free recovery with supportive counseling is often adequate treatment, although recovery may take several months. Antianxiety medication may be needed to treat the secondary anxiety and panic disorder that often develop when the individuals feel that they are irreversibly brain-damaged..."
(David Smith et al, /Psychiatric Annals/ 24:3 March 1994 p145)
- Obviously not caused directly by the drug, but indirectly through attacks of serious depression, negative conversion experiences and various forms of mental illness. Also rare in the extreme.
The mushrooms can be fun. One may feel like eating them every day. A - not cool, B - not good. A mental/physical tolerance builds up quite fast: usually three or four times with 7 day intervals cause diminished effect and notably less divine trip. I'd recommend visiting the spiritworld 4 to 10 times a year, for the freshness and divinity of it. Most of us know an acid- or pot-head - a drug abuser. I call acid/ mushroomheads Eraserheads (seen the movie?), as they are often bit paranoid and manic-depressive and dullheaded. It's easy to get bad vibes off psychedelics - just do them the way you drink alcohol - without respect or any care. So - remember what the foreword says, and use the consciousness of turbocharged-monkeybrain we all have. And if you only want to get your brain fucked up there are better substances for that in the world.
6. FOR THE VOYAGER
This section is intended for the person who is preparing him/herself for his/her first voyage to the world of psychedelia.
A first trip is an unforgettable event that few things short of marriage and childbirth can match in terms of emotional intensity, and for your own sake it is best to treat it seriously. To quote Andrei Foldes, "You are born alone, you die alone, and you trip alone." PSYCHEDELIC DRUGS ARE NOT TOYS.
6b. State of mind
If you are depressed, annoyed at the world, sick, or just looking for a good time do not take psychedelic drugs. LSD and psilocybin are mental magnifying glasses, and if you already feel like shit you will merely spend the voyage groveling in your own insignificance and feeling even worse. The skilled voyager may be able to use this to his advantage and resolve a problem during the trip, but it's not pleasant and not recommended for beginners.
If, on the other hand, you are healthy, happy, and looking forward to the trip as a pleasant voyage to a far-off land you've always wanted to visit, you are in good shape. Happiness is magnified just the way anger and fear are.
6c. Don't worry, be happy
By now, you're probably completely freaked out and convinced that the psychedelic experience is some horrible ordeal where even one little detail going wrong will lead to 12 hours of hell. This view is, fortunately, false; this FAQ has an unfortunate tendency to stress the negative side of things. With low doses, just get the basics of set and setting OK, and everything will go perfectly. Only with higher doses is there any real risk of a bad trip, and even then careful preparation, ruthless self-analysis, and well-selected companions can reduce the risk to nearly zero. (If you are planning a high dose journey, see the HDS.)
But let me tell you a little story. My first trip was on a medium dose of Psilocybe semilanceata, and I later ranked it as level 2-3 out of 5. At 10 PM one day, a friend called me up and told me to come over, we're going to trip _now_. We had been planning in general for a while, but an unexpected opportunity had cropped up and we decided to use it. So there I was, with one hour to prepare, never having used a drug other than alcohol in my life, going to trip in a completely unfamiliar apartment, with no triptoys, no suitable tripping music, and in general completely unprepared for what was going to happen.
So, we dropped. And I was bowled over. My world view shattered. 6 hours of ecstasy, hovering on the edges of sanity. And despite the lack of preparation, it was a truly incredible and almost entirely positive experience.
All I can say is, don't worry. Just approach the trip with an open mind, and everything will be alright.
6d. Tripping just for fun
Most guides to the psychedelic experience, including this one, are geared for the high-level mystical flavor of trips; yet if you estimate your dosage correctly, for the first time your trip is unlikely to be stronger than lvl 3, and nothing *truly* cosmic is likely to happen, at least unaided. There are hence two days to deal with this.
#1, you could try to gear the trip in a mystical direction. This requires darkness, lack of sensory input, very carefully selected companions and a quiet setting. Even then, you can only 'get somewhere' if you meditate, or more precisely just stay motionless with your eyes closed, for the duration of the peak; there will still be 3-4 hours of other trip time on hand. Hence, the logical answer is to:
#2, forget about the mystical aspects, just get used to the state, and above all HAVE FUN! Earlier on, we listed an extensive selection of triptoys, try them out! Walk around your apartment, venture outside (maybe even in daylight?), visit a nice park... don't be afraid to smile and giggle. The phrase "tripping fool", while it sounds a bit weird to the uninitiated, is a perfect description of the state you're likely to be in during the trip. You'll do lots of silly and/or child-like things, playing with nifty rocks or plants or whatever, staring open-jawed at how incredible trees look. And you will be fully aware of how "un-adult" your behavior is, but it won't matter one bit because for those few hours of happy psychedelia, you'll be able to rediscover just how it feels to be a kid again, drop all those pointless ego-games, and experience the world for the first time once again.
6e. Viewpoint by Jake
I was just going over the Psych Exp FAQ, and thinking to myself what an great piece of work it is (kudos to Gnosis [and Nipo!]). But it struck me that it really represents only one "style" of tripping (the one that myself and my closer friends happen to subscribe to), which is very cerebral, spiritual, calm; *healthy* one might even say. Its the sort of approach that most of the people in this group seem to take as well, the kind of approach you _have_ to take with things like DMT.
But it made me think of other styles I've come in contact with (and participated in), the styles of people who would probably not be too terribly interested by an Internet mailing list, the spiritual dimensions of a trip, or even the importance of keeping one's head in one piece. I'm just curious about other approaches people have run across. I guess this is kind of along the same lines as some of my previous messages.
Take some of my high-school friends, for example. The operative terminology here is "getting fucked up". When you drop acid or do mushrooms you're "all wasted", you've got a "buzz", you're "getting off". Psychedelics are treated like a stronger version of alcohol. And its got the same macho self-destruction attached to it. You all know it; how much can you drop, how much can you munch, how many bowls/joints/buckets/bots can you take before you pass out or puke blood (yes, I know of people who have vomitted blood doing oil buckets, for whatever reason). When I sent word home about DXM, a bunch of them ran out, popped 3 boxes each (in addition to sucking up vast amounts of THC) and then "died a few times". One guy just sat in his apartment for a week doing DXM, and eventually tried to pay another friend of mine $20 over cost just to go and buy him more.
A night in the life here is about 6-8 hits of *good* blotter, sitting in a dark smoky apartment, unable to move, with Pantera, Machine Head, White Zombie, Fear Factory, Sepultura and various other thrash/death maestros cranked to 10. No Brian Eno or worldbeat in their CD racks I'm afraid :).
They take pride in being able to hold it together. They'll try to freak each other out, do things which deliberately take their minds as close to the edge as possible. If someone starts to get a little edgy they jump on it and take it to the limit.
Fun activities are driving fast along dark roads, smashing in television screens with your bare fist, fighting. Thinking is prohibited, of course; the whole experience is just a dose, a feeling, a kaleidoscope sense show, a chance to freak.
For others I know, a few hits or a few grams means that it's time to hit the bars, or drink a case of beer (Yes, a case; for those few who weren't aware, you don't even feel it. Well, I imagine your liver feels it.).
Perhaps this is just the more extreme end of the party-drug mentality...
6f. General Advice
<> 5.5 Other points to keep in mind - The only externally visible sign that you're tripping is dilated pupils. Wear sunglasses when you go outside. - Have you read the LSD and/or Psilocybe Mushrooms FAQs yet? 6g. General Advice
<> 5.6 Final words of wisdom * Let go, let yourself flow... * It's Just The Drugs. * Everything Is All Right. 7. For the Guide
This section is intended for the person who wants to introduce friends to the world of psychedelia in the most pleasant way possible.
Being a guide is not a task to be undertaken lightly. As a guide, your role is to _guide_ the others, to make sure that they come to no harm and that everything is OK. This also means that you have to be able to suppress your desire to have fun and your desire to control the actions of others so that they suit you. This is not an easy task.
The minimum requirements of a successful guide are experience with psychedelics (not necessarily extensive experience, but some nonetheless and the more the better) and the ability to handle whatever crops up. A good guide is able to "snap out of it" and interact with reality even in the middle of a heavy trip, instead of panicing or withdrawing into oneself. A sufficiently experienced guide can even abstain from taking any drugs and just set himself in the same state as the other trippers; this, however, is easier said than done.
The good guide has often been compared to a benevolent Zen master. In other words, the guide's role is not to blabber endlessly and attempt to control everything the voyager does. The guide is supposed to _guide_: help the tripper over the rough spots, perhaps suggest activities, but most of all (s)he should know when to simply shut up and let the voyager explore on their own. The guide should monitor the voyager, but unobtrusively. Don't ask them every 5 minutes whether they are OK (this will just make them nervous), if they are not and you are paying attention you will notice.
A little outline of what the guide should do:
- The 'rise' phase of the trip is the most important one, since it will usually determine what the peak will be like. During this stage, do your best to make sure the tripper is lifting off well. Both parties will be able to communicate at least in the beginning, so check on the voyager regularly.
- By the time the peak arrives it will usually be more or less clear how well the trip is going. If it's going nicely, no problem, just fade to the background keeping an unobtrusive check on the voyager and doing mundane things like changing CDs whenever needed. If it's not going well, see the next section.
- Eventually, the peak will end and the tripper will probably start wandering around or playing with the triptoys you brought (you did bring some, didn't you?). Join in the fun! Being around a tripping person will induce a trippy state in you as well.
7d. Handling rough spots
People react differently to unpleasantness, but the most common reaction is curling up into a ball and looking pained. (Mind you, many people also curl up into a foetal position when they feel quite good... so check the facial expression before you intervene and discuss this beforehand with the voyager(s).) If the voyager is not having a good time, change the music to something happy and familiar, change the location or go out for a walk (with the voyager, obviously). If they are scared, try holding hands and reassuring them that everything will be OK. If they express a fear ("Will this ever stop? Am I going insane? Am I dying?"), specifically counter that fear, remind them that they are on a drug, the trip *will* end, and you will make sure nothing bad happens. If they are sad, a hug will often prove helpful. This is largely common sense, just remember that if there is clear need you should not be afraid to intervene. Often, the negative feelings will 'paralyze' the voyager and they will be unable to do anything - including say that the trip is going badly - so the initiative is the guide's.
For any kind of bad trip, it is important to emphasize to the tripper that the fear is caused by the ego attempting to hold itself together, and the only remedy is letting go. Resistance is not merely useless but very counterproductive. Although I'm sure Winston Churchill didn't quite mean it this way, the only thing a tripper with a guide has to fear is fear itself.
If this doesn't seem to be working - and it may not - the other tool in the guide's arsenal is the change of setting. Yes, I am repeating myself, but this is important. The tripper will often resist the idea of changing the place they are in, but if you gently force them to do it the change for the better can be dramatic. Aim for contrast, ie. if you're inside go outside or vica versa, which will make the tripper erase the earlier bad vibes and start off with a "blank slate".
7f. Summary by an anonymous contributor
I don't really like the term guide. I would not presume to "guide" anyone. In fact, actively trying to push the subject in a particular direction is a trap for the guide. The guide loses an opportunity to learn from the subject's experience. Let's call the guide the "helper".
These are the advantages to having a helper:
- The presence of the helper makes it possible for the subject to face negative material more bravely. The comforting presence of the helper enables the subject to go into difficult experiences and cross to the other side. Instead of recoiling, one can really explore "the darkness" and shed a little light on it and on oneself.
- The helper can help with fears about loss of sanity. Such fears are normal due to the extreme modifications in ones sense of the passage of time (help, it's not ending!). The helper should let you know what stage you are at, how long it has been, how long it will last. The useful aspects of the "time stop" experience remain, but the fear is gone.
- The helper can help remind you what you wanted to explore. One can go in with a desire to explore a certain perception or issue, and then get completely distracted. The helper can remind you at a predetermined time.
- Memory can be incomplete afterwards. The helper can take a few notes to jog your memory and enable you to remember the sequence correctly. This should make it much easier to learn from your sessions.
- When things get really bad, the helper can intervene by changing the setting. They could change the music, direct your attention elsewhere, take you to another room, etc. Later, you could return to the problem area when the emotional involvement is lower.
The _Psychedelic Experience_ talks quite a bit about this subject. Instead of quoting the whole thing (which is largely, but not entirely, condensed above), we recommend that you get a copy of the book for an alternative viewpoint. Bear in mind that the _P.E._ is geared towards large groups of 10+ people and their guides, while we have focused on the more typical 2-4 person groups.
Also, some people dislike the _P.E._ because they find that it makes the guide's role much too active, and it has a rather negative tone to it, ie. "unless you do X, Y and Z you will rot in psychedelic hell". Personally, I find that much of the advice remains valid despite this, but your mileage may vary.
Please fasten your seat beat, extinguish _all_ smoking materials, and enjoy your flight!
(K) Kopyleft Brahman Industries 1995. All rites reversed.