Bad trips are a polarizing concept in psychedelics. Acknowledging that they exist can be a source of healing.
Want to start a war on social media? Post something like this: “Bad trips exist.”
As somebody who has worked in the psychedelic space for years now and has supported many, many people during their trips, it’s time to come out of the closet and say it: people can be harmed by psychedelics, and bad trips exist.
– But allow me to define the term “bad trip,” because the vague phrase has become too polarized to be meaningful.
When I talk about bad trips, I’m not talking about the harrowing, painful journeys to the underworld from which we return raw and exhausted, with some important piece of our healing work having been catalyzed.
When I talk about bad trips, I mean the trips that register in the body as a trauma or injury to the nervous system. And that is not, in fact, the same thing as a difficult trip.
What happens when we deny this truth is that we inadvertently alienate those who have had traumatic or harmful experiences. These people have endured trauma, and are now being told that they have not.
So let’s talk about traumatic trips: The psychedelic experiences that leave us injured. Thankfully, they are rare.
I’m not just speaking from my observations as a clinician, but also from personal experience: I had a traumatic psychedelic experience on ayahuasca many years ago. I was decidedly “not okay” afterwards and required much time and support to recover.
Despite the shock and injury to my nervous system, I eventually used psychedelics again. In fact, in the eight or so years that have passed since the traumatic trip, I have openly supported the legalization of psychedelics, and have built two businesses centered around empowering people to heal with psychedelics.