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There are certain precautions you should take before trying LSD. The advice below helps to prepare you both physically and mentally. We want you to be safe and enjoy your experience as much as possible, so if you have a bad experience or are struggling with especially bad after-effects, please take note of the advice below.
Every feeling is enhanced with LSD, this is why you want to plan your trip carefully.
Always test your LSD. Other hallucinogens can be sometimes sold as LSD, many of these other drugs have a smaller safety window (i.e. the ratio of the typical lethal dose to the effective dose)
Don't try LSD if you are in a bad state and feel a bit down. You shouldn't take any drug when you are feeling low, but taking psychedelics is probably the worst idea. You can easily fall into a very unpleasant rabbit hole.
Try to have a trip-sitter look after you during your trip. Ideally, this would be someone who remains sober, has had previous experience with psychedelic drugs, and has read this guide! Or, let someone you trust know when and where you are planning to take it.
Always take it with other people and, whenever it is possible, with familiar and kind faces. Experienced users might start trying it out on their own, often to seek artistic or intellectual inspiration.
Set and setting, i.e. the place you choose to take LSD, is extremely important. It should be a familiar and safe place. Avoid places that may trigger negative feelings for you or unsecure and unsafe locations with a lot of people. If possible, prepare the site beforehand with a friend you trust.
Prepare a music list. Check our section: What should I listen to?
Gather any items you want to experiment with during your trip (books, videos, pen and paper etc.)
Don't carry valuables while tripping as it's easier to become disoriented and forgetful. Stay hydrated: bring a bottle of water and some light snacks.
Scientists, writers, doctors and gurus have written a lot about strategies, ideas and mindsets one should take into account to enhance the experience beyond the limits of your consciousness. Check the links in Set and setting for more information, we'll keep updating it!
Generally, the LSD experience can be divided into different stages:
Initial effects (come-up)
Slight visual changes, sense of intoxication, uncontrollable need to laugh, euphoria, anxiety
The peak and plateau
Increase of visuals, time distortion, synaesthesia, loss of the sense of self, spiritual-experience, suggestibility
Gradual decrease of physical and psychological effects, insomnia
The LSD experience, even when positive, can often be emotionally and physically draining. Many people like to have a free day after taking LSD, not to recover from the hangover, but so they can reflect on the experience as it helps you to gain an even greater insight from the trip. Know yourself!
You might feel an afterglow for some hours or days or you might feel a bit off. People vary a lot on their feelings and mood after the trip. If you avoid a bad trip and get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and eat a sensible amount of food, you should wake up in your usual state.
You might still feel that the world looks a bit weird after the trip, so avoid driving, cycling or doing any risky activities. Wait around 24 hours before doing anything that requires your full attention and physical coordination.
Just as how LSD can heighten positive feelings, it can also enhance negative feelings. They can be very overwhelming and unpleasant. LSD has also been shown to strongly increase psychotic-like symptoms [Ref Carhart-Harris et al., 2016.]
Even though a bad trip can be absolutely terrifying at the time, it could lead to beneficial long-term consequences when processed and integrated properly [Carbonaro et al., 2016]. In a survey about challenging experiences after taking psilocybin mushrooms, 39% of users who had them said that the experience was among the top 5 challenging experiences of their lifetime. Despite having those difficulties, 84% reported having benefited from the experience and 76% reported increased well-being afterwards.
LSD can be very dangerous to people with pre-existing psychotic illnesses or those who are highly at risk for developing psychosis. Research shows that LSD makes existing psychotic symptoms worse and can trigger the onset of the full-blown psychotic episode.
A bad trip can occur when taking a low or medium dose, but the chances increase with higher doses. Both beginners and experienced users can suffer a bad trip, so always take the appropriate preventions.
During a bad trip, you might feel:
Unwanted thoughts, emotions and memories
Distressing awareness of physiological processes
Feelings about evil forces/existential crisis
Each person may find their way of escaping a bad trip: listening to a particular song, talking to a certain person, or looking at a pleasant painting. We personally recommend lying down in a place without disturbances, close your eyes and breathe deeply until you feel better.
Check out this video: Bad Trips - How to Use Biofeedback to Work with the Fear
Helping out a friend
If you are taking care of your friends, keep in mind the following:
Be patient, listen to and observe them
Empathise and express understanding of their fears
Don't try to guide them. Instead, listen to them and talk them through their experience without imposing your own ideas of what ‘should’ be
Find a more peaceful spot
Tell them that their bad feelings will pass. It can happen and many people before have suffered it
A great guide is MAPS' Manual: How to Work with Difficult Psychedelic Experiences
Click the brain for neuro-info!
Accidental overdoses are very rare because LSD has a very high safety window (the ratio of the typical lethal dose to the effective dose). There isn’t an exact lethal amount, since it depends on many variables such as the person and context. Estimates of lethal doses of LSD are higher than 10 mg (10,000 µg) administered orally, more than 100 times a normal moderate dose of LSD (100 µg).
Seek immediate medical attention if:
Do not doubt to call a paramedic if you see or feel any of these symptoms. You will not get into trouble.
There has been only one human incident where the death has been attributed to LSD toxicity alone. The quantity of LSD in the blood indicated that 320 mg (320,000 µg) had been injected intravenously. Very rare LSD-related fatalities usually result from people committing suicide or accidental deaths.
Understand the trip
In this section The Beckley Foundation and Drugsand.me provide you with a lot of neuroscientific information. Let us know what else you want to know about!
A discovery the recent Beckley/Imperial studies have revealed is the shift in the overall connectivity of the brain. The connectivity within the networks decreases and the connectivity between the networks increases. The whole brain becomes more integrated, allowing new functional connections to be formed between brain areas which which normally do not ‘speak to each other’.
LSD enhances your emotional response to music, increasing wonder, transcendence, power and tenderness of it. LSD and music work together to change how your neurons talk to each other, that correlate with the long lasting change in personality, such as increased openness and optimism (Lebedev et al., 2016).
LSD intensifies the quality and significance of melodies and lyrics and affects the perception of the basic musical features such as pitch, tempo and timbre. LSD and music together increase the flow of personal memories, allowing the vivid experience of ‘visions of the past'. This research by Mendel Kaelen, undertaken as part of the Beckley/Imperial Research Programme is the first to shed light on how the brain processes music under LSD, and provide a basis for understanding the therapeutic effects of music.
What should I listen to?
The powerful influence that music has on your trip can enhance it or make it really bad, this is why you should pick carefully the music you listen to while on LSD. There isn't a standardized playlist suitable for everyone. Follow this advice and adapt it to your taste and the experience you are looking for!
Below we provide examples of the tracks used by the scientists in the Beckley/Imperial research programme working on incorporating music to psychedelic therapy
Have a look at the playlist of another research team doing research on psychedelics: John Hopkins’ playlist
Do want to discover why it is called psychedelic rock?
Click the brain for neuro-info!
Mental time travel refers to the ability to think about future or past, to recollect aspects of past autobiographical episodes or imagine future experiences. LSD seems to tune you with the present and it enhances any stimuli in your environment. This is why the context where you decide to take LSD is extremely important to ensure you have a good trip and avoid a bad experience.
Click the brain for neuro-info!
Suggestibility is the susceptibility or response to suggestion. LSD strongly enhances suggestibility. This means that the realism or vividness of suggested situations or scenarios is stronger when you are under LSD.
Why does this matter to you? Again, this is another reason of the importance of prior expectations (set) and environment (setting) in determining the nature of your experience. You may want to hide or avoid any object or place that arises any negative feeling or memory. Similarly, you probably want to have around things that already calm you down or bring you good vibes in a normal state.
Timothy Leary described it as a ‘period of increased reactivity to stimuli, both from within and without, there is an increase in suggestibility’ (Ref. Leary 1966; Carhart-Harris et.al suggestability paper)
Ego-dissolution is the loss of the sense of 'self' and the feeling of belongingness to the world.
Click the brain for neuro-info!
A visual hallucination is the vivid perception of an external visual stimulus that does not exist. Trippers usually see a distortion of what they are seeing. Fractals (repeated patterns) are a common form of distortion.
Click the brain for neuro-info!
Synaesthesia is a psychological experience in which two or more senses that are normally experienced separately are constantly and spontaneously felt together. For example, the word 'Friday' makes the person to see the colour red. The painter Kandinsky is a famous example of a synaesthete (person with these experiences in their daily life).
LSD triggers synaesthesia-like experiences. This means that even if you are not a synaesthete you may experience a similar sensation. However, the experience is different as there is no consistency and specificity in the pairing of stimulus-sensation. This means that you might suddenly taste the sweetness of the word 'love' once, but not ever again and you might feel afterwards how another unrelated word tastes sweet as well. (Ref. Terhune, 2016) In the contrary, a synaesthete constantly tastes sweet when he/she hears the word 'love' and only this word would trigger the sensation of sweetness (besides actual sweet food/drink).
Don't be afraid when you see a noise and enjoy the mind-blowing experience!
If you avoid a bad trip, some particular positive feelings seem to be enhanced the most.
To investigate the effects of LSD on language, done as part of the Beckley/Imperial Research Programme, a team asked participants to name the pictures immediately after seeing them. Although the reaction times were the same as on placebo, study volunteers made more mistakes in naming the pictures. For example, when shown the picture of a bus, they were more likely to call it a ‘truck’ or a ‘car’. The mistakes were from the similar semantic category as the correct answer, but not exactly right. This research explains how LSD affects semantic networks and the way the brain draws connections between different words or concepts. "The effects of LSD on language can result in a cascade of associations that allow quicker access to far way concepts stored in the mind," said Family.
Psychedelics help to notice associations people wouldn't normally pay attention to, or help form new connections – this has implications for enhancing creativity. Ref Family et al., 2016
Pro-social effects of LSD
Under the effects of LSD people report a feeling of belongingness to the environment, as well as a connection with those who are with them. LSD changes the way you read people’s expressions and feelings. Consequently, these are internalised differently and your reaction in social context differs from your sober state.
To measure the social behavioural changes on LSD, a group of people were given LSD while they undertook a series of tasks. The scientists aimed to test some traits that influence our social behaviour such as empathy, prosociality, emotional response to faces and subjective mood. These were assessed twice per individual during the ‘trip’ since it lasts for several hours. Ref Dolder et al., 2016