Overwhelming Psychedelic Experiences

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Sometimes psychedelic experiences can become difficult or overwhelming, and can trigger a sort of panic attack (or anxiety attack), which is essentially a triggering of the flight-or-fight response (also called the acute stress response), which can cause the body to release catecholamines including adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol, resulting in physical symptoms such as dilated pupils, pale or flushed skin, rapid heart rate and breathing, and even trembling, dizziness, and cramping, but typically more prominent in psychedelic related anxiety are emotional symptoms such as feelings of impending doom, fear of loss of control or death, and a feeling of detachment from reality.

The following techniques are recommended to bring you out of a fearful, anxiety situation, and to guide your experience back to one that is more positive and transformative. The intention is not to terminate the experience, nor to “white knuckle” through it, but rather to steer it toward calmer waters.

With higher doses, difficult experiences are to be expected, and even welcomed. This is where the magic happens. Just like some turbulence on an airplane flight, this will pass, and while it may be alarming, and you may have to put your seatbelt on for a few minutes, it does not mean your flight is over, or that your time is up.

Remember, this is temporary

The first thing to do, is to remember that psychedelic experiences are temporary, and also inherently very physically safe. You can not die from a panic attack, and you will not die from an overwhelming psychedelic experience, especially when using classic psychedelics, such as LSD and psilocybin.

It may help to make a note to yourself of what time you dosed, when the peak will begin and end, and when you should be back to baseline.

Focus on your breathing

Next, focus on your breathing. Slowly inhale, while counting to four, hold for four seconds, and then exhale for a count of four, repeat this, focusing on your breath, and how it feels. You want to do your best to relax, and to let yourself know that everything is okay. If you find this too difficult to achieve, you could instead try singing a simple and familiar song – anything really, even just row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream.

Try the 5-4-3-2-1 method

Working backward from 5, use your senses to list things you notice around you. For example, you might start by listing:

  • 5 things you hear
  • 4 things you see
  • 3 things you can touch from where you’re sitting
  • 2 things you can smell
  • 1 thing you can taste

Make an effort to notice the little things you might not always pay attention to, such as the color of the flecks in the carpet or the hum of your computer.

Use an anchoring statement

This might be something like, “I’m Full Name. I’m X years old. I live in City, Province. Today is Saturday, July 2nd. It’s 2:00 in the afternoon. I’m sitting on my couch at home. There’s no one else in the room.”

You can expand on the phrase by adding details until you feel calm, such as, “It’s raining lightly, but I can still see the sun. I’m thirsty, so I’m going to have a drink of water.”

Take care of your physical comfort needs

Remember to stay hydrated (but not overly so), and make yourself comfortable. Dress in soft, comfortable, loose fitting layers. Curl up in a soft, comfy blanket. Listen to your favourite music.

Go with the flow

There are no “bad” trips. Difficult experiences are learning experiences. Rather than try to fight the experience, it is recommended to go with the flow.

  • Trust yourself, and your body to take care of you.
  • Let go. Don't resist. Don't cling. Don't panic.
  • Be open to the experience. Be open to receiving wisdom from it. Be open to finding your way through it.
i_m_having_a_difficult_or_overwhelming_psychedelic_experience.txt · Last modified: 2023/12/12 19:25
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