How to Help Someone Having an Overwhelming Psychedelic Experience

If you are uncertain about the origin and/or purity of the substance(s) the person was using, and if you truly believe that they are in physical danger, then you should call for help immediately.

The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act offers some legal protection if you need to call emergency services. Nobody will be charged for usage or possession of a controlled substance as a result of seeking assistance.


The information provided here is for general informational purposes and does not constitute legal or medical advice. Engaging in psychedelic experiences involves unique legal, ethical, and personal considerations. It is crucial to consult with legal professionals, healthcare experts, or relevant authorities to ensure compliance with local laws and regulations.

We disclaim any liability for decisions made based on this information. Participants in psychedelic experiences are encouraged to prioritize safety, well-being, and adherence to legal and ethical standards. Additionally, we strongly advocate the use of common sense, responsible behavior, and principles of harm reduction to enhance the overall safety and positive outcomes of psychedelic experiences.

Please see our full disclaimer page.


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.

Remain calm to help them remain calm

The first thing to remember, is that to help someone who is going through a difficult experience, you need to be the calm, compassionate, understanding voice of reason. You may need to be firm, but you must not be confrontational or threatening.

How you act and react is more important that what you say:

  • be empathetic and non-judgmental
  • respect their personal space and boundaries
  • keep your tone and body language neutral
  • don't argue or challenge their perspectives
  • avoid over-reacting

Ensure they are physically safe

Ideally this is a situation where the person is already in a safe place, but if not, you want to gently encourage and direct them to a quiet, safe, and comfortable space, which offers some calm privacy and available hydration, and is away from potential danger.

Avoid the following:

  • high places such as balconies, ledges, cliffs, or steep hills
  • bodies of water, including swimming pools, rivers, or ponds
  • traffic, or any place with moving vehicles or machinery
  • kitchens, stoves, knives, potential weapons of any sort
  • busy, noisy, or overwhelming stimuli

Remind them that this is temporary

Remind them that psychedelic experiences are temporary, and also inherently very physically safe. They can not die from a panic attack, and they will not die from an overwhelming psychedelic experience. Remind them that they took a drug, and that it will wear off in time.

If you know what they took, and when, then you should be able to reassure them as to when they should expect to begin to feel normal again.

Gentle distraction

If they are overly focused on a certain distressing thought or subject, you can gently try to distract them by asking them to look at something, handing them an object, asking if they would like to listen to some music (or different music), or if they would like a sip of water (only if they are currently safely capable of doing so). Make sure to gauge their response. If it appears that attempts at distraction are causing them distress, then do not persist in it.

Encourage them to Trust, Let Go, and Be Open

Tell them to go with the flow. That you are there to support them, and that they can trust, let go, and be open (TLO):

  • Trust yourself, and your body to take care of you
  • Trust that you are safe
  • Trust in the knowledge that this will pass
  • Let go of your anxiety
  • Let go of your need to be in control
  • Let go of clinging to memories, identities, or emotions
  • Be open to the experience
  • Be open to receiving wisdom from it
  • Be open to finding your way through it

Stay with them until they are baseline

It is important that when someone having a psychedelic experience is in your care, that you stay with them until you are sure that they are back to baseline, and they are supported throughout the experience. You just need to be emotionally present, a compassionate listener, and prepared to call for assistance if necessary.

If you feel that you must call 911 for a medical crisis, it is not recommended to mention substance use. Simply say that there is a medical emergency (otherwise police may be dispatched).

If you feel that there danger of physical violence, let 911 know that you fear for your safety, and police will be dispatched (this should only be done in extreme situations).

Please remember that the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act offers some legal protection if you need to call emergency services. Nobody will be charged for usage or possession of a controlled substance for seeking assistance.

someone_is_having_a_difficult_or_overwhelming_psychedelic_experience.txt · Last modified: 2023/12/12 19:26
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