Bad trip

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A bad trip (also known as challenging experiences, acute intoxication from hallucinogens, psychedelic crisis, or emergence phenomenon) is an acute adverse psychological reaction to classic hallucinogens. With proper screening, preparation, and support in a regulated setting these are usually benign.[1] A bad trip on psilocybin, for instance, often features intense anxiety, confusion, and agitation, or even psychotic episodes.[2] As of 2011, exact data on the frequency of bad trips are not available.[2]

Bad trips can be exacerbated by the inexperience or irresponsibility of the user or the lack of proper preparation and environment for the trip, and are often reflective of unresolved psychological tensions triggered during the course of the experience.[3][page needed] In clinical research settings, precautions including the screening and preparation of participants, the training of the session monitors who will be present during the experience, and the selection of appropriate physical setting can minimize the likelihood of psychological distress.[4] Researchers have suggested that the presence of professional "trip sitters" (i.e., session monitors) may significantly reduce the negative experiences associated with a bad trip.[5] In most cases in which anxiety arises during a supervised psychedelic experience, reassurance from the session monitor is adequate to resolve it; however, if distress becomes intense it can be treated pharmacologically, for example with the benzodiazepine diazepam.[4]

The psychiatrist Stanislav Grof wrote that unpleasant psychedelic experiences are not necessarily unhealthy or undesirable, arguing that they may have the potential for psychological healing and lead to breakthrough and resolution of unresolved psychic issues.[3][page needed] Drawing on narrative theory, the authors of a 2021 study of 50 users of psychedelics found that many described bad trips as having been sources of insight or even turning points in life.[5]


Medical treatment consists of supportive therapy and minimization of external stimuli. In some cases, sedation is used when necessary to control self-destructive behavior, or when hyperthermia occurs. Diazepam is the most frequently used sedative for such treatment, but other benzodiazepines such as lorazepam are also effective.[citation needed] Such sedatives will only decrease fear and anxiety, but will not subdue hallucinations. In severe cases, antipsychotics such as haloperidol can reduce or stop hallucinations. Haloperidol is effective against acute intoxication caused by LSD and other tryptamines, amphetamines, ketamine, and phencyclidine.[6][7]


Bad trips may cause hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD).[citation needed]


Stanislav Grof[edit]

Psychiatrist Stanislav Grof once said in an interview:

There is a tremendous danger of confusing the inner world with the outer world, so you'll be dealing with your inner realities but at the same time you are not even aware of what's happening, You perceive a sort of distortion of the world out there. So you can end up in a situation where you're weakening the resistances, your conscious is becoming more aware, but you're not really in touch with it properly, you're not really fully experiencing what's there, not seeing it for what it is. You get kind of deluded and caught into this.[8]

In a 1975 book, Grof suggested that painful and difficult experiences during a trip could be a result of the mind reliving experiences associated with birth, and that experiences of imprisonment, eschatological terror, or suffering far beyond anything imaginable in a normal state, if seen through to conclusion, often resolve into emotional, intellectual and spiritual breakthroughs. From this perspective, Grof suggests that interrupting a bad trip, while initially seen as beneficial, could potentially trap the tripper in unresolved psychological states. Grof also suggests that many cathartic experiences within psychedelic states, while not necessarily crises, may be the effects of consciousness entering a perinatal space.[9]

Rick Strassman[edit]

Professor of psychiatry Rick Strassman is critical of reframing the experience of bad trips as one of "challenging experiences".[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Barrett, FS; Bradstreet, MP; Leoutsakos, JS; Johnson, MW; Griffiths, RR (December 2016). "The Challenging Experience Questionnaire: Characterization of challenging experiences with psilocybin mushrooms". Journal of Psychopharmacology. 30 (12): 1279–1295. doi:10.1177/0269881116678781. PMC 5549781. PMID 27856683.
  2. ^ a b van Amsterdam, Jan; Opperhuizen, Antoon; van den Brink, Wim (2011). "Harm potential of magic mushroom use: A review". Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology. 59 (3): 423–429. doi:10.1016/j.yrtph.2011.01.006. PMID 21256914.
  3. ^ a b Stanislav Grof, LSD Psychotherapy
  4. ^ a b Johnson, Matthew W.; Richards, William A.; Griffiths, Roland R. (2008). "Human Hallucinogen Research: Guidelines for Safety". Journal of Psychopharmacology. 22 (6): 603–620. doi:10.1177/0269881108093587. PMC 3056407. PMID 18593734.
  5. ^ a b Gashi, Liridona; Sandberg, Sveinung; Pederson, Willy (2021). "Making "bad trips" good: How users of psychedelics narratively transform challenging trips into valuable experiences". International Journal of Drug Policy. 87: 102997. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.102997. hdl:10852/81144. PMID 33080454. S2CID 224821288.
  6. ^ Giannini, A. James; Underwood, Ned A.; Condon, Maggie (2000). "Acute Ketamine Intoxication Treated by Haloperidol". American Journal of Therapeutics. 7 (6): 389–91. doi:10.1097/00045391-200007060-00008. PMID 11304647.
  7. ^ "Sage Journals". Archived from the original on 2014-08-24. Retrieved 2018-03-27.[dead link]
  8. ^ "Beyond Psychotic Experience - Stan Grof interviewed by Jon Atkinson". Archived from the original on 2011-09-27. Retrieved 2011-04-12.
  9. ^ Grof, Stanislav (1975). realms of the human unconscious - Observations from LSD research. souvenir press. pp. 95–153. ISBN 0-285-64882-9.
  10. ^ "Misguided Mainstreaming of Psychedelic Drugs: Challenging Experiences". Rick Strassman MD. 25 October 2017.

External links[edit]