Updated: Oct 30
This November, Coloradans will vote on Proposition 122, The Natural Medicine Health Act which would decriminalize the personal use of psychedelics like psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and other psychedelic compounds. Whether the initiative passes or not, psychedelic therapies hold great hope for humanity and education is of great importance. Conscious and authentic conversations and collaborations are blossoming within this field, and one common concern that arises is the possibility of experiencing a “bad trip”
Most of us have heard stories about bad trips, and some of us may have experienced them. We hear stories about someone we know freaking out during a drug-induced, hallucinogenic experience and never being the same person again. Maybe they took too much of something, maybe they mixed substances, maybe what they took was something different than what they thought they were getting, or maybe they even ended up overdosing. So many maybe’s…
First, let’s consider two things: the human vehicle and some potential reasons people end up using drugs. The human form is a very sophisticated vessel, which is made up of far more than the flesh and bones or physical parts we can see. We also have several energetic layers and auric bodies that most of us can’t see. The human form is the sacred and unique vessel that our soul animates and uses to experience the lower frequencies on Earth. Earth is like a school for our soul to evolve; some beings chose to incarnate on Earth at this specific time to help aid humanity in healing and evolving. The building blocks of all matter, including the human body, are constructed of atoms and molecules, basic energy elements. So, it can be said in simple terms that the human body (and everything else) is fundamentally made up of energy.
According to Barbara Brennan Healing Science, everyone has an energy field that has within it, seven separate levels or centers. The energy levels of the body consist of two emotional levels, (one dealing with emotions regarding self and the other with emotions regarding others), there is a mental level (the level of inner/higher will), and then two higher energy levels beyond that.
Within the Human Energy Field, we also have 7 energy centers that are connected separately to each level of the field. Guy Needler, another expert in the field of consciousness, details in his work that, “the soul/aspect is projected from the much bigger True Energetic Self (TES/Oversoul) located higher up in the multiverse.” There are many unique but similar philosophies regarding the body's energy systems and how they function independently and in relation to the body's energy centers. The terms chakras, energy centers, and auras may create mental imagery that is often perpetuated as “woo-woo”, but science, spirituality, and religion are often pointing to the same underlying truth.
Needler details how the higher frequency energies of the TES must be gradually stepped down to be compatible with the gross physical body at our level. Therefore, he points out, the human vehicle is associated with 10 frequency bands (FB) concurrently.
The top 3 layers (FB 10-9-8) interface the soul’s energies with the 7 auric bodies and templates surrounding the physical body.
Each template (from ketheric to etheric body) is another step down in energies.
(B. Brennan’s “Hands of Light,”)
Now that we have an established idea of the human vessel beyond just the physical form, we can dive into how various substances affect the soul and what contributing factors can lead to an individual having a higher likelihood of a
“good trip” or a “bad trip”. What causes someone to do drugs? This is a loaded question, but generally, there is great value in looking at a problem from more than one perspective. In addiction-related research conducted on rats and disseminated in humorous laymen’s terms by Johann Hari, he states, “scientists discovered that both the right-wing and left-wing theories of addiction are wrong” and that “addiction is largely an adaptation to your environment.”
He urges us to consider that a large majority of people can’t stand to be present in our lives without being on something. That may be partly due to how our society produces and rewards hyper-consumerism, hyper-individualism, and isolation. Hari goes on to say that “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection. And our whole society, the engine of it, is geared toward making us connect with things, not people. You are not a good consumer citizen if you spend your time bonding with the people around you and not stuff. We are trained from a young age to focus our hopes, dreams, and ambitions on things to buy and consume. Drug addiction is a subset of that.”
Most of us have some addictive tendencies that are often overlooked and normalized within our society. Caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and sugar are some of the top contenders that are most used and widely accepted. Of course, there are also “harder” substances like cocaine, meth, or heroin. Or perhaps, it’s online shopping, incessant checking of devices, or workaholism. What are we running from? Where are we running to? Humanity is shifting. Corrupt systems are being exposed and we are seeing a collective shadow rising to the surface. No more can it be ignored or repressed, it must be looked at, healed, and integrated. As cliché as it may sound, it’s always dark before dawn. We have reached the tipping point and are feeling the polarization at the micro and macro scales.
We are going through what some have called “A Great Awakening".
COVID-19 forced us to reconsider so much about ourselves, our world, and what’s truly important. Many of us saw it as an opportunity to take stock of our lives and determine our next steps, while others had the rug pulled out from underneath them in every way. Some of us picked up a new hobby or saw it as an opportunity to let go of what was no longer serving our highest good, wipe the slate, and start living our dreams. There was grief and devastation for many, but there was also reconciliation, hope, and rebirth. With rates of addiction and depression skyrocketing over the past 3 years, people have been looking for and creating solutions. One potential solution is psychedelic-assisted therapy. More research continues to emerge as it relates to the use of psychedelics for many common mental health concerns as well as in treating addiction.
In a study testing the use of psilocybin as a potential treatment for tobacco smoking cessation.
Johns Hopkins researchers report that 15 study participants taking psilocybin achieved an 80 percent abstinence rate over six months, compared to an approximate 35 percent success rate for patients taking varenicline, which is widely considered to be the most effective smoking cessation drug. A growing body of evidence shows great promise for the use of psychedelics in the treatment of anxiety and depression, addiction, and other mental health concerns.
As previously stated, our human vehicle goes beyond our physical form. Ulla Sarmiento DVM, Ph.D., DACVP, research scientist turned spiritual scientist shares her perspective stating that a “good trip” is where the soul is thrown to upper astral levels (Frequency Band 6-7), where the entities are more benign, loving, and gracious. A “bad trip” is where the soul is thrown to lower astral levels (Frequency Band 4-5), where the soul has a lucid experience of things and entities at those levels. Research suggests that a bad trip isn’t always “bad”. Roughly 84% of drug users who experienced a “bad trip” from hallucinogenic mushrooms said they benefited from the psychologically difficult situation. Researchers, Roland Griffiths & Robert Jesse of John Hopkins University, surveyed 1,993 adults regarding their single worst “bad trip” after ingesting psilocybin mushrooms. More than 9 out of 10 of the participants had used psilocybin more than two times in their life. The average dose that produced the bad trip was about 4 grams. 62% of study participants said their bad trip was among the top 10 most psychologically difficult situations of their lives and 11% said it was their number one most difficult experience. 34% of participants said the bad trip was among the top five most personally meaningful experiences of their life and 31% said it was among the top five most spiritually significant.
76% said the bad trip had resulted in an improved sense of personal well-being or life satisfaction, and 46% said they would be willing to experience the bad trip all over again. The degree of psychological difficulty was statistically associated with beneficial outcomes. More challenging experiences tended to be viewed as more beneficial or meaningful, while longer bad trips were associated with less beneficial outcomes.
Everyone is unique but generally, a bad trip can be caused by the following:
Taking too much. 2 to 3 grams of dried mushrooms is considered a full trip dose. Anything higher than 4 grams is statistically more likely to bring about a challenging experience, especially if you don’t have experience with psychedelics
Being in a negative state of mind before or during the trip
Being in an overly stimulating setting
Mixing psilocybin mushrooms with other drugs or alcohol
Not having a support person that you trust with you
Not drinking enough water
It’s also essential that we take great consideration into how other cultures have used psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelic plant medicines for healing or religious purposes and have developed ways of moving through some of the challenging experiences that can occur while journeying through a psychedelic trip. Many other cultures utilize these plant medicines with great reverence, in a ceremonial or ritual setting, and with experienced individuals present during the experience and afterward.
If you find yourself having a bad trip, remember that you can and will make your way through it. Often bad trips bring up repressed trauma and fears, be kind to yourself while navigating painful moments and know that you are dissolving walls of illusion that have kept you feeling fearful or stuck. While moving through these emotions can be deeply challenging, you will get through it. Remember to pause and focus on your breath. Breathwork is incredibly important in all aspects of life and health because it converts and shifts energy so quickly and is something that we can focus on to achieve control, release, and relaxation. Try counting your breaths, or box breathing. If you’re with a friend or guide, let them know how you’re feeling and know that they are there to support you.
You can change your setting both internally and physically. Visualize positive and happy memories, go for a walk outside or think of something that makes you laugh. Shift your focus, move your body, drink some water, and give it time. If you’ve experienced a bad trip or ended up moving through a challenging psychedelic experience, consider it a milestone in your journey and find the deeper purpose or meaning within it. Life’s a trip, enjoy the ride.
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Brennan, B., & Smith, J. A. (1988, May 1). Hands of Light: A Guide to Healing Through the Human Energy Field (Reissue). Bantam.
Carbonaro, T. M., Bradstreet, M. P., Barrett, F. S., MacLean, K. A., Jesse, R., Johnson, M. W., & Griffiths, R. R. (2016, September 27). A survey study of challenging experiences after ingesting psilocybin mushrooms: Acute and enduring positive and negative consequences. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 30(12), 1268–1278. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881116662634
Johnson, M. (n.d.). Classic Psychedelics in Addiction Treatment: The Case for Psilocybin in Tobacco Smoking Cessation. PubMed.Gov. https://doi.org/10.1007/7854_2022_327
Needler, G. S. (2021, September 1). Psycho-Spiritual Healing: And Other Techniques for Dysfunctions Created by Who We Are and How We Incarnate. Ozark Mountain Publishing.
Sarmiento, U. (2015, January 21). How Do Drugs Affect the Body and Soul? Big Picture Questions. Retrieved October 14, 2022, from https://bigpicturequestions.com/how-do-drugs-affect-the-body-and-soul/
Hari, J. (2016, April 12). Johann Hari: “The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety – it’s connection.” Retrieved June 8, 2022, from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/12/johann-hari-chasing-the-scream-war-on-drugs