6    'Bad trips' & Bogeymen

One of the oldest myths about psychedelics is that playing with them is like a game of Russian roulette: for every few fun trips, there’s a bad one loaded in the chamber and waiting to flip you into a kind of madness. 

The truth is far less ghoulish, although there’s still a lot of mystique surrounding these substances in popular culture: because psychedelics have been forced underground for nearly five decades, there’s too little research to get a true reading of just how often people have ‘bad’ trips on psychedelics. But researchers from a few medical labs that are licensed to work with the substances for therapeutic reasons think there’s a more nuanced story to tell. These aren’t so much ‘bad’ trips, they say, as much as they are difficult ones. And even the difficult ones often turn out to be meaningful, constructive experiences. 

Their thinking, together with the experience of those in the underground psychedelic community, is giving us a more complete picture of how often things might go wrong with psychedelics use, why they go wrong, and how to manage them if they do.


Some links to the material used in this episode:

Mark Haden, adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia in the School of Public and Population Health, says during a TEDx talk that in nearly three decades of working in addiction service in Canada, he never once had someone come into his office complaining of addiction to a psychedelic. The addiction research that out there, seems to support this anecdote. 

 

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Dr Darrick May, from Johns Hopkins psychedelic research team, talking about what research is showing about what might cause a 'difficult' psychedelic trip, and how to manage it. 

 

 

The Zendo Psychedelic Harm Reduction Training Manual

 

References: 

  1. Carhart-Harris, RL., M. Kaelen, M., Bolstridge, M. & Williams, TM. 2016. The paradoxical psychological effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Psychological Medicine. Volume 46 (7): 1379-1390.
  2. Carhart-Harris, RL., Leech, R., Erritzoe, D., Williams, TM., Stone, JM., Evans, J., Sharp, DJ., Feilding, A., Wise, RG. & Nutt, DJ. 2013. Functional Connectivity Measures After Psilocybin Inform a Novel Hypothesis of Early Psychosis. Schizophrenia Bulletin. Volume 39 (6): 1343-1351.
  3. Cormier, Z. 4 March, 2015. No link found between psychedelics and psychosis. Nature. doi:10.1038/nature.2015.16968.
  4. Hendricks, PS., Thorne, CB., Clark, CB., Coombs, DW. & Johnson, MW. 2015. Classic psychedelic use is associated with reduced psychological distress and suicidality in the United States adult population. Journal of Psychopharmacology. Vol 29 (3): 280-288.
  5. Johansen, P. & Krebs, TS. 2015. Psychedelics not linked to mental health problems or suicidal behavior: A population study. Journal of PsychopharmacologyVol 29 (3): 270-279.