Key takeaways.

  • What characterizes a bad magic mushroom trip?

    A bad magic mushroom (psilocybin) trip is characterized by anxiety, fear, scary visuals, impending sense of doom, and the feeling that you're going to die.

  • What causes a bad mushroom trip?

    Scientists have recently found that glutamate activities might predict whether a person has a good or bad mushroom trip. In the shamanic perspective, a negative psychedelic experience is a form of "purgatory" where a person is essentially cleansed from the very thing they were experiencing during the bad trip.

  • Can a bad mushroom trip be good for you?

    Scientists have also found that for many, a bad trip is a transformational and therapeutic experience. Most seem to be able to transform their bad trips into positive outcomes. For example, in a survey of 1,993 people's worst bad trip, 84% endorsed the experience and magic mushroom use for healing, growth, and transformation. 

  • How do you avoid a bad magic mushroom trip?

    You don't. You create space for a positive experience by being well prepared, being in a safe environment, being with people you trust, and taking an appropriate dose of magic mushrooms for your experience level.

  • What should I do if I'm having a bad mushroom trip?

    1. Go to a safe environment (if you're not already in one) and play calming music.
    2. Surrender to the experience (rather than trying to control it).
    3. Try to meditate or relax.

  • What should I do if someone else is having a bad trip?

    1. Take them to a calm, safe environment.
    2. Reassure them that you're their friend and that in time the experience will pass.
    3. Help them meditate or relax.

All mushroom users agree that there are no two mushroom journeys that are quite the same. Sometimes a mushroom journey is very physical; at other times it’s more emotional; other times it’s more visual than anything. And there are even times where it is everything. Sometimes these “everything” journeys are extremely joyful and other times, it’s the characteristic “bad trip”. 

Interestingly, the “bad trip” seems a lot easier to define than the wonderful, joyful trip. Crawling through forums like Reddit, Erowid, and Shroomery reveals just how much the mushroom-using community is in agreement over what the “bad trip” feels like. It’s characterized by anxiety, paranoia, and ugly/scary visions. These feelings and visions are among a barrage of “experiences” that mushroom users report when enduring a bad mushroom trip — more of which we’ll explore in this article.

Many mushroom users question why these experiences happen, as if there seems to be some underlying cause for a bad trip. And scientists have delved into this question, too. In fact, scientists seem to believe that the bad mushroom trip might actually have positive therapeutic benefits for the person who experiences them. Which makes us wonder whether we should be avoiding the bad trip or whether we should embrace it as a part of psychedelic healing.

In this article, we’re talking a little bit more about the “bad trip”. Why might it happen, and is there something that you can do to avoid it? And most importantly, is there a way that you can transform the bad trip into something that helps you heal and progress on your journey? Lastly, we give you 8 quick tips to help get you through a bad magic mushroom trip if you're having one.

Let’s jump in!

Characteristics of a bad magic mushroom trip.

A collage art depicting a person sitting with a cheeta next to them and a giant eye for a head.

The bad trip is, quite obviously, bad. It isn’t fun and most people find it very stressful. Mushroom users most often report feelings of:

  • anxiety
  • paranoia
  • impending doom
  • the overwhelming sensation that they are going to die

In one particular Shroomery member’s experience, there was nausea, sweating, and dizziness — all leading to the sensation that they thought they were going to die. For this particular person, this state of anxiety continued for days after the trip. 

In this Reddit thread, one mushroom user describes experiencing paranoia when a woman in the park questioned why they seemed so intoxicated. They also experienced dizziness, confusion, and a sort of loss of control. These are very common themes among mushroom users who have experienced a bad mushroom trip. Dizziness, nausea, confusion, and a racing heart seem to culminate into emotions of extreme fear and paranoia.

In this user’s experience, they report scary visuals where the world looks “flat”, “wrong”, and “ugly”, and this seems to be the fuel that fires the bad trip experience. This is also common. Sometimes people see things that they are usually afraid of such as spiders, insects, or clowns, appearing as impressions in things or as shadows to things. This can spark a fear reaction which, if it goes far enough, can result in a bad trip. 

But the more we crawled through the different ways different people experience a bad trip, the more we found something particularly interesting: A lot of users who experience a bad trip report some sort of transformational potential within that bad experience.

For example, in this thread, a user says that their bad trip showed them how dissatisfied they were with their life, giving them the energy to turn it around. Incredibly, there are more reports of people experiencing some form of healing after their bad trip than those who experience ongoing anxiety after a bad trip.

Why does a bad trip happen?

A collage art depicting a woman dancing among several plants, trees, and birds, a trippy collage art depicting magic mushroom effects.

Several things can increase the probability of a bad trip, but some of the things that can increase the risk of having one include:

  • Taking higher doses of magic mushrooms or other psychedelics. 2 to 3 grams of dried mushrooms is considered a full psychedelic dose. Anything higher than this, and you are courting trouble—especially if you are inexperienced with psychedelics. Here’s how much magic mushrooms you should take your desired effects.
  • Being in a negative emotional state before or while using psychedelics
  • Being in settings with excessive stimulation
  • Using alcohol at the same time as using a psychedelic drug
  • Not having an experienced friend, therapist, or guide stay with you while using psychedelic drugs

Why bad trips happen according to shamanic practice.

For lots of regular mushroom users, they simply notice that when they aren’t in the right “head space,” they’re more likely to experience a bad trip. That’s to say — the more stressed you are in that particular moment, the more these stressors can be aggravated.

This ties in closely with the shamanic perspective about why a bad trip happens.

In the traditional use of psychedelics, negative experiences are associated with purgatory. The negative experience is a cleansing of exactly those things we are experiencing. For example, fully experiencing a distressing memory might give a person a chance to experience it from a different perspective, thereby giving an opportunity to heal from the negative feelings associated with that memory. 

Why bad trips happen according to science.

Scientists, too, have wondered why some mushroom trips are simply bad. In an experiment that was published in Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers found that glutamate activity might be the biological explanation for why the bad trip occurs. Increased glutamate activity in the prefrontal cortex predicted a bad trip experience according to this study. Decreased glutamate in the hippocampus, on the other hand, predicted a positive mushroom experience.

However, the researchers also clued into the fact that increase in glutamate activity might also be why people get long-term benefits from magic mushrooms. Glutamate is an important neurotransmitter for neurogenesis — it is essentially used by the brain to create new neural pathways. Theoretically speaking, this process might allow someone to forge out a new perspective on a memory or experience. This could be the basis of why magic mushrooms are showing promise for PTSD and depression.

Can a bad trip be good for you?

A digital artwork depicting a skull with a rainbow coming out of its jaw and flowers on the top; yellow background.

In another study that was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, researchers followed the acute and enduring positive and negative experiences of magic mushroom users. The respondents were asked to report on their worst “bad trip” magic mushroom experience and in total, 1993 people participated in the survey. Researchers found that up to 7.3% sought ongoing psychological care for their bad experience, but despite difficulties in the trip, 84% endorsed the experience and magic mushroom use. 

There are a lot of people who seem to be able to turn a bad trip around so that it feels worth it. That doesn’t mean that the experience somehow seems less challenging in retrospect. Rather, people look back on these experiences as the hardest but most rewarding of their lives. 

For example, it may be difficult to confront memories of a traumatic experience. But for some people, the ability to experience this with a new perspective allows them to move past the trauma itself. In another example, it might be uncomfortable and hard to confront our own shortcomings. But confronting ourselves gives us a chance to grow and move forward.

Psychedelics are unlike therapy in the sense that they don’t allow you to lie. You can lie to your therapist about something to avoid talking about it, but psychedelics simply don’t let you do that. And sometimes, the truth is a hard pill to swallow. But ultimately, it’s therapeutic if you swallow it and don’t just spit it back up!

Take it from these redditors:

From u/Badassgypsy in r/science

"I took magic mushrooms a few months ago for the second time ever doing anything psychedelic, I took double the recommended amount of the ones we had. I lost my mind and loved every minute of it! for about half an hour to an hour I forgot I had a body, when I finally came to and realised that I do in fact have a body I was disappointed by how out of shape I was. How my excess weight was holding me back. after that night I began taking care of my body and have since dropped from 118kg to 101kg. Mushrooms changed my life for the better, I still have further to go before Im happy with how I look but its a heck of a start!"

From u/JaredBaca206 in r/TrueOffMyChest

"A couple of months ago I was in the worst place of my life. I was drinking every day and night and digging myself a deeper and deeper hole into addiction. I dabbled in magic mushrooms a little bit before in my life and one night I figured I’d try doing some alone. Boyyyy, I ended up having a bad trip ( and at the time I thought) the worst night of my life. I went on this weird psychedelic journey through my own head and I told myself things like “I wasn’t worth anything “ or I “don’t deserve happiness”. I thought I saw God and angels and demons… and I’m not religious. This lasted for seven hours and I thought that it was just a bad trip, but afterwards I felt extremely different. It was like my whole mindset on life changed overnight. I began slowing down my drinking, and I stopped smoking as much weed. I started applying myself more at work. I began looking deep into myself and I was actually able to commit for the very first time in my life to my general well-being and happiness. I can dream again, and I have a clear head now. I can actually take a look at myself and see what I am.

Now I’m not saying “Everybody should go out and eat too many mushrooms!”, but I do feel like it opened a whole new door in my life. I’m happy again. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke marijuana. I stopped worrying so much about my recent breakup. I’m currently in the best place in my life. I don’t attribute it all to that one night, but I swear that my mindset changed for the better, and that’s what is important. Thanks for letting me share Reddit. I could be wrong, but I just wanted to get this off my chest."

Can you avoid a bad trip?

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There’s no real way to avoid a “bad trip”. Even if you’re in the best possible mood when you take the magic mushrooms, you can still have a challenging experience. It is naive to think that you can control your magic mushroom experience in any way—you are better off rolling with it.

Instead, you can minimize the chances of having a bad trip by creating the right set and setting from the start:

  • Try to be positive and relaxed rather than anxious about the psychedelic experience
  • Make sure your surroundings are familiar and comfortable
  • Take a dosage of shrooms that your body can handle. A good way to go is to start with small doses and work your way up to a level that feels right for you.
  • Don’t drink alcohol because this may create panic or make you violent.
  • Stay hydrated and have some snacks at hand in case you get hungry. You don’t want to have a dry mouth or get hungry while tripping because this will only make you grumpy.

Don't avoid. Create space.

Rather than thinking about it as control, you can create space for a wonderful journey. For example, prepare your mind and body by taking a couple of days to relax before having a journey. We outline some preparation techniques in this article.

Another way you can create space for a good mushroom journey is to take them in a place that you feel safe and comfortable in. This doesn’t include festivals and crowded locations. It might include natural spots, at home, or at a friend’s place. Surround yourself with people you trust and are close with. Avoid mixing magic mushrooms with alcohol or other intoxicants so that you don’t become confused or overwhelmed.

Finally, dose is really important. Don’t take more than you feel comfortable with and if you want to push the boundaries, do so in small increments. Overwhelming yourself might make you more susceptible to a bad trip.

As you can see, these methods are less about “avoiding” a bad trip and more about creating the kind of environment that a good trip happens in. There’s no magic thing you can do to prevent a bad trip from happening. If you’re in a safe place, you’re more likely to be able to settle in to whatever it is that you’re experiencing.

But what do you do if you find yourself in the middle of a bad trip?

We have you covered. Below are 8 quick things you can do during a bad mushroom trip that can help bring you back and get you through.

8 quick tips to get you through a bad psychedelic trip.

Bad psychedelic trips are overwhelming as hell. And even if you have had plenty of positive psychedelic experiences in your life, bad magic mushroom trips can sometimes be inevitable. But once you recognize what is happening, you can learn to ground yourself and make it through.

Here are eight tips to keep in your back pocket that will help you through.

1. Tell Someone

If you do not have a trip sitter or someone nearby that you can trust, call a close friend or family member. WhatsApp, FaceTime, or call them and tell them what is going on and how you are feeling. Their sober spirit will be able to help calm you down.

If you are really struggling, ask someone to come over and help comfort you. When I realized I was having a bad trip, I immediately called my girlfriend and she helped comfort me through it.

2. Get Safe and Comfy

Weighted blankets, jackets, pillows, and furry pets are your best friends here. Bundle yourself up and make yourself as cozy as possible. Focus on taking deep breaths, close your eyes, and relax as much as you can.

3. Shock Your Senses

While under the influence of psychedelics, things get…trippy. You may feel like you are in a totally different world. It may feel difficult to distinguish what is real and what is not.

The best thing you can do is ground yourself by shocking your senses Take a shower or bath. Eat salt and vinegar chips or something spicy. Hold an ice cube in your hands. Put some lavender or peppermint oil on your hands and smell it.

4. Listen to Something Soothing

Find a playlist with anxiety and fear-easing frequencies. Turn on some ambient sounds, like ocean waves or raindrops. Put in your headphones and listen to a calming guided meditation.

Redirecting your attention to the calming sounds you are hearing will help bring you back to some peace when you really need it.

5. Hydrate

Just drink some water, for the love of God.

6. Avoid Other Drugs

If you dabble in cannabis, it may be tempting to take a quick toke to calm yourself down. You may have even heard about “trip killers” and find the urge to take one.

It is highly suggested to avoid other drugs and ride it out. Depending on the psychedelic drug you took, it will take some hours to come down— which can be tough, but manageable if you follow these tips.

7. Surrender

The first psychedelic I ever tried was LSD. I was at a vacation house on the 4th of July with some close friends and felt very safe. But, as soon as I started to feel the initial effects take over, I was freaking out on the inside.

One of my sober friends could tell and asked how I was feeling. “I am kind of freaking out,” I replied. “Well, you have already taken it. So you are in it now. The best thing you can do is fully surrender to the experience.”

Once I let go and reminded myself that it was all temporary and that I would return to normal soon, I was able to have an easier experience.

8. When in Doubt, Head to Reddit

I am a regular on the psychedelic subreddits. There are tons of different communities out there: mushrooms, acid, psychonauts, rational psychonauts, and more.

And anytime I scroll, I always see at least one post from someone seeking support because they are having a bad trip. The comment section typically ensues with lighthearted, encouraging reminders that can be helpful if you are really in a pinch.

Psychedelics deserve respect.

Psychedelic substances aren’t for everyone. There’s still a lot of controversy surrounding whether or not psychedelic use/therapy is appropriate for those with certain mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Plus, the way that we use psychedelics is just as important. Taking psychedelics under the care of a professional is very different to taking them at a party with friends.

For most people, a bad trip can be the beginning of a turning point in life, an experience that transforms into something positive. For a small number of people, there can be ongoing stress and anxiety after a bad trip. The sheer impact of the psychedelic experience is to be respected, and sometimes psychedelics aren’t for everybody.

If you want to use psychedelics to work through a mental health issue, it’s important for you to consult your mental health practitioner first. Same goes if you’re experiencing ongoing anxiety or stress after a magic mushroom experience. Careful guidance from a professional is always advised if you’re experiencing either of these things.

Have you ever had a bad trip? What did it feel like? Was there anything you could do to reduce it? We’d love to hear your bad trip stories in the comments!

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