Avoid These Psychedelic Mistakes: How to Stop a Bad Trip Before It Starts

By Joe Moore & Kyle Buller
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Have you been considering taking a psychedelic journey, but want to avoid a bad trip? Do yourself a favor: don’t make the most common psychedelic mistakes.

Understanding the most common pitfalls before you engage with a psychedelic substance can have a colossal impact on the outcome of your experience. Whether you’ve just learned about psychedelics, you’ve recently begun a journey of re-discovery, you’re working to include psychedelics in your career, or you’re a seasoned psychonaut, knowing the most often-made psychedelic mistakes could mean the difference of having a positive or negative – or even dangerous – outcome. 

Ignoring set and setting is one of the most common mistakes that lead to a bad trip. Avoid making this psychedelic mistake!

Ignoring Set and Setting

Psychedelics are powerful tools that can amplify your inner world. Imagine a mirror reflecting back everything you’re feeling – that’s what a psychedelic experience can be like. So, if you’re anxious going in, that anxiety can intensify and make it difficult to avoid a bad trip.

Similarly, a chaotic or unfamiliar environment can create a sense of unease and disrupt the flow of your experience.

This is what we call set and setting:

  • Set (Mindset): Your emotional and psychological state profoundly affects your psychedelic journey. If you’re stressed, worried, or harbor unresolved conflicts, these can manifest and become overwhelming during the experience. 
  • Setting (Environment): The physical and social space you choose can significantly impact your trip. Some settings are inherently riskier than others.

To avoid making this mistake, consider your internal state of being, and if it’s the best time to introduce psychedelics into your life. While some may argue that a period of difficulty is the best time to use psychedelics, take the time to evaluate whether dealing with what may arise will be a wise or productive choice right now – only you can answer this question, but don’t be afraid to share with someone you trust to help you evaluate it.

Think hard about how the setting could impact your overall experience, both positively and negatively. While fun, a noisy party can be disorienting. Unfamiliar surroundings and people could become frightening during the trip, too. Whereas a safe, comfortable space with trusted companions can foster a sense of security and allow you to surrender to the experience. Thoroughly assess what level of comfort and control feels right for you, and choose your setting wisely.

Lack of planning and research is one of the most common mistakes that lead to a bad trip. Avoid making this psychedelic mistake!

Lack of Planning and Research

Ingesting a substance without stopping to understand the substance and its effects is like taking a bad trip to a foreign land without a map. You might end up lost, confused, and potentially in danger.

While psychedelics are increasingly being mentioned or portrayed casually in movies and on social media, they’re powerful substances whose effects vary wildly depending on the individual, the substance, the dosing, and what they’re combined with. Without proper research, you could have a drastically different experience than you signed up for.

Treat your psychedelic journey (and yourself) with an appropriate level of respect. Research the substance you plan to use, including its typical effects, duration, and potential risks and contraindications. Get familiar with typical experiences by reading trip reports and articles, listening to podcasts (we have many to choose from), psychedelic books, and studies.

Begin forming a plan. Decide who you want and who is able to be present, or act as a “sitter.” Make sure this person has some psychedelic experience and can provide emotional support. If you also choose your setting mindfully and have a good understanding of what to expect (while being aware that the unexpected may still arise), you can enter the experience with confidence.

Neglecting drug testing is one of the most common mistakes that lead to a bad trip. Avoid making this psychedelic mistake!

Neglecting Drug Testing

One of the most common mistakes in the modern era of psychedelic use is failure to test your substance. These days, it’s increasingly risky to assume that a substance is safe, pure, or that the substance is even what you believe it to be. Because a great deal of psychedelic use still occurs outside legal frameworks, where substances are tested and verified, there could be adulterants or molecules you are unfamiliar with on board. This potential comes with a high risk of unpredictable and dangerous side effects, ranging from discomfort to death.

Fortunately, there has never been greater access to substance testing for people who are concerned about the safety of their psychedelics and avoiding a bad trip.

At-home testing kits are widely available for a wide variety of substances, with the most common testing for accuracy and adulterants. Services like offer free mail-in drug analysis for free, groups like Dancesafe, Bunk Police, and Test Kit Plus offer kits for home use. Be sure to follow the instructions, and opt for a kit that checks for a wide variety of substances.

While purchasing a test kit is an added expense, strongly consider the cost of your health and well-being: if you can afford to ingest, you can afford to test.

Misjudging your dose is one of the most common mistakes that lead to a bad trip. Avoid making this psychedelic mistake!

Misjudging Your Dose

One of the most common mistakes we see: taking an arbitrary or high dose without realizing it or understanding its potency.

Dosing is highly variable from substance to substance, and highly individualized. The dose that works best for one person may be far too much, or too little for another. Taking too much without realizing it or anticipating the level of intensity can quickly result in an overwhelming and potentially harmful situation.

To avoid this potential for a bad trip, start with a low dose and increase gradually if necessary, tailoring it to your desired experience.

If it’s your first time taking a substance – or even a new batch of a familiar substance – the safest route is to begin with a low dose. It’s far easier to increase the dose if necessary than it is to deal with an overwhelming experience when it’s too late.

Consider your intention: do you want to have a more subtle, amplifying experience, or a mystical experience? How well do you know your body, and how do you typically react to mind-altering substances? What’s been said on message boards and within your local community about the substance recently? Exercising caution, asking yourself important questions, and doing some external research can help you avoid a bad trip.

Remember: you can always take more, but you can’t take less.

Learn the rest of the most common psychedelic mistakes.

Learn the Rest of the Most Common Psychedelic Mistakes

Are you feeling prepared for your journey? Maybe don’t take off just yet. While this article includes crucial information to help you stop a bad trip before it starts, there’s more to learn.

We’ve packaged an extensive list of psychedelic pitfalls (and, most importantly, what to do instead) in a FREE course designed for wherever you’re at in your journey: 8 Common Psychedelic Mistakes.

In this self-guided digital class, you’ll learn:

  • Why you shouldn’t overlook set and setting.
  • How to plan and research thoroughly.
  • Why substance testing is crucial. 
  • The value of knowing your dosing.
  • How to begin vetting your shaman or facilitator. 
  • How to stay present during your trip. 
  • The importance of choosing a support team.
  • How to be set up for success before and after your trip.

Join thousands of other psychedelic explorers and supporters in this FREE course so you can prepare for every psychedelic journey with knowledge and confidence. Students receive a complimentary printable guide and trip checklist, and free, unrestricted access to course materials for life.

Enroll in 8 Common Psychedelic Mistakes HERE.

PT474- Joe & Kyle

Joe Moore & Kyle Buller

Joe Moore, Co-Founder and CEO of Psychedelics Today, combines over 20 years of avid psychedelic study and training with over 20 years of experience in software and multinational project management. Joe is a leading expert in transpersonal breathwork, a board member of the Psychedelic and Pain Association and the Psychedelic Medicine Coalition, and a sought-after international speaker on the intersecting subjects of psychedelic medicine and healing, breathwork, drug policy, medical innovation, international justice, and environmentalism.

Kyle Buller, Psychedelics Today Co-Founder and Vice President of Education and Training earned his B.A. in Transpersonal Psychology from Burlington College, where he focused on studying the healing potential of non-ordinary states of consciousness by exploring shamanism, Reiki, local medicinal plants and plant medicine, Holotropic Breathwork, and psychedelic psychotherapy. Kyle earned his M.S. in clinical mental health counseling with an emphasis in somatic psychology from Prescott College. Kyle is a Licensed Associate Counselor and offers psychotherapy services specializing in psychedelic integration, spiritual emergence, and ketamine-assisted psychotherapy.