If you are planning on taking LSD (or “acid”) for the first time, you are probably feeling excited, but also apprehensive. You may wonder if the experience will lead to the incredible life-altering experiences you have heard about or the dreaded “bad trip.”
We’ve compiled 10 essential steps to helping you have a positive journey with LSD. While this may seem like a considerably long list of steps, each one is essential for ensuring you have a safe and positive trip. Read on to learn some basics about LSD, and what you need to consider before, during, and after your first LSD experience.
1. Educate Yourself
The first step is to educate yourself about LSD, including what it is, why people take it, and their experiences when doing so. Knowledge about the doses and phases of the trip will help you make an informed decision.
What is LSD?
Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD / “acid”) is a psychedelic compound that comes from ergot, a fungus that grows on grains. It comes in the form of a tab or a blotter paper on which liquid LSD has been dropped. The user can let the tab dissolve under their tongue, or they may chew and swallow the tab. It can also come in the form of capsules and tablets.
Why Might Someone Take LSD?
Many people take LSD recreationally as a social experience. Others take LSD because they want to reach personal insights or to have a spiritual experience. LSD changes perceptions and can affect how you feel about yourself. It can break down the ego and create a sense of heightened empathy that forms a greater connection to the world. This sense of enlightenment often persists after the experience.
It can be useful to talk to others about their experiences with LSD. This allows you to discuss the context of both good and bad experiences and to understand the steps others took before, during, and after their trip. If you are unable to have face-to-face conversations with others about the topic, there are several online resources where users share the details of their experiences as well as scientific information and research. These include Erowid, MAPS, and EntheoNation.
Different Phases of an LSD Trip
Before taking LSD for the first time, it is crucial to understand what will happen during the experience. No two experiences are the same, but the stages tend to go in a relatively predictable order with similar physical and psychological experiences.
The first stage is when you take the LSD. At this point, nothing is happening and many users spend this stage waiting and wondering if anything is going to happen. If you are with a guide or a sitter, this is a good time to talk through any expectations or anxieties. It is also a good time to meditate and reflect on your intention.
The second stage is the initial onset of the substance. This is when you begin to feel the effects of the LSD. You will start to notice an effect on your general perception, such as brighter colors, more vibrant sounds and patterns or movement in static images. This is the time to relax and turn on your music or continue to meditate.
Once the LSD is in full effect, the peak can last three or more hours. This is the time to let go and enjoy the experience thoroughly. If you are a new user, this experience will be entirely unfamiliar. You might feel as though you are in a new dimension of reality, and the character of your experience can feel intensely heightened. Ideas, concepts and thoughts may feel more profound.
The fourth stage is a plateau. It lasts for two hours or more and has stages of its own. In this stage, participants often feel mesmerized and fascinated with everything. Whereas in stage three, you might feel as though you are in an alien world; in stage four, the world now feels more normal. In this stage, you are acclimated, so walking around is possible, but you will continue to have new insights into your life and the world around you.
You may also find that you can discuss your personal life at a deeper level. The ability to be introspective is heightened. You may also find yourself giggling and laughing, or you might feel still and quiet.
As you enter the fifth stage, you become more sober. You become introduced to day-to-day reality again, and normality reappears. This is a great time to integrate what you learned about the experience, yourself, and the world around you. Journaling is ideal in this stage, as is just sitting and thinking. You might enjoy spending some time outside. It is a stage of personal work, integration, and thoughtful reflection.
At the end of the experience, you are fully sober, and reality is firmly back in place. You may find yourself feeling the same as you did in the previous stage, and the experience may continue to affect you for quite some time.
Dosages and Reactions
Being aware of the dosage of LSD is vital to ensure your safety. LSD is measured in micrograms (ug), and there are physical and psychological experiences related to the dosages. There is no way to ensure an exact dose and to predict what will happen to you with the dose, so use this chart as a rough guide.
|1-25μg||Low dose or microdose, likely to have barely perceptible or only slightly perceptible effects, including enhanced colors or improved mood.|
|25-75μg||Mild to moderate experience with noticeable changes in perception, a good starter dose.|
|75-150μg||Substantial or full experience with more potent effects. 100μg is usually the dose on a single tab.|
|150-300μg||Strong experience, with profound shifts in perception. .|
|300μg and above||Intense experience, almost guaranteed to provoke feelings of loss of self (ego loss) and profound, possibly uncomfortable, realizations. Use with caution.|
Know Your Source
Trust is vital with psychedelics, and you need to be able to trust the source of your LSD before taking it. If you have any doubts, and even if you do not, you should have a test kit to ensure you know exactly what you are putting in your body.
Safetrip.org’s fact sheet about testing LSD indicates there are new drugs on the market that are being sold as LSD. One of these drugs is called 25i-NBOMe. While 25i-NBOMe can give the user a similar experience to LSD, it is dangerous and toxic. Avoid it at all costs.
Reagent testing is also called a spot test or a colorimetric test. A small drop is applied to a sample of the substance, and the color change, or lack thereof, will indicate if what you are taking is LSD. Ehrlich’s reagent is commonly used to test for the presence of LSD, and can be purchased online.
Norman Zinberg discusses ‘set and setting’ in his book, “Drug, Set, and Setting: The Basics for Controlled Intoxicant Use.” Zinberg explains how your frame of mind (“set”) and your physical and social environment (“setting”) matter when using LSD, especially for the first time.
The experience of taking LSD is complex and unique to the user. Your intentions, expectations, and mindset can significantly impact the experience. Your emotions and mood, along with any hopes and concerns, set the stage for the journey. Before the trip, it is essential to evaluate your mindset. Ask and answer the following questions:
- What are your expectations for the trip?
- What is your intention? Do you have any hopes regarding what you wish to learn about yourself?
- Are your goals for a spiritual connection, or are they personal or psychological?
Where Are You?
The physical setting also plays a part in the LSD experience. If you will be inside, try to make sure the space is as comfortable, harmonious, and uncluttered as possible, and that it is somewhere you feel safe and relaxed.
If you decide to experience LSD indoors, you have maximum control over your surroundings. You can clean your space and set up everything you feel you may need, including planning for some activities that enhance the experience.
- If you enjoy art, have your art supplies handy and ready.
- Reflect on meaningful memories from photo albums or memory books.
- Consider meditation to enhance the spiritual connection.
- Have music ready that you love, and that is meaningful for you. For a more positive experience, choose music that is harmonious and meditative, rather than aggressive or discordant.
As you plan and gather items you think you will want around during this experience, make sure your space itself is suitable and comfortable.
- Be sure the clothes you are wearing are comfortable and make you feel good about yourself.
- Put away objects that could function as emotional triggers.
- Consider your safety – lock away or have a friend hold on to knives, firearms or other dangerous items.
- Change the lighting to accommodate pupil dilation. Your eyes will be sensitive, so indirect light is best.
- If you have a sitter or a guide with you during this experience, give them your phone and car keys.
Spending time in nature is a fantastic way to experience LSD. For a first-time user, it is vital to choose an area with which you are familiar. Also, this place must be private enough to avoid interactions with other people. If you are outside, there are a few items you may want to bring along.
- Sunglasses are essential because LSD will cause your pupils to dilate, which will increase your sensitivity to light.
- Sunblock is also important, even on a cloudy day. You may not realize the severity of a sunburn while under the influence of a psychedelic.
- Bring a blanket and pillow with you so you can lie down.
- Ensure there is a bathroom available and that you have access to water.
- Have a backup plan in the event of rain.
- Have someone with you who is not taking LSD to help make sure all goes well.
When you are outside, you are likely to feel closely connected to nature. You may want to watch the clouds, talk to trees, or meditate to the sounds of leaves rustling, a river rushing by, or the sounds of the birds chirping.
3. Decide Who You Want to Have With You
Bad trips can often be triggered by an unsuitable social environment, so try to make sure the friends you have with you share your goals for the experience. If you are with others, discuss expectations and define a space where one can go to have a private experience. Before taking LSD with other people, it is essential to have a conversation about boundaries, consent, and expectations about sexual experiences. It is impossible to give consent while under the influence, so it must take place beforehand.
4. Determine If You Need a Sitter or Guide
The role of a sitter or guide during an LSD trip is to stay sober and ensure the safety of the person on LSD. It is a vital part of harm reduction.
- A sitter’s job is to handle any emergencies that come up, but they do not take a role in the experience itself.
- A guide, on the other hand, does take an active role. A guide is often used by those who wish to have a spiritual journey.
In either instance, the sitter or guide should be an experienced user or someone you trust.
The sitter or guide will be present with you before use to help you to cultivate the right set and setting and to review expectations and rules. The sitter remains with you throughout the trip. The sitter might be uninvolved, but a guide might use this time to help with a guided meditation. After the LSD has worn off, your sitter or guide will review the experience with you and discuss how the experience has affected you.
There are great times to try LSD, and there are terrible times. It is essential to self-evaluate your physical and psychological health before deciding to take LSD for the first time.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors
If you are taking psychiatric medication, there is a possibility of dangerous interactions between the medicines. Any selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) reduce the effects of LSD. Research shows that the interaction between LSD and SSRIs can create LSD Flashback Syndrome in rare cases.
With this syndrome, there is a recurrence of visual effects, even years after taking LSD. Researchers are not entirely sure why there is a connection between some medications and LSD, and they admit it could be a combination of things, including alcohol use. Either way, it is not wise to mix LSD with certain prescription drugs.
Also, according to this summary of the LSD and drug interactions list, there are other medications and supplements to avoid while taking LSD, such as:
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Natural supplements that boost serotonin, such as St John’s Wort or 5-HTP
However, you should always weigh up the relative risks of stopping your medication with the potential risk of mixing it with LSD. Never stop medication suddenly without consulting a medical professional. If unsure, check with your healthcare provider.
If you have certain health conditions, you should avoid LSD. If you are diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or schizoid personality, reconsider taking LSD. Ideally, you should be in good health, have a clear head. Do not take LSD while pregnant or breastfeeding.
6. Understand What a “Bad Trip” Is
Often there are specific triggers that lead to a bad experience with LSD, and many of them are within your control.
- Being uncomfortable in the setting greatly influences the experience.
- Social support is critical during this experience, so it is essential to choose your companions carefully.
- Not having a guide or sitter can influence your first experience. Having someone knowledgeable about LSD can also contribute to a positive outcome.
- If you are emotionally in a negative headspace, the experience could deteriorate rapidly.
- Taking too high of a dose can be a contributing factor to a bad trip.
If you are concerned about having a bad experience, consider your music. Users know LSD brings out the best in music, and researchers agree.
Fredrick S. Barret et al (2018) discovered that people under the influence of LSD who listened to songs that had no direct meaning to them ended up finding significant meaning to that music. Those who were under the placebo had no such connection.
While looking at MRI data, researchers were able to see the neural response to music in those using LSD. The music engaged various brain regions, including memory, attention, and even emotion. Researchers found that combining music with LSD had a therapeutic effect. It is important to choose music that is not triggering or overly aggressive. Heavy beats or discordant sounds may produce a negative effect and contribute to a bad trip. Choose music that is meditative, uplifting, calm, pleasurable, and meaningful to you.
7. Give Yourself Time
Give yourself a solid 48-72 hours from start to finish for the entire experience. This includes the day you plan to trip, the time in which you are establishing your setting and mindset and the trip itself. It also helps to clean your space before you begin. LSD creates a huge amount of visual information and having a messy space both during and after this experience could create physical and emotional discomfort. You should use the day after the trip as a day of rest and relaxation.
Caring for yourself after using LSD can be a lifelong journey of self-discovery. This means that your immediate physical and emotional needs need to be met, but the ongoing reflection that occurs in your aftercare may manifest itself for your lifetime.
Physically, LSD does not leave users with a hangover the next day, as other drugs do. Users tend to experience hunger afterward, as they tend not to eat during the trip itself, so plan on having healthy meals available the next day.
Emotionally, users tend to dwell on newly discovered personal insights for quite some time after the trip. It often takes a while to process all that you experienced. It is not recommended to make major life-changing decisions immediately after trying LSD for the first time, or after any major psychedelic experience.
Life changes are common after taking LSD, and they can be wonderful and sustainable decisions. However, it is wise to give yourself some time to process your feelings and interpret how you feel, before making any significant changes.
As you process your experience and any personal insights, you might find that you feel more acceptance for yourself and those around you. It can be beneficial to share your experience and talk to others about how to effectively take what you have learned and integrate that learning into your life.
Continuing to journal is a great way to facilitate this reflection. This will allow you to return to your thoughts over time and continuously evaluate where you are and where you wish to go in your life.
It is also worth understanding that “bad trips” do not necessarily have to mean an overall negative experience. Sometimes a difficult or challenging trip can have significant value. It might be scary, but it is an opportunity to unpack difficult emotions . Revisiting painful experiences can be a catalyst for profound personal growth.
9. Take One Last Look at Harm Reduction
Harm reduction is an important consideration when taking LSD for the first time.
To reduce harm to yourself and others, try to:
- Understand the legal status of LSD in context to where you are taking it.
- Consider dosage to ensure you are taking the right amount. Too much LSD might become overwhelming and lead to a bad experience.
- Make sure the LSD you are taking is pure and not made up of toxic and dangerous chemicals.
- Evaluate what medications and supplements you are taking to ensure there is not an adverse interaction.
- Evaluate your current mental health to ensure you are in the best possible frame of mind to take LSD.
- Consider your set and setting to ensure your mood and environment are conducive to a positive experience.
- Consider having a guide or a sitter with you during your first experience to help you in the event of an emergency. Not only will this increase the likelihood you will be safe during the experience, but you will also have someone to help guide you if your experience becomes challenging or stressful.
10: Enjoy Yourself
Taking LSD for the first time can lead to a profoundly positive change in how you feel about yourself and the world around you. You can ensure the likelihood of having a beneficial experience by following these ten steps. A safe, positive experience with LSD has the potential to expand your worldview and enhance your life.
Take the time to educate yourself about LSD: preparation, dosage, safety, effects and integration. Ideally, you will talk to knowledgeable users about their experiences, and you will come to understand the phases to expect.
Take the time to consider your set and setting: make sure you are in a positive frame of mind and remember that the environment you choose will be pivotal to the experience.
In the end, caring for yourself through each stage of the experience and as you reenter ordinary life is as essential as the experience itself.