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Journeying Safely:

A Guide to Responsible Psychedelic Use
A Guide to Responsible Psychedelic Use
Explosion of interest in psychedelic research and its implications for treating mental health disorders

Interest in psychedelics has exploded over the past few years as more and more countries have loosened restrictions on research and use. With so many psychedelic studies producing positive results, it’s no secret that more and more people are considering these amazing substances as novel treatments to age old mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc.

This increased interest has resulted in a sort of mainstreaming of psychedelics. It’s a similar trend to what we saw with cannabis prior to its legalization here in Canada. However, with the increased interest, it’s important to be prudent and level-headed when approaching psychedelics. Luckily, this article covers everything you need to know when it comes to safety and precautions to consider around our Mind Mend products.

Are there potential risk factors?

Among recreational and therapeutic drugs, psychedelics like psilocybin mushrooms and LSD are some of the safest. Isn’t it interesting how psychedelics, despite being the least harmful according to drug harm scores, remain tightly restricted while the most harmful, alcohol, is encouraged and celebrated?

In any case, there are still some things to consider before taking the plunge and using psychedelics for either therapeutic or recreational purposes Because while the exploration of consciousness through psychedelics has been a part of human history for millennia, modern use requires a nuanced understanding of the risks involved. It’s a good idea to ensure that you’re not suffering from or prone to these conditions and psychological predispositions that may pose risk factors.

Safety profile of psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD compared to more harmful substances like alcohol.

Cardiovascular and Respiratory Considerations

During higher dose psychedelic sessions, the experience can become unpredictable and cause high levels of anxiety and even fear. This has the potential to exert significant effects on the cardiovascular system, often inducing hypertension (high blood pressure) and tachycardia (rapid heart rate). These effects, while manageable in healthy individuals, can pose severe risks for those with underlying heart conditions.

These heightened physical responses during the peak of a psychedelic experience can exacerbate issues for those with pre-existing cardiovascular diseases. Similarly, those with respiratory illnesses may find that the increased respiration rate can complicate their condition. We always advocate for safe use here at Mind Mend so if you have heart or respiratory concerns, consult with your healthcare provider before considering psychedelics.

Informative content on the risks of psychedelic use for individuals with a family history of mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Mental Health Conditions

Family history of mental illness, particularly schizophrenia, is a significant factor to consider. Psychedelics have the potential to precipitate the onset of schizophrenia in predisposed individuals due to their profound impact on one’s inner psyche and perception of reality. The psychedelic state presents a shift in consciousness that can sometimes be too much for those at risk. It’s therefore critically important to review your family’s medical history before taking any psychedelic substances.

Those suffering from bipolar disorder should also approach psychedelics with caution. Although research on the interaction between bipolar disorder and psychedelic use is still in its infancy, there is concern that psychedelics could potentially trigger manic episodes. If you suffer from bipolar disorder make sure to consult with a psychiatrist before considering psychedelics. While there are studies and research around treating bipolar disorder through psychedelics, it is crucial to weigh the risks, and if a decision is made to proceed, it should be with careful consideration to dosage and possibly under medical supervision.

Suicidal Ideation

As mentioned in the previous section, psychedelics can cause jarring changes to consciousness which are difficult to predict. For those experiencing suicidal ideations, these intense and often unpredictable changes can lead to impulsive and harmful decisions. Clinical trials are exploring the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics for those with severe depression or suicidal ideation, but such treatments are conducted in controlled environments with professional support. Anyone with suicidal thoughts should consult with a healthcare provider or an experienced psychedelic facilitator and should never undertake a psychedelic experience in isolation.

Information on the potential risks of psychedelics for those with suicidal ideations and the importance of controlled clinical trials.
Psychedelics and Depression Exploring Alternatives

Other Considerations

Many people that turn to psychedelics do so as an alternative to treating depressive symptoms. So it’s important to highlight that mixing antidepressants with psychedelics can be a complex dance. Common antidepressants like SSRIs and SNRIs, have been shown to potentially dial down the effects of psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin. On the flip side, tricyclic antidepressants could ramp up the intensity of your trip.

Consequently, if you’re on antidepressants and considering a psychedelic experience, the general advice is to ease off or taper your meds first—but don’t go it alone. Always do this with your psychiatrist keeping a close eye on you. We have another article that you can check out here, which goes into depth about the interactions between psychedelics and antidepressants so we encourage you to read that if you’re wondering how your medication might be affected by psychedelic use.

Are Psychedelics Addictive?

Whenever substances are discussed, one of the main questions people ask is whether or not they’re addictive. Psychedelics such as psilocybin mushrooms and LSD don’t come with the same addictive tag as others like heroin or even alcohol.

Psychedelics as Therapy: Low Addiction Scale and Importance of Guided Usage
Psychedelics as Therapy: Low Addiction Scale and Importance of Guided Usage

Similar to the drug harm score graph that you saw at the beginning of this article, this one shows how LSD and psilocybin mushrooms are among the safest and least addictive substances that are traditionally used recreationally and even for therapeutic purposes.

Psychedelics as Intense Therapy Sessions: Low Addiction Risk and the Importance of Guided Use

As far as addictive potential, the intensity of a psychedelic trip is another thing that contributes to them being so low on the addiction scale. These aren’t your everyday, casual experiences—think of them more like deep, immersive therapy sessions. They’re so profound that the idea of diving back in day after day isn’t usually tempting. And unlike other drugs like alcohol or amphetamines, they’re not all about feeling good; sometimes, they can be quite challenging, like compressing a decade of therapy into a single session. It’s heavy stuff, and not something most folks are up for handling on the regular.

With that said, if you’ve had struggles with substance use in the past, it’s important to not be reckless and remember to still tread carefully. Teaming up with an experienced guide is a smart move to ensure you’re using them in a way that’s helpful, not harmful. If you’re considering psychedelics but wary of the intensity, microdosing might be more your speed.

The Next Step in Safe Psychedelic Use

So now that we’ve covered the risk factors and conditions that you’ll want to consider before using psychedelics, let’s get into what constitutes safe use. Up to now, we’ve established that psychedelics are powerful and can be unpredictable in nature. This is exactly why you may have heard the terms set and setting.

Set and Setting in Psychedelic Use: Understanding Mindset and Environmental Influence

‘Set’ refers to your mindset or psychological state. It covers things like your expectations, mood, and general mental health at the time. A positive mindset can lead to a more pleasant experience, while anxiety or negative thoughts might lead to a challenging one.

‘Setting’ refers to the physical and social environment where the psychedelic experience takes place. A safe, comfortable, and calm environment can contribute to a positive experience, while a chaotic or stressful environment could lead to discomfort or a bad trip.

Influencing Psychedelic Experiences: The Role of a Safe and Calm Environment

You’ll want to make sure that both of these are well accounted for prior to taking the psychedelic substance. Take careful consideration of the setting as well because psychedelics, at higher doses, can alter your perception quite considerably. The clinical trials that we’ve referenced throughout this article are always set with precision—every detail is curated for comfort and safety, and there’s always professionals keeping an eye on things.

Now, if you’re taking psychedelics out in the wild—like at a concert or deep in the woods—things could get hairy. It’s less predictable and more spontaneous. The thing is, depending on what you take and how much, you might find yourself in a daredevil kind of mood, acting on impulse. Or, your body could get wobbly, making even simple things like standing up a bit of a balancing act. We always recommend taking moderate and higher doses in a controlled environment that you’re familiar with while accompanied by someone you trust who can watch over you during the experience.

Addressing the Most Common Fear

One of the most common fears people have around psychedelics is the possibility of having a ‘bad trip’. This term gets thrown around a lot without much context or understanding of what it really means. So, what’s the real scoop on these notorious ‘bad trips’?

The truth is, these ‘bad trips’ can be tough, but there is a brightside which we’ll get to shortly. They can throw you into a loop of negative thoughts or make everyday objects look scary and threatening. However, it’s very much a personal thing and what seems scary to one person might just be a walk in the park to another.

Experts are starting to look at these rough rides a bit differently as well. They’re not just roadblocks; they’re part of the whole trip. Think of it like this: if you see psychedelics as tools for self-discovery and healing rather than just a way to have fun, then the ‘bad trips’ might just be your best teachers!

Psychedelics and 'Bad Trips': Navigating Challenges for Self-Discovery and Healing

One study from Johns Hopkins University surveyed 1993 people who reported having ‘bad trips’. Despite the turmoil, a solid majority actually rated their most harrowing psychedelic experiences as monumental personal challenges, with many finding them meaningful or even rewarding. In fact, over 50% of participants in the study ranked these challenging experiences as “one of the most valuable experiences in their lives”.

It just goes to show that, like anything in life, psychedelics aren’t always a joyride. They can be hard, they can stir up trauma, and they can make you face the nitty-gritty parts of your psyche. But it’s in those tough moments that you might just find the most growth.

One last thing to note on ‘bad trips’ is that post-trip ‘integration’ is an effective way to really digest and internalize the lessons learned from the experience. Our article on macrodosing psilocybin touches on what integration means and some practices you can do to help with the integration process.

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