Drugs can make you feel incredible — the best you’ve ever felt — but they can also make you feel like roadkill. Sometimes you take too many. Sometimes they’re cut with something else. And sometimes, feeling like death is just the price you pay for all that manufactured happiness. But there are ways to reclaim your will to live after you’ve had a bad time on drugs.
What a Bad Time on Stimulants Is Like, According to an MDMA Taker on Reddit: “I was visibly high on the exterior (gurning, heightened awareness), but on the inside, I was spiraling deeper and deeper into an abyss of insecurity, anxiety, embarrassment, sadness and frustration. I’d occasionally lock eyes with a friend, and I’d see in their eyes that they were feeling embarrassed for me — the oh-so-paralyzing ‘just don’t look at him’ expression in their faces killed me.
“I could barely hold a conversation one-on-one and had nothing constructive to add to any other conversations. I found it almost impossible to say what I wanted to say when needed. Everything that came out of my mouth was uninteresting and didn’t advance the conversation in the slightest. I felt like my brain was working at 20 percent of its normal function and physically no longer had the ability to string a good sentence together.”
How to Recover from a Bad Time on Stimulants: Betty Aldworth of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies says hydrating, snacking on fruits and salty snacks, being around supportive friends and “setting aside quality time to integrate the experience” are all good ways to feel better after a gnarly journey on stimulants.
More than anything, what you’re likely dealing with after a bad time on stimulants is a lack of serotonin and dopamine, which Evan Haines, co-founder of Oro House Recovery Centers, says can result in “irritability, fatigue, depression and anxiety.” According to him, the only surefire to replenish those feel-good chemicals is “rest, food, exercise,” and more than anything else, “time.” It usually takes two to three days to feel completely normal again, especially if you didn’t get much sleep the night you took your stimulants.
Generally, Haines says using more drugs will only “prolong the withdrawal experience.”
That said, there are a number of supplements that promise to counteract the negative effects of stimulants, including 5-HTP, which is especially popular among MDMA lovers for its apparent ability to replenish serotonin. The problem is, the science to back up these supplements is lacking, and it’s been suggested that 5-HTP can cause serotonin syndrome, a potentially lethal excess of serotonin, if taken within close proximity to MDMA. So, tempting as it may be to take something else, you’re probably best going au naturel.
Examples: Alcohol, Xanax and heroin
What a Bad Time on Depressants Is Like, According to a Xanax Doer on Reddit: “I’m the most happy, upbeat and optimistic person usually, and I’m always motivated for the day and happy to experience whatever comes. But these last two times I’ve taken Xanax, it’s stolen that from me. It’s like the only emotion I have is just pure apathy, and I can’t seem to shake it.”
How to Recover from a Bad Time on Depressants: I’m sorry to say that the best way to feel better after a dreadful confrontation with depressants is doing exactly what you don’t want to be doing — exercising. Even a stroll around the block can boost your endorphin levels, which will reduce any nausea, anxiety and general malaise you’re feeling.
Eating and drinking can also help, since they’ll push the drugs through your gastrointestinal system and out of your body. Lastly, sleeping through the negative aftereffects of a not-so-fun time on depressants is a good way to drop out of life permanently during its worst moments. While you can safely take a sleep aid like melatonin after a Xanax, you shouldn’t mix them with alcohol. Likewise, any other sleeping aids, like NyQuil and prescription sleeping pills, are best avoided for the time being — there are no absolutes as to when you can safely take them after depressants (it depends on how much you took, how often you take depressants, etc.), so your best bet is to talk with your doctor.
What a Bad Time on Hallucinogens Is Like, According to an LSD Wizard on Reddit: “I looked over at a friend who was sleeping on the couch and watched as he aged and died. He’d rot right before my eyes, and I’d look away. Every time I looked away out of disgust, I’d look back again, and the process would have started over.
“Thoroughly freaking out, I attempted to communicate with my roommates. This didn’t go well, however, as I was initially met with a complete and utter lack of response at all, followed by anger. Word salad spewed from their mouths as I fought with every fiber of my being to understand anything they were saying. How long this went on, I have no idea.
“Alone, afraid and lost in my own home, I began running in circles. I began to feel as though I’d committed an atrocity. I was convinced that thousands of people were about to die because of something I’d done. I’d made a horrible mistake, and I’d surely be executed for it. The house around me began to darken and rot. The smell was unbearable. My roommate’s child became disfigured and evil.
“I stepped into her room, and she stopped me to talk. She looked up at me with a hideous, Joker-faced grin and picked up a stuffed rabbit. She grabbed a pair of scissors and cut it in half at the waist, spilling a pool of blood and organs onto the floor.”
How to Recover from a Bad Time on Hallucinogens: First, let’s all take a moment to process that absolute nightmare. Phew. Now, there are a few considerations when dealing with bad psychedelic trips.
To start, Haines emphasizes the importance of proper preparation before taking psychedelics (read all about that here), which can help prevent bad trips altogether. “In Ancient Greece, for 2,000 years, people took part in the mystery rites at Eleusis, where they drank from the ‘kykeon,’ an LSD-containing drink, for nine days and nine nights,” he says. “Participants went through an initiatory experience, basically dying and being reborn. They were said to completely lose their fear of death after the experience. But people didn’t just jump into these rites. They prepared for months, even up to a year beforehand, and they had a whole philosophy and mythological framework with which to make sense of the experience.” Their preparations are still something of a mystery, but they involved atonement, cleansing themselves (both physically and spiritually) in the ocean, sacrificing suckling pigs, reporting their dreams to therapists and just generally focusing on healing any emotional distress.
But let’s say you didn’t prepare (or sacrifice a suckling pig), and now you’re lying in your room freaking out about what you just witnessed. Well, you have a few options. For instance, some dude on r/Drugs suggests simply being kind to yourself, keeping your mind occupied and hanging out with positive people. Chingy Nea, MEL’s resident ketamine boofer, also recommends staying still and listening to calming music, like shoegaze or dream pop.
But beyond that, according to studies, reframing a psychedelic experience can provide “an alternative interpretation on the bad trip that imbued it with healthful benefits.” Amanda Schendel, founder and CEO of The Buena Vida Psilocybin Retreats, says one way of doing this is by journaling, since it can take “weeks, months or even years to fully unpack and understand all of the lessons and messages received during the trip.” Or, speaking of Haines’ example in Ancient Greece, it can also be helpful to lean into the magical philosophies around psychedelics, mentally turning your “bad time” into a mystical experience.
“Ask yourself if you genuinely, 100-percent had a bad trip, or if it was just challenging and difficult,” Schendel says. “Many times these bad feelings come from our inability to surrender to what is. Like many other aspects of life, when we’re brave enough to accept and face these challenging moments, they can show us that we had nothing to fear in the first place.”
Lastly, if you’re still struggling to make sense of a bad psychedelic trip, there are psychedelic support groups, both in-person and online, where you can debrief and discuss your experiences. Even better, Haines says, “Professional psychedelic-assisted therapists will be one’s surest bet to maintaining, and even increasing, one’s mental health after these experiences.” As Schendel emphasizes, “You don’t have to do it alone.”
Once you’re back in good shape, well, you can do it all over again.