Let us build a guide to the optimal mushroom trip
August 18, 2015 9:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm taking shrooms for the first time tomorrow, for purposes both recreational and therapeutic, and I want to make the most of my experience. There's a thread similar to this, but it focuses mainly on music suggestions, whereas I'd like this to be somewhat taste-agnostic. Details pertaining to me are within, but do feel free to leave general tips for future readers.

Snowflake stuff:
It's Psilocybin cubensis and I have an eighth that's been sitting in the freezer for a few months. As of now, I intend to take half an eighth, probably in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and my trip sitter/best buddy and plus one, who has lots of hallucinogen experience, will take a quarter of an eighth. The other quarter-eighth will be for me if I want to ramp it up a notch after a couple of hours. While I'll be satisfied to just have a pleasant trip, my great hope for this experience is that it might have a lasting positive effect on the recurring depression that's followed me throughout my life.

Set and setting. If I'm not in the right place mentally, I'll delay the whole thing for another time. We'll be at his trailer, where I have often stayed overnight and am very comfortable, with his backyard facing the river, and he'll have it nice and clean for the occasion. We'll dose in the late afternoon/early evening.

Tips I've gotten so far:
Importance of set and setting
Having good company
Getting outside
Bringing a sketchbook
Staying hydrated
Keeping all my things in a little kit
Also, oranges are supposed to be good for some reason? Can someone explain that?

I would especially love to hear from anyone who's had what they would consider a therapeutic mushroom trip.
posted by dee lee to Grab Bag (32 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Have a good, feel good movie, like a Disney movie that you can disappear into if it does get bad. That's my rescue plan for if/when I get overwhelmed. Blankets. Movie. And the scary world disappears.
posted by Grandysaur at 9:06 PM on August 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

The rumor is that the vitamin C in oranges accentuates things. But the real truth is that your favorite fruit(s) are what is needed. Bring fruit. Smash open a watermelon, peel an orange, chop an apple, slice a melon, juggle grapes, then eat them!

posted by zyxwvut at 9:10 PM on August 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

PAINT! paint or crayons or colored pencils for your sketchbook. something with color.
posted by ghostbikes at 9:12 PM on August 18, 2015

You need a trip sitter who is not tripping. If they are tripping, then they are not a sitter. What if you get injured while at the trailer - who will be of sound mind to call an ambulance or get you to safety? What if your sitter ends up having a bad trip? Who sits the sitter? Many people have certainly had a sitter who was also on drugs and survived, but it really defeats the purpose of that role.
posted by Toddles at 9:13 PM on August 18, 2015 [19 favorites]

You have a natural setting? Enjoy!
posted by jbenben at 9:13 PM on August 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Amazingly I was going to say the same thing as Gran, keep a movie handy in case you just need to get out.

You need a sitter for your first time, really, they are there to lead you, hold your hand, the contrast of the sober sitter with the trippers makes it BETTER.

Citrus, man, citrus, get some beforehand, you don't want to end up being asked to leave Safeway because you are ripping the pink grapefruits open... just sayin'.

Otherwise it's likely all stuff you already know, be with those you love, listen to others when they talk, if you take a dip just remind yourself the dip is temporary and if it isn't it's fine cuz the trip is temporary too.

For me the earlier in the day the better but night can also be awesome so no biggie there.

As for therapy I would say personally there has been this range:

The Low
One not so great time, bit paranoid and just stayed in my room, wasn't a big deal though, friends popped in to check up from time to time.

The High
Multi-hours long realization that people do care about me and do find me interesting and amusing and I have it better than I realize. (That realization stuck, thank god)

The Rest fall somewhere in between, from a trip spent just dancing and goofing to a trip spent hiking and thinking.
posted by Cosine at 9:17 PM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

"Hydration" jumped out at me. As with anything, be sure not to overdo it with water. Hyponatremia is just as bad as hypernatremia.
posted by supercres at 9:17 PM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Turn off your phone. Don't waste the byperreal on media. Be with trusted companions, in a safe place. Watch the sunset, laugh, enjoy the sky, the wind.
posted by Oyéah at 10:00 PM on August 18, 2015 [7 favorites]

Do you have someone with whom you can discuss and process the experience afterwards? Including a current therapist or similar? One key to the therapeutic aspect is having someone with some (ideally) clinical experience to help integrate the experience into your current life. Not required, at all, but helpful.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:09 PM on August 18, 2015

Mush is great. You won't get sleepy, if you smoke weed expect to smoke prodigiously later in the evening without getting vedge. Also, avoid any last minute change of plans, esp those that require vehicles.
posted by furtive at 10:19 PM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

3.5g or so is a decent dose but not enough to really hit breakthrough crazy times - but more than enough to change up your mode of thought and have positive effects on depression etcetera. So - just letting you know you're dosing pretty accurately! Sounds like a pleasant environment. The evening is good for introspection but I recommend starting such that you can enjoy a few hours of daylight while you're well into the experience and enjoy the sunset.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 10:26 PM on August 18, 2015

Definitely try it out with daylight left -- you will see some beautiful things, especially if you're surrounded by nature! Plus it lasts a long time.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, remember to change your perspective (literally) -- walk into a different room/go outside or even just turn around in your chair. This applies to all psychedelics for me.

Also, more than just staying hydrated, if you start having a bad time, there's a good chance there's something uncomfortable about your body that you haven't accounted for. For example, you might just start having a bad trip, and your buddy might put a blanket over you, and you start having a better time, and it turns out you were just cold! (Relevant esp. as day turns to night). So I try to go through a checklist in my head: Am I cold/hot? Do I need to pee? Do I need to eat (probably most relevant at the 4-5 hour mark)? These body feelings don't jump out as you the way they do in normal life, but if you take a moment to assess them, you can account for it.

When you first ingest, set a stopwatch on your phone. Only look at it when you feel like, but it's good to account for the crazy time dilation, and know if you're at 2 hours vs. 5.

I don't agree with the above that you need a trip buddy who is not tripping. An experienced tripper is good enough, especially if they aren't going wild on the dosage. They can handle it.

Don't be afraid to discuss what is going through your mind with your buddy, that can be illuminating and/or entertaining.

Have fun!
posted by internet of pillows at 11:10 PM on August 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

The other quarter-eighth will be for me if I want to ramp it up a notch after a couple of hours

Don't do this.

That's my one piece of advice, and something i haven't seen covered. Dosing again when you're already tripping, even lightly, is not like dosing when you're sober. You've already "broken through" and it's like a damage multiplier.

Every time i've done this i thought i'd be somewhere between moderately trippy and solidly trippy, and if i had taken all of it to start with i'd probably just be at the "solidly, definitely" stage. But nah, it always goes from "yea, i can handle this, this is somewhat intense/differnet but reasonable" to whichever one of these suits your taste.

The hardest i've ever tripped was taking half the dose i originally took again a couple hours in. It was like, full on, where-we're-going-marty-we-don't-need-roads. Save that concept for much later.

I received this advice from several knowledgeable friends and ignored it. I wish i had listened. It was like riding on the back of a motorcycle for the first time, going around a couple blocks slowly with a skilled friend talking you through it... and then immediately getting on the highway and going 80mph with really hard acceleration.

Nothing bad happened per say, but i did have serious anxiety for like, a year afterwards off and on. It was just really intense out of nowhere after a tee-hee fun time with pretty outdoor walking/hiking and a silly shower.
posted by emptythought at 11:17 PM on August 18, 2015 [8 favorites]

Prepare a box. This box should be filled with things that stimulate a particular sense - small fuzzy plushes, interesting-sounding shakers, ornate baubles. Things you like normally but don't necessarily think much about. Enjoy the heightened sensations of each one while tripping.

Also Nth-ing a sitter. I've been an impromptu sitter twice when everyone else awake was tripping on something or other; both times I've been thanked afterward. I wouldn't be strict about it - somebody experienced on a lower dose, or somebody smoking/drinking a little would likely have enough clarity. It's just important somebody in your party can act reasonably in the event an accident happens.

Beyond that, supporting Ephelump - there's no real "plan" you can make for an experience. You can ensure your good health (hydration and a sitter) and make positive suggestions. Beyond that, take a leap.
posted by solarion at 11:17 PM on August 18, 2015

Echoing what Internet of Pillows said, pay attention to your body. I've had some amazing breakthroughs with bad mental states, and it often comes down to paying attention to my body. Take some deep breaths and feel what your body wants. It might want to move, a change in temperature, a change in position, etc. Figuring that part out always brought about the most healthy pattern changes for me.

Also, whenever I took mushrooms, I always felt sick to my stomach. Make sure that what you eat the day before is all good, healthy stuff that won't irritate things further.
posted by ohisee at 11:34 PM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Lay in some grass. Look at the sky. Especially if there are clouds. Night sky is ideal.
posted by Gymnopedist at 12:16 AM on August 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

I had a good couple of months depression-free after the first/last time I did mushrooms (well, truffles). The dose was a mind-bending amount (approx 32g fresh truffles) and it basically shot me to both possible extremes of my emotional spectrum.

Coming up was as warm and happy as I've ever felt. We potentiated it with a couple of joints, which definitely acted as a "damage multiplier" - each one ratcheted the trip up a notch. The peak of the up part of the trip was very intense and manic-feeling. Followed by ego death and a plummeting-elevator crash into formless, abject despair. It helped that my partner was about ten or twenty minutes ahead of me in terms of the trip trajectory, so he held me and talked me through that bit. I felt kind of hazy and out of it for two or three days after, and then had a couple of months of peace.

We didn't do anything specific in terms of experiential stuff (it was in a hotel room in Amsterdam). It was useful to be able to keep track of time, and we did that by playing the same album on repeat (Frank Zappa is weird at the best of times, this was something else). We also wrote stuff down in a notebook as a record of what was going on - it's a weird combination of "I can see through the cyclical fabric of the universe" and dumb stuff about beans.

Something that felt immensely good during the yay-happy part of the trip, especially an hour or two in, was drinking water. It felt like I was washing a sparkly ocean over the electric grid at the front of my brain. I got a little rush from every sip. Fortunately there was limited bottled water in our room, so I wasn't at risk of over-drinking.

I totally didn't expect the experience to reinforce my atheism to the extent that it did. During the ego death phase, I felt flung out towards the edge of the universe, meshed with space rocks on an atomic level and entirely convinced that there was nothing beyond that which is made of matter and energy. But I can totally see how you could have a religious experience if that's where your beliefs lean, because brains are weird.

I hope you have a good time!
posted by terretu at 1:59 AM on August 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

from anyone who's had what they would consider a therapeutic mushroom trip

I think every single psychedelic experience I've ever had has been at least somewhat therapeutic.

But your first trip is not the time to go in with preconceived notions of how it's going to be or what it's going to be for. Your first trip is for paying attention to, and that is all.

Keeping all your things in a little kit is one of those ideas that sounds like a really good plan. Having few enough things that you don't need a kit of any sort is a better one. I expect you'll find that simply keeping track of your Most Precious Possession (aka water bottle) will be quite challenging enough :-)

I'm glad you're doing this with an experienced, trusted buddy, and that you're not making the mistake of treating shrooms as some kind of party drug. Go into the thing with an inquiring mind and an openness to having your fundamental beliefs undermined and you will certainly find plenty to occupy you.

late afternoon/early evening

Ideal. Moon probably won't be out until you're nearly done, but with any luck you'll get good stars.

Have the best time! And give us all a short post-trip wrapup afterwards if you feel moved to.
posted by flabdablet at 2:42 AM on August 19, 2015 [4 favorites]

You can't plan, but you can prepare.

You can prepare a range of activities and options for yourself, with the knowledge that you will only pursue maybe one or two of the options, while appreciating the care and consideration you have displayed towards yourself, giving yourself the option to do what you want while tripping. You can make sure you don't have to make tricky decisions or use fine motor skills when tripping.

* Food treats - you won't feel hungry, and eating too much is a bad plan, but prepare a bunch of tasting treats, especially fruits, nuts, salami etc, which you can taste one bite each of, and go 'woah'. Also, it means you aren't going completely without food for the length of the trip.
And water. And juices. Be very impressed at how fresh and watery water is.

* A going outside kit - on the warm side weather appropriate jacket, and bag with a snack, drink, pen & paper so if you want to go for a walk to a park it is not a big mission to gather required items.

* Lighting - pull out the lamps and fairy lights, turn off overhead lights.

* Warmth - I get cold easier, so have warm room, or even a bed with electric blanket turned on to a gentle temperature. Snuggly!

* Decorate with things of beauty which make you feel good. If you have things packed away, bring some out. Drape a few loved scarves, prop art against walls.

* Put a photo album out or just a few pictures of people you love. (Can be quite intense)

* Art supplies station

* Music queued up - a couple of different mood playlists preferably.

* Trip videos queued up - Planet Earth in background.
Alex Gray Artist's Prayer or Progress of the Soul, 5 minutes each. Maaaybe Timothy Leary 'How to Operate Your Brain' 28 minutes.

* Guided meditations if you ever listen to them. Cheri Huber's Unconditional Self Acceptance would be pretty intense.

* Sit with your emotions. Feel joy, feel sadness, feel both of them. Acknowledge even 'bad' emotions, and let yourself feel them and move on. It is all impermanent, but sometimes not wanting to feel something just means your mind and body try harder to tell you about that feeling, like a 2 year old tugging on your jeans, wanting to tell you something important.
You will only be there for time measured in hours, tomorrow you will not be.

* Have a shower - turn the water from warm to cold to warm again.

* Make sure you have agreed with your trip sitter if you think you might need some introvert time. I mean, I always do, and my time semi-alone is the most valuable, while I am thinking.

* I also think it would be fine having your sitter on a very small dose, the equivalent of having had a few drinks but not being sloshed. Have a completely sober trip sitter in any environment where you would want a completely sober driver, but that is not generally sitting around at home.
Unless very experienced in tripping, a novice sober trip sitter can end up on a completely different wavelength, which can feel more uncomfortable.
(Bad example: a never tripped before sober 'trip sitter', just turning into a guest in the trip sitees house, getting bored and wanting to do sober activities like play board games, while the tripping person struggled to pretend to be sober and play good host, provide drinks and snacks etc - don't do that. Bad plan. Waste of a trip. Wasn't me).
posted by Elysum at 2:51 AM on August 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh, and I get the sick belly thing too, it is my first sign it is coming on, but fortunately it passes.
I like to imagine it is just my stomach 'tripping out' before the rest of me.
posted by Elysum at 2:59 AM on August 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

A friend (no really an actual not-me friend) tripped for the first time in my presence many years ago and was unprepared for the stomach tightness/nausea and prone to anxiety. When the initial symptoms hit his gut he got worried and made himself puke. This did not lessen his trip (he was fine and dandy 30 mins later once the stomach tightness passed). It's worth knowing going in that there are some tough moments potentially ahead of you but you'll get through them.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 4:57 AM on August 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

One thing I stick to when I trip on anything is to not look in the mirror. Seeing my face all weird and distorted can really freak me out. YMMV.
posted by Fister Roboto at 6:26 AM on August 19, 2015

Lots of good advice, just wanted to echo that the taste and stomach feeling whilst you're waiting to and coming up can be pretty horrid. There's a metallic tang to cubensis burps that is a taste well removed from anything else I've ever eaten. If you come up hard and fast, it's as well to be warned of this burping so as not to cause worry from it. Try to ride the nausea, which tends to come in waves and does pass relatively quickly.

I always found an empty stomach and eating the shrooms with yoghurt worked best for minimising nausea, but other people's mileage varied...

Be aware of the fact that some people are much more sensitive to the tryptamines in mushrooms than the common baseline. I'm one of them; I'm a big guy, and I would regularly hit open eye visuals and reality bending to the point of struggling to talk on doses that had female and skinny male friends not that far past breakthrough.

The upshot is that you might trip harder than your experienced friend would expect to from the same dose.

Have you thought of the timing of this in relation to the rest of your week? Having a nice easy week of work, no stressful commitments etc. etc. in the time to come after this will both head off latent worries going into the trip, and put you in a better place in the days afterwards to assimilate things.

Returning to the same place with your friend a week or so down the line, talking over things in the same setting with just a few beers and / or joints, can be a very pleasant and useful reinforcement.

It sounds like you have planned an excellent set and setting for this, I hope you have a wonderful and constructive experience :)
posted by protorp at 8:00 AM on August 19, 2015

Response by poster: From a MeFite who prefers to remain anonymous:

"I think that half an eight is ideal. Don't take more -- you have no idea how strong this will be and peaks/valleys in how it will feel (not fun story: I once ate a super tiny piece of mushroom as a joke because my friend gave it to be and I WAS SO HIGH, it was super annoying because I had not planned on that). If you feel like you need to "re-up," I suggest smoking some weed (not too much, though) because it helps the effect go longer.

Being outside is delightful -- spend the whole time outside! The grass and the trees and the stars all look amazing. I agree with other posters that you should turn off your phone and put it in a safe place.

When I've done this, the onset for me has been a nervous feeling in my stomach. It might be nice to listen to music or something while you wait for it to start, so that you all aren't sitting around waiting. "
posted by dee lee at 8:03 AM on August 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've never sought therapeutic effect from it, but it's seemed to come along for the ride. The last time I had any was maybe 6 years ago, when a friend was visiting me. I lived in Santa Monica at the time. We made tea around 6 pm, had dinner (helps me with the bellyache, as do tums), and walked the ten or so blocks down to the beach. Going out on Santa Monica Pier in the middle of the night was... sort of a revelation. Walking out to the pier was so sense-saturated that it felt tactile: hearing the murmur of surf and sloshing water around pylons, planks creaking underfoot. The city was deserted and asleep, but the end of the pier was populated by fishermen and their idle chatter. The lights were drawing up all manner of creatures to the surface of the water, and we mostly sat in awe. We saw (did we?) an albino sea lion. We must have stayed out there for something like six hours, until dawn started coming and we walked back. The walk back up the hill home, as we were starting to wake up out of it, was wonderful and gave us goosebumps. It was one of those conversations that sounds very woo-goofy to a casual observer, but we could not get over how much life was out there in the ocean, living away the entire time the city had been asleep and unaware. To this day I can sit and think about that night and get a little warm rush. It feels like my anxious brain, the parts I don't control, also likes to think about it and sigh with relief.

Enjoy yourself.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 8:24 AM on August 19, 2015 [6 favorites]

Lay under trees and look up. Feel things. Keep things low-key without too much stimulation because your brain will provide all that. Make sure to have a bathroom accessible (you will hydrate a ton then need to pee a ton).

Don't do it in Central Park when there are people performing with puppets nearby, holy shit.
posted by greta simone at 9:08 AM on August 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

A friend advises:

"Tell them whatever they do, do NOT watch Fantasia or Mary Poppins. Fantasia because OMFG FREAKY and not in a good way and Mary Poppins because of the dancing penguins."
posted by kinetic at 9:52 AM on August 19, 2015

Allegedly, if you have belly cramps, which apparently happens to some people, a nice warm (not too hot!) cup of a strong ginger infusion/tea really helps.
posted by lalochezia at 10:11 AM on August 19, 2015

the first time i seriously tripped i was at a good friend's house and it was about 50/50 people on mushrooms and wonderful sober people. we were outside during the afternoon and then i had a really difficult time transitioning to being inside once it got dark, and got really nauseous and anxious. my friend's dog was actually what got me out of that bad portion of the trip (hanging out with a friendly cuddly dog on mushrooms is a super fun experience), and then once i calmed down a little my friend went around his house and turned on every lamp and tucked me up in a blanket and had me help him wash rice to make sushi. if you have the opportunity to wash rice while on mushrooms or, ideally, when you're just starting to come down, i hiiiiighly recommend it.
posted by burgerrr at 11:56 AM on August 19, 2015

Response by poster: T minus one hour. A couple of things, if anyone's still reading this:

Re: dose, I weigh about 200 pounds, and after discussing it with my boyfriend, whose advice I initially misunderstood, the plan is now to take a half-eighth, and then the other quarter only half an hour later, for a nice gradual ramp up. That said, if you see a problem with this plan, please do let me know.

And a question: would a guided meditation for the first half-hour after I dose be a good idea to keep me in a positive headspace, or is that trying to control the experience too much?
posted by dee lee at 3:47 PM on August 19, 2015

I would leave the option of a guided meditation open. It sounds like something you would enjoy and would ease you into the experience, but you can always change your mind. Have a wonderful trip!
posted by saucysault at 4:35 PM on August 19, 2015

For future reference, I have found psilocybin trips that follow the structure (and musical playlist) of this AMA to be an incredibly helpful tool in my own journey of battling depression & anxiety. It is not a fix-all, to be sure. I see a psychiatrist who monitors my (SSRI) medication, I am still working hard in therapy, and I have a checklist of things to do whenever my intrusive suicidal thoughts become overwhelming. There are still some days that are a terrible struggle. But being able to take time out for myself, in a space that is set aside specifically where I can relinquish control of my mind, has been an enormous help to me.
posted by pi at 6:06 PM on August 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

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