Taking acid, pros and cons?
April 9, 2008 7:43 PM   Subscribe

Taking acid, pros and cons?

Someone I know is considering taking a regular dose of acid. He is a relatively sensible, risk-averse individual, very in control of his life. Up until this point he has only smoked marijuana and drank occasionally.

What are the exact health risks (can it make you nauseous or lead to hospitalization)? Do they vary according to things like weight? Is there any relatively accessible site that describes the medical effects in neutral terms?

What are some precautions he should take in order to make sure that he will be safe? What factors are likely to lead to a "bad trip" (or a good trip?) and how bad are bad trips?
posted by JamesJD to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (47 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Don't know about neutral, but for my extremely complete drug info I always go to erowid.org. There, he can learn about everything he could possibly combine with acid and learn exactly how illegal it is. At a glance, the coverage of LSD there looks pretty comprehensive. However, I've never dropped acid myself so I can't vouch for its accuracy.
posted by crinklebat at 7:48 PM on April 9, 2008

For basic neutral decriptions, I usually start with Erowid. For drugs that I have taken, including acid, what they state has mirrored my experiences closely enough that I generally trust their reporting. They have a really good section on Psychedelic Crisis which can be good for a close friend or associate of someone who is taking psychedelics and has trouble. From their basic fact sheet:
LSD can precipitate strong, temporary changes in an individual's experience of life and reality. Even in low doses, it is a powerful psychoactive that can be significantly affected by experiences, set and setting. Recent experiences, especially strong ones, can have a substantial effect on a trip. Physically or psychologically unsettling events in the days before an LSD trip can blossom into more serious distress and trauma while tripping.

It is important to be prepared for the possibility of encountering difficult or frightening mental states. There are many ways of minimizing possible dangers and trauma: by making sure to have others around for first time or high dose experiences, choosing carefully when and where to use a substance, taking a little time to prepare mentally for an experience with LSD by relaxing, having an intent for the experience, or by incorporating comforting and calming ritual into the preparation (clean the house, adjust the lighting, choose music that will go with the sort of experience you're looking for,etc) Using a 'sitter', a sober friend who's job it is to watch out for you while you're tirpping can go a long way toward easing anxiety and ensuring that someone will be able to deal with any situation that might arise. It's amazing how confusing a ringing phone or a cop at the door can be if you're on LSD. Read up on the Psychedelic Crisis FAQ so you and your friends will have some idea what to do if things get difficult.
posted by jessamyn at 7:53 PM on April 9, 2008 [5 favorites]

The biggest warning I can give is that if you an excessively paranoid person than acid is not for you. As for precautions, allow for a LOT of time where you don't have to be anywhere or have any other obligations. And stick to familiar settings (at least for a first trip) and do it with people you like/trust. Sometimes the trip is much longer than anticpated, and the post trip comedown can be pretty damn lethargic.

The younger me loved it and I remember laughing my ass off and having a great time. But the older me would not enjoy much at all since I couldn't imagine being able to disconnect from the real world entirely anymore to roll with it. From what I recall, if you fight it, it sucks. And a bad trip can be a scary and disorienting thing.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:58 PM on April 9, 2008

I don't have anything to add myself, but consider a clarification that may be useful to others: Is a "regular dose of acid" a normal-sized dose or doses taken a regular intervals?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:10 PM on April 9, 2008

ianad(or a police) and ymmv:

i second slack-a-gogo. all of my experiences started out really fun, but the problem is 8-12 hours later you're still sort of tripping, but really exhausted, but can't go to sleep. it sucks. your friend should be completely obligation free for 2 days (the day of and the day after). if the trip begins in the evening, there will be NO SLEEP that night. a sober friend should be around and plan on spending the night. this person should be fairly laid back and not the sort to tease an incapacitated person. it can become very trying to watch someone giggle hysterically while playing with a fan-pull for 20 minutes. having some other friends around who are drinking or high can be good, too, to act as a buffer.

as far as medical side effects, there are almost none. it should be noted that other intoxicants don't have their normal effects while tripping- i used to drink ungodly amounts of liquor while tripping, and it only made me feel a little more grounded, while normally i would have been extremely drunk. smoking pot can intensify the visual hallucinations. it is unlikely that a normally stable person would harm themselves as a result of tripping (it's really not like some movies/books where you decide you can fly and jump off a building- again as long as the person is in generally good mental health- i've seen people diagnosed with depression become much more intensely upset while tripping). it is VERY illegal to sell, but it won't show up in any drug tests (only spinal taps, which are only legally performed for medical reasons). i have never heard of anyone being arrested for doing acid, but have known people who served real time for selling it.

i, too, enjoyed it quite a bit while in my late teens/early twenties. as someone in my early thirites, i would not even think about it.
posted by LizardOfDoom at 8:23 PM on April 9, 2008

I have done it. More than once.

I do not recommend it. You just do NOT have any way of knowing how your mind will react to being bent.

However, if he MUST do this he has to have a "babysitter."

If you meant by "regular' that he plans to do this on a repeat basis, let me just point out I have known people who did that and literally ruined their minds by it.
posted by konolia at 8:25 PM on April 9, 2008

(1) Erowid has a wide range of stories with a lot of self-selection bias. What type of people would write about their acid trips on the Internet? Probably not the empirical philosopher who is concerned with exact details. It is a good resource, but outliers are often highlighted too much.

(2) Set & setting are what you hear over and over again. This is true. Do not do this under stress, do not do this if you have something coming up, do not do this if you have any responsibilities that could possibly come up. There's a reason why adults generally don't do this. Find a place you feel safe and that you know and people that are safe and that you know. The worst thing you could do is take acid and go to a party or go bar hopping. Stay away from depressants like alcohol. I would cease all drug and alcohol use several days before the trip.

(3) If at all possible have diazepam or other relaxant on hand in case the trip gets out of hand. As you're probably well aware, there's no antidote to a bad trip. If you go to an ER they'll just shoot you full of Xanax or some sort of relaxant. I don't recommend going anywhere near the doses they would give you. In fact I'd take the lowest dose possible and cut it in half.

(4) From a physical standpoint, LSD is probably one of the safest illegal things you can ingest. That is, safe from a physical standpoint. The LSD by itself will not harm you. I guess it is theoretically possible you could have a heart attack due to stress of a bad trip, but at least you'd make the medical journals. That doesn't mean you can't have a terrible, terrible trip, but it won't kill you. You must understand that LSD isn't like going into a virtual reality simulator. It is not like you'll think that your 9th story window is some sort of door to Smurf land and walk through it. But in any case, you should have a sitter for such things.

Disclaimer: I've only done acid once, but I have been with many people who have done it and I've walked many people through it. I'm definitely not a doctor. I haven't done this in years, like 5-6 years. Don't expect it to be life changing, at most it is a waste of the an afternoon. I know some people who did it way, way too much but my completely non-medical opinion is that they had some sort of underlying disorder they were medicating. I would recommend something lighter, like mushrooms, which is easier to control. In any case most dosages of LSD are many times weaker than they were in the 60s.

For best results: be a normal, stable adult who takes a couple of days off work and gets together with a few friends to take acid. Get a few art books, spend a few days getting into a relaxed, meditative state and take it. Even bad trips aren't as bad as people would like to make them. Things always seem to get exaggerated for a whole host of reasons. If I had to chose between a bad trip and getting sick from, say oysters, I'd chose to the bad trip. Good luck.
posted by geoff. at 8:36 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Your set and setting — the state of mind you approach the trip with, and the environment you trip in — have a huge effect on the experience you have. If your friend is relaxed, happy, and in safe, pleasant surroundings, the odds are much better that he'll have a good time. If he starts having a bad time, help him relax and suggest happy things for him to think about. It's also very easy to get overstimulated when you're tripping; it's good to have your first experience someplace calm, quiet and familiar.

Bad trips are scary and upsetting but not, in the grand scheme of things, any sort of disaster. Think of it like seeing a scary movie when you're a little kid who's too young to understand it, or getting on a roller coaster and then remembering you're afraid of heights. It's Absolutely No Fun while you're in the middle of it, but eventually it does end. In particular, since you're asking about health effects: a bad trip is not an overdose. One can scare you, but it can't make you sick or kill you. In general, LSD is pretty much nontoxic, and the worst thing it can do to a person is upset them or confuse them into doing something stupid.

I'll second the suggestions to read Erowid, and to make sure your friend is in the hands of a responsible babysitter when he tries it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:38 PM on April 9, 2008

I would urge your friend not to take it if he has any family history of schizophrenia. I have known people who had very bad psychological reactions to LSD and have been messed up for years. That being said, I had great experiences on it and learned a lot about myself.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 8:41 PM on April 9, 2008

While acknowledging all the warnings people threw out there (except for the "you can go crazy if you do it once" which I think is kind of silly), hallucinogens can be a very positive experience. The keys are: you have to be in a good mental state, you have to have a very trustworthy and patient babysitter (who should probably be sober), and you need to be in a fairly secluded place away from any possible dangers. Take stock of your friend: is he the kind of person who can get aggressive when under the influence of marijuana or alcohol? Is he a depressed person? Does he have an addictive personality?

The answer for having a good trip sounds silly, but things as simple as pretty lights reflecting on the ceiling or being with someone who you connect with and can joke around with may be enough to trigger the positive trip. And I would say that a positive trip is better than a wasted afternoon by a long shot.

For your final queston: a bad trip is really fucking bad. I haven't read or heard the words that do it justice. It's one thing to think you're going to die when you have a rational mind; it's too difficult for me to describe when all of your senses are "sensing" it. The good news is that it ends, but there's a reason you keep a babysitter around.
posted by history is a weapon at 9:06 PM on April 9, 2008

I have not done LSD in about twelve years, but I'd like to both agree and disagree a bit with geoff.. Mushrooms might be a better first trip, as you can just take a bit, wait a while to get a sense of the effects, take a bit more if desired.
My bad trip happened about the tenth or twelfth time I took LSD and was pretty horrific. If I had been anywhere other than a very isolated house in the woods, or with anyone other than friends with very understanding old hippie parents, a ride in a cop car and/or ambulance would have been quite likely. I occassionaly experienced slight paranoia relative to this event for months afterward. I don't mention this to frighten or even necessarily discourage your friend, just to say "take care". I also had many fun and "educational" times.
posted by zoinks at 9:13 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

What are some precautions he should take in order to make sure that he will be safe?

The real problem is that its almost impossible to buy acid. Whats going to happen is that youre going to buy something claiming to be acid but it'll be a hodgepodge of junk. When your buddy gets sick you'll write it off to a 'bad trip.' They really dont make acid anymore.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:13 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Acid was one of the few really good drugs I ever took, and it hit me differently every time I had some. One time on Bellows beach (O'ahu) I was the five-year-old I had hidden away from the world, laughing and hugging my friends - and the feeling stayed with me as a delightful echo I still draw on; one time I walked down Kuhio Avenue looking for somebody to hit; one time I just knew that all my pessimistic predictions aside life was going to be a long, grand ride.

There were hints and allegations about chromosomal damage I ignored since breeding was not in the cards for me. There were scary stories about seeing spiders coming out of the walls. There were burnouts here and there. I was a little scared, the first time, about taking 'hard' drugs.

I loved it and would not exchange the double handful of wonderful acid trips I had for any conceivable advantage, because what I learned was so very delightful.

posted by jet_silver at 9:22 PM on April 9, 2008

Here's some reliable information, with links to research and more info.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:02 PM on April 9, 2008

My first trip, I was pretty nervous going in.

Some hours before I was going to take it, my guide sat down with me and checked in, gave me a pep talk, and talked some about what to expect (might feel a little cramping in my stomach for a little while; that will stop and things will start to get a little...bubbly; etc.).

My guide and I weren't BFF or anything, but I liked him and felt very comfortable and safe with him; I knew he wouldn't let anything bad happen. Right after I took it, we went into the kitchen of the group house we lived in and had tea, hung out and chatted....and then I started to trip.

I've done it four times, the last time in the late 80s (I was in college). I remember all of the trips as being delightful, and yes, exhausting towards the end. The first time, I tripped by myself, just hanging out with my guide (who was sober, but on a sort of trippy wavelength naturally). The next times, it was with a group of friends who were also all tripping. We stocked up on cigarettes beforehand, but otherwise didn't feel like drinking or anything, so we didn't. Just hours and hours of laughing and walking around campus to look at visually cool stuff, smoking, drinking just water, talking. Great times.

A few years later, I worked with a guy who, in a previous life, had been a chemist. He and his labmates made their own LSD, and he said it was too bad that I'd taken acid that was probably cut with speed - that's what made for the wakefulness, the lesser intensity of visual effects (than I was expecting), and a...speedy feeling. Not overwhelming, though.

Tell you friend to have fun and enjoy.
posted by rtha at 10:04 PM on April 9, 2008

I would recommend mushrooms. Although I stay away from pot because it makes me feel anxious, I would love to try mushrooms again. They only last for a couple of hours and it's a pretty neat experience.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:09 PM on April 9, 2008

posted by rtha at 10:12 PM on April 9, 2008

I've done acid at least a handful of times and I highly recommend it. I would echo what everyone else has said about scheduling a full day and night for tripping and the subsequent recovery. I also wouldn't have any big plans the next day. Having a babysitter or guide is also good advice. I think it is okay if this person is tripping (for all of my experiences the whole group was tripping. I typically would smoke some pot after ingesting the acid since it seemed to take half an hour, or an hour or more before I started to feel the effects.

I would also emphasize again to be around people that you are comfortable with and in a comfortable space. Stocking up on food and drinks ahead of time is good advice. I would not want to deal with anyone not tripping when tripping. I almost always tripped in a national forest or the like, and went on long meandering hikes...but that is just me. I've also been to concerts and I didn't like that as much being around tons of people when tripping.

As far as bad trips go....I was once lost with one of my best friends in a city we didn't know so well (this was before everyone had cell phones)....and being totally exhausted and wandering a city at night was not a good time. But, that is the worst that I've experienced.

I've had some great experiences on acid. I think it is a good idea to ask others who have some of the same batch what their experiences were with the product. That doesn't mean that your friend's experiences will be the same but it might help you know the strength and what dosage to take. Have fun!
posted by fieldtrip at 10:21 PM on April 9, 2008

What are the exact health risks (can it make you nauseous or lead to hospitalization)? Do they vary according to things like weight? Is there any relatively accessible site that describes the medical effects in neutral terms?

As others have already said, check Erowid. As I recall, since acid is psychoactive in such low doses, the danger of physical toxicity is essentially nonexistent. This may be bullshit, but I recall reading that a lethal dose of LSD would be something on the order of 100,000 hits.

What are some precautions he should take in order to make sure that he will be safe? What factors are likely to lead to a "bad trip" (or a good trip?) and how bad are bad trips?

Precautions: again, as others have said, have somebody around who won't be taking acid, and who won't mind staying up all night with your friend.

Factors likely to lead to a bad trip: well, this depends on your friend's psychological makeup. I would suggest that he be in a physically and emotionally comfortable setting, eg his place, or the home of somebody he knows well and is comfortable with. A bad place to be is somewhere that is difficult to leave, eg a subway. If he has recently undergone some sort of big, life-changing event, eg breaking up with an SO, death of family member, etc, then it's probably not a good time, as things like that can lead to a negative feedback loop, which really sucks if you're on acid.
posted by number9dream at 11:18 PM on April 9, 2008

Never done acid here...but maybe your friend would wanna start out on a tamer hallucinogen? Maybe mushrooms, or LSA?

I've eaten mushrooms and it was fun. Nothing life-changing, but fun laying on the carpet and talking to my dog for an afternoon. I'm not sure how much kokuryu ate, but most trips last about 6-8 hours I'd say.

LSA is legal in most of the US, or at least it used to be. It's found in morning glory seeds, but you have to eat a shitload of them to get the effects. I ate about 8 HB woodrose seeds and really took off. I've heard people say the trip is similar to LSD, only less intense and without the visuals (which might not sound like an acid trip at all?).

Either way, maybe he should explore some other options before deciding whether or not he wants to try something possibly more intense.
posted by pilibeen at 11:30 PM on April 9, 2008

I'll nth the number one problem with acid and the likely source of most bad trips--the duration. Once you drop, you're locked into a rollercoaster you can't get off. I've done my fair share of recreational...stuff, but acid is unique in a couple of ways, and it has--basically--two stages.

The first stage is FUN! Virtually everything is absolutely hilarious. Your body gets a full buzz. This is when you start getting funky visual hallucinations.

For me, acid has a way of fading the ego. You know who you are, and what's going on, but the flow of everyday life and normal thought processes can really, really seem alien. Once the "fun" wears off after a few hours, you're likely to get introspective as hell. Stare at yourself in the mirror if you dare. If you're in a bad frame of mind, in an unfamiliar/unfriendly place, depressed beforehand, amongst unfamiliar/unfriendly people, etc. etc., a dark thought can--not always, but can--spiral out of control. Acid quality is also another issue. The prevailing wisdom amongst friends back in the day was that standard blotter paper hits of acid contain strychnine, which gives you a bad trip/hangover. Whereas acid pills, or "microdots", don't contain strychnine and prevent bad trips. Based on...a friend's experience, I'd say that's more or less true.

Bottom line--a typical hit will last you a decent 10 hours or more. That's etched in stone. It could be ten wonderful, fantastic hours of bliss, or an hour of fun and 9 hours of wishing you were dead. But I think as long as you're in a safe place, amongst friends (DON'T trip alone), with some fun distractions and entertainment, you'll likely find it a very worthwhile experience. Give yourself a day of recovery time.
posted by zardoz at 11:46 PM on April 9, 2008

I took acid once. I would call all of it a pro and con of taking acid, because I couldn't really distinguish one moment from another as good or bad. Acid has a mild respiratory depressive effect, and I felt a bit out of breath and had difficulty moving in a coordinated fashion. I listened to Autechre, dreamed of insects breathing out smoke, and looked at my Aphex Twin record covers melting onto the floor.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:03 AM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

I will say that acid is harsh, and it earns its caustic name. The experience will burn itself into you. Perhaps it may be better to start or even stay with a milder hallucinogen, like mushrooms, which evokes quite a euphoric high for about 30-60 minutes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:07 AM on April 10, 2008

There's a few people that have suggested to start with mushrooms. I wholeheartedly agree with them.

Mushrooms last about 1/2 as long (6 hours, versus 12). If you trip nicely on shrooms, you'll get a good sense of how you react to hallucinogenics. If you trip badly, at least it doesn't last 12 hours.

They are a lot cleaner in all senses of the word; you can most likely trust you're getting mushrooms because they look like mushrooms. The first time "this guy I know" bought "LSD," all he got was a strip of paper.

You also come down off mushrooms a lot nicer than acid. No hangover, no feeling of being "off."

I also think that mushrooms can give you quite a trippy high. LSD isn't more intense; it's more harsh and lasts longer.
posted by smersh at 12:55 AM on April 10, 2008

You people are taking weak shrooms. 30-60 minutes WTF? shrooms fucked me up all night just as much as acid, maybe worse.

Get 3 or 4 hits, start with a half to get a feel for it. Have a Trip Fairy, somebody you trust absolutely who isn't f*ck'd up, you must trust the Trip Fairy. The building is melting, the Trip Fairy is doing homework, OK, trust Trip Fairy. It's OK.

Another old guy, did lots of drugs during my days, wouldn't not do them, wouldn't do them again. Should be mandatory, I can't imagine me never doing mind-altering drugs.

See faces in the marble in the bathroom, and in the carpet... stucco ceilings are a blast, dreams are awesome... Can't pin it down, but a bit of hallucinogen opens you up a bit.
posted by zengargoyle at 1:01 AM on April 10, 2008

A study1 in The Lancet of a variety of independent researchers concluded that LSD is towards the less dangerous end of the scale of harm; more dangerous than ecstasy and GHB and less dangerous than alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and solvents.

1 Nutt, D. (2007) Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse, Lancet, 369, pp. 1047-53. [Link]
posted by alby at 2:41 AM on April 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

Someone I know is considering taking a regular dose of acid.

The health risk is not knowing what a regular dose is. With blotter acid the dose varies quite a lot. (Windowpane, which you can dose by size, is more consistent, but the drawback is that it's often cut with speed.)

The main problem is the intensity and duration. Acid (even shrooms) can be surprisingly strong - seeing light trails can be cool and also very disturbing - and sometimes you're tripping for hours. You can't turn it off. It's not a casual experience: it's extremely intimate.

Start slowly, be patient, and don't fight it. Go with it, but be prepared to ride it for a lot longer than you might want to.
posted by three blind mice at 2:53 AM on April 10, 2008

Actually you can (sort of) turn off an acid trip by using the chlorpromazine and risperidone. But it's not like you can just buy these from your local shop!
posted by alby at 3:05 AM on April 10, 2008

Heh, there's a lot of stuff in that study:

-the long-term health effects of marijuana (2.1 out of 3) are worse than cocaine (2.0) and amphetamines (1.8).

-everyone is intravenously injecting everything, e.g. cocaine is given an "Intravenous Harm" score equal to that of heroin. Is everyone in Britain putting their coke in their veins rather than up the schnozz? Even the acid under discussion is given a small "Intravenous Harm" score.

-"pleasure" is ranked as a harm, independently of dependence

-vaguely considered "social harms", which while relevant to a policy paper don't necessarily speak to "how good/bad is this for me."

In conclusion, while I support the idea of rational measurements of harm, when the result of the paper claims that huffing glue is preferred to smoking pot, I must conclude that the authors are simply trying to keep all that British skunk weed I hear about to themselves.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:08 AM on April 10, 2008

I took acid several times, with friends. It was great, very eye opening experience, highly recommended. Then I decided to take some by myself. Again, great experience. So I took some more, by myself, having had nothing but great experiences.

Early in that trip, I became aware that there was something living in the bathroom. It was five legged, like the body of starfish, but each leg was hinged like a human leg, with a taloned, alien like birds foot at the end. At the centert of of its body was a bird like neck and head, with a razor sharp beak. It was covered in black, shiny armor and could easily climb walls, like a spider and was about half the size of an adult male. There were, at various times that night, between one and and six of them in my bathroom, hanging on the wall, around the light bulb. You see, these creatures came from another dimension and sources of light were gateways between our world and theirs. They are responsible for most of the stories of missing people and they were waiting, in the bathroom for me.

Mind you, I never saw one of these things per se, but became convinced they were in the bathroom when I was sitting on the couch, tripping. Needless to say, I didn't go to the bathroom to test my vision and never touched acid again. I literally felt my sanity slipping away and nobody really needs that.

The moral of the story? Acid can be fine, until it's not and then you're fucked. Be in a generally positive state of mind and don't do it alone.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:39 AM on April 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

Pro: It's awesome inside your head on acid.

Con: No one who isn't inside your head will agree.

Double-Pro: Everyone who is inside your head will agree!
posted by TheNewWazoo at 6:04 AM on April 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

Don't get hung up on the risks of having a bad trip - If your in a good frame of mind, a comfortable location you're familiar with, have a sober friend to watch out for you (And help point you in fun directions if you're bored) then the single biggest factor leading to a bad trip is likely to be yourself worrying about bad trips.

With that in mind though, I would never recommend someone take acid, you either know you want to do it, or you don't. It's a very consuming experience which you can't really tiptoe into like other drugs. So mushrooms, or Ketamine would be good stepping stones (I'd personal recommend Ketamine as it alters your perceptions, but not really the visuals, so it's easy to keep a grounding in reality and remind yourself your on drugs, but each to their own)
posted by paulfreeman at 6:31 AM on April 10, 2008

I took a lot of acid when I was much younger. I never had unbidden hallucinations (yes - probably because of poor acid) but I did have a great time thinking of things I wanted too see and forcing them to become true (blue grass, green skies etc). This led me to believe that I was in control of the trip. Not so. After 12 months of solid acid taking I took a very small dose and had a 'Bad Trip'. You don't need anyone scaremongering so no full explanation. Basically this experience showed me that you have no prior knowledge of what this stuff will do to your brain EACH TIME you take it. I thought that I was safe considering the numerous experiences I'd already had. I don't even agree with the 'have a buddy' sentiment - it meant fuck all to me to have a friend by my side when he exploded into pieces and I was swimming in a sea of his blood. ALSO - I'm on the against side for Mushrooms, they affected my sense of self (even after coming down) far more than acid ever did. I wouldn't suggest outright against it because acid has certainly changed the way in which I view the world in a positive light, but as a lot of other have mentioned, I wouldn't touch the stuff again now.
Good luck.
posted by Rubyspicer at 6:31 AM on April 10, 2008

P.S the conditions of my bad trip were: safe setting, most beloved friends about, no real worries ( I was 18) and lots of time before next work/etc. Didn't make any difference.
posted by Rubyspicer at 6:41 AM on April 10, 2008

I've done both acid and mushrooms several times and would recommend going the mushroom route, rather than acid, especially for a first-timer.

The simple reason being that, as was pointed-out upthread, once you drop acid, you are on a roller coaster you can't get off. With mushrooms (in my experience...ymmv) the trip was every bit as deep and visual as any acid I'd done, but I always felt I was more in control of the experience. With acid, I was more-or-less along for the ride. Mushrooms, otoh, invited me to join-in and be an active participant in the journey. I always got far more out of a mushroom trip than an acid trip.

I guess the best way I can sum it up would be...Acid happens to you, mushrooms happen with you.

I'd do mushrooms again in a heartbeat. Acid, not so much.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:26 AM on April 10, 2008

While acknowledging all the warnings people threw out there (except for the "you can go crazy if you do it once" which I think is kind of silly)

I thought it was pretty silly too, until I knew someone that had experienced it. I'm not trying to throw out some crazy "reefer madness" bullshit - it IS possible to have long lasting psychological problems after taking acid. I don't have time to look up all of the citations, but in young adults who have a predisposition for schizophrenia, LSD can "turn on" the crazy - and I know people it's happened to.

I have taken A LOT of acid, and I didn't have a bad trip until the very end of my dosing days. But, I've also seen people freak the hell out the first time they took it. I've had people I was tripping with try to walk on water and put themselves in a pretty dangerous situation. You won't know how you will react until you do it. And that's true EVERY TIME you take it.

Being an astronaut is dangerous - but not every person gets the opportunity to go into space - and for many the risks justify the experience. Maybe your friend will think the same and really get something out of his experience. I'm not going to blow smoke up your ass and say it's all roses - because sometimes it is and sometimes it's not.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 7:48 AM on April 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

Nthing "safe, comfortable place", a sympathetic, sober babysiter, lots of toys and snacks, 2 days set aside (one for consumption, one for recovery) and also suggesting you (i mean your friend) find another friend or two to actually take the drug with you - it's not a must but it'll probably be more fun that way. oh, and stock up on good, trippy dvd's (more than one in case one of them bugs you out, and dont forget something fun and upbeat like ferris beuller's day off or the muppets or something) some art books, art supplies, good cd's, a few joints maybe, am i forgetting anything?

other general advice:

it will last 12 hours, which inevitably seems about 6 hours too long. so what? that just comes with the territory, if you want a fluffy happy escape take a different drug and skip the occasionally difficult journey that is LSD - hour 8 is where i would usually get my most useful insights into life, even though i wasn't neccesarily having nothing but fun at that point. you could take babysteps into the hallucinogen thing by trying mushrooms first, if you're a babysteps kind of person. personally i don't think it's neccesary.

i'll also add that i've done all the research you're looking at doing now, and i've also been there/done that, and seen the effects of LSD (and quite a few other drugs for comparison) across a wide range of people... and generally speaking, most sources outside of nancy reagan and the DEA agree that lsd is a very safe drug, overall. a bad trip is a bit hellish while it lasts but isn't really THAT big a deal, and your babysitter should keep you from jumping out the window (highly unlikely anyway), or doing other, less-stupid-but-better-avoided kind of things.

however, i'll second avoiding acid entirely if your friend has any history of schitzophrenia or other mental illnesses. it's a very strong drug in it's way, and doesn't react well with people who are mentally unbalanced. finally, you didn't ask but i'll say it anyway - i wouldn't recommend taking it more than, oh, 10 or 20 times. regular use over a prolonged period (say, twice a week for a year) can have negative, permanent side effects, ranging from a general spaceyness to mental illness to working in health food stores and talking about the healing power of crystals *way* too much, for like the rest of your life. dont let me scare you too much though, most people simply lose the desire to take it again after a handful of trips, and move on with some interesting memories and an expanded outlook on life.
posted by messiahwannabe at 8:19 AM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Damn Dirty Ape is right. LSD is not made any more and whatever you buy/ingest is going to be a hodgepodge of who knows what that someone is calling "acid."

Would you buy/ingest bathtub amphetamine or backwoods moonshine? I sure hope not. If your friend is dead set on trying to repeatedly alter their consciousness through illegal drugs why not take mushrooms or some other "from-the-earth" substance. At least that way you know what you are getting.

Not to sound too stodgy, but why take illegal drugs at all. It doesn't sound like your friend just wants to get "high," it sounds like they want to experimentally alter their consciousness and mediation will work better than any artificial thing out there.

I suggest reading this book
posted by doppleradar at 8:44 AM on April 10, 2008


From what I understand, damn dirty ape is probably 90% correct. I cannot advise gambling and getting possibly adulterated substances. The chemical mentioned above is still unscheduled according to the link.
Recommended. Be careful with dosing.
posted by bastionofsanity at 8:51 AM on April 10, 2008

Lots of good advice above.

After my first few acid experiences, I was firmly convinced that this was something that everybody should do at least once. Then I introduced a good friend to it (in a beautiful, safe setting, with good trustworthy people we all knew well) and he fell way, way over the edge, stayed there for hours, and ended up feeling permanently damaged. He later suffered a psychotic episode as a side effect of taking an anti-malarial (chloroquin?) and called me from overseas as it was coming on, because he felt that I was the only one he knew who would understand what he was going through and know what to do. I didn't. Hearing a good friend literally losing his mind piece by piece, on the phone when you're thousands of miles away and unable to help in any meaningful way is a very nasty thing indeed.

Most people I know who have used psychedelics (myself included) have found them to be wholly positive things. But they just don't suit some people, and it's pretty much impossible to tell beforehand whether that's you.

For a first trip, it is absolutely essential to have an experienced tripper be the trusted and trustworthy Designated Straight Person, and it's vastly preferable that the surroundings be safe, tranquil and if possible beautiful. It's also a really good idea to take a much smaller than regular dose the first time, in case of unexpected sensitivity.

Also bear in mind that the Trip Bus typically doesn't arrive for about 3/4 of an hour after ingestion - don't take top-up doses, on a first trip, if nothing appears to be happening. Don't score your acid off the street. Don't mix a first trip with other substances. And do your best to keep track of your Most Important Object (your water bottle) at all times.
posted by flabdablet at 9:20 AM on April 10, 2008

Um, scaremongering like "they don't make LSD anymore and whatever you buy/ingest is going to be a hodgepodge of who knows what that someone is calling 'acid'" is really not at all accurate. One of the interesting things about acid is that it is incredibly potent; your usual active dose is in the microgram range. A dose of around 100µg would not be unusual, though of course if you're buying tabs, you don't necessarily know how much you're getting. By comparison, every other psychoactive drug that I can recall is at best active in the milligram range - usually tens or hundreds of milligrams. In other words, if you soaked a tab in a solution of DPT or even more potent (and common) drugs like 2C-I, you wouldn't get enough of the chemical in the tab to have much of an effect. Drug adultration is much more plausible when you're talking about stuff in the milligram range, where there are a variety of drugs with similar potencies and appearances.

If you've ingested small bits of paper and you ended up tripping, you had acid. And yes, they most certainly do make it these days.

One warning against the people suggesting mushrooms in lieu of acid: mushrooms tend to be harder on the body, with nausea and physical discomfort being more common. (Long-term effects are no different, which is to say there are generally none, but in the short term, the trip may be more physically unpleasant.)
posted by ubersturm at 9:35 AM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think an important thing that has been neglected here is that it's much more pleasant to trip with someone else, not just to have a babysitter. Being the only one on psychedelics makes you way more prone to negative experiences. It's much better to have a tripping partner or two.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 11:57 AM on April 10, 2008

Since most of my advice has been covered above (dose/setting/entertainment), I will add my 2 cents on "bad trips."

People who have tripping experience (e.g. Stansilov Graf) will tell you that weathering a bad trip is something that everyone should experience (maybe not your first time--- but it's not something to be afraid of, it's something to work through). One guy on Psychonaut's chatboard had some good advice: "DO NOT RING THE POLICE OR DOCTORS OR AMBULANCES.......A STOMACH PUMP IN A HOSPITAL ON A BAD TRIP WHILE HANDCUFFED IS NOT FUNNY . NOR IS BEING TIED TO A BED IN A HIGH SECURITY PSYCHIATRIC WARD ."

I've been digging this site lately. He might find some good info there.
Erowid is good, but often too tedious to dig through for me.
The Good Drugs Guide has some basic info.
Basically, if your friend can use the internet, he can find out anything he wants to know about LSD (except the actual experience).
posted by hulahulagirl at 12:52 PM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

God, what turds people are tossing in here. If you really think that they don't make acid anymore, instead of noting that the major source for American acid was busted in the early '00s, making it much harder to find, you should probably shut the fuck up. Likewise, if you believe that acid has strychnine in it. Or if you confuse the fact that LSD has a mild speedy effect (similar to an actual methamphetamine, ecstacy) with being "cut with speed," you don't know what the hell you're talking about.

Look, here's the straight dope: LSD isn't for morons. It's a fun time, a powerful psychotropic tool, and one that makes a very small minority of people very unhappy. Note that at least some of the folks above have severe mental problems that could be exacerbated by psychotropics—Konolia has talked before about being bipolar. If you're bipolar, you probably shouldn't be taking acid. You probably shouldn't be doing anything significantly mind-altering without a doctor's approval either.

As for the trip, a couple notes. First off, for everyone recommending mushrooms first, you can kind of ignore that. You've got acid, you don't have mushrooms. Mushrooms also tend to have a higher incidence of undesirable digestive side effects, and are less of a clean, chemical experience.

For your first trip, having a babysitter is a good idea. Also preparing a couple of things that are calming to you (a favorite stuffed animal, a reassuring trinket) is helpful. I found that when I was having anxiety problems that John Coltrane's Africa Brass helped me immensely, but it's an album that I know forwards and backwards and always enjoy. You may have a similar album. If you do, I recommend having access to it—you will be highly susceptible to music's ability to change the emotional environment.

While I am dubious of many of the claims regarding vitamin C and health, I can anecdotally report that increasing the amount of vitamin C prior to tripping has enhanced my color differentiation. I have heard others having the same experience.

Which brings me to the most important point regarding LSD: much of the trip's effects will be psychosomatic. From looking at literature regarding ascorbic acid, while it does accumulate in the retina, there's little in the chemical make-up that suggests a real predictive benefit, and the rationales given for dosing with a lot of it are shifting amongst the trip reports. Likewise, one of the dangers of reading about "bad trips" is the anxiety over them, which can lead to bad trips. This is one of the most important reasons to have a babysitter, especially an ineffably perky one—their buoyant mood will influence yours. Because of this, I recommend that your first trip be taken during the day, ideally in sunshine. It also cuts down on the "insomnia" that some folks feel, which is also at least partly influenced psychosomatically (believing that you're not going to be able to sleep makes it much harder to sleep. Thinking, man, this acid is so clean that you can sleep on it, makes it easier to sleep).

Make sure also to stay hydrated! There's a tendency to underestimate the amount of sweating you do.

Good luck and godspeed.
posted by klangklangston at 12:55 PM on April 10, 2008 [8 favorites]

I'll nth the "mushrooms instead" advice. Having taken both, you really understand on a non-verbal, fundamental level that acid is a chemical and mushrooms are a plant. Acid, while utterly fascinating and profound, can be very alienating. You can feel very detached from things. That's not a bad thing, necessarily, and has its place, but it does require the right frame of mind. Mushrooms, on the other hand, make you trip but there's a real hippy-trippy feeling of connection with your surroundings. They're great for when you're outside in nature. Put simply, mushrooms give you a trip, but also the warm fuzzy feeling of a good alcohol buzz. Another amazing factoid about shrooms: they actually improve your vision. You get the visuals and hallucinations, but on top of that everything looks sharper and colors "pop" more.

Downside of 'shrooms: they taste absolutely awful, even when blended with peanut butter or whatever you mix them with. And for a good hour after ingesting them, you're likely to get nauseated, or even vomit. But the nausea will eventually pass.
posted by zardoz at 4:48 PM on April 10, 2008

there's a real hippy-trippy feeling of connection with your surroundings

My best LSD experiences were like that. It's all about the set and setting.
posted by flabdablet at 5:28 PM on April 10, 2008

FWIW, my sole experience with LSD involved running up and down two flights of stairs (envisioning some sort of eternal Sisyphusian purgatory) for several hours whilst repeatedly screaming the word "GUILT!" at the top of my lungs. Oh, and there was a whole lot of vomit.

Of course, there was no babysitter, and I fit most (if not all) of the "Don't try LSD if..." criteria, including the ever-so-important DRUG INTERACTIONS one. Is your friend taking any medication? If yes, then NO.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:37 AM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

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