Psychedelic drugs such as LSD, mushrooms, and Molly can cause hallucinations known as a “bad trip”. Learn what causes a bad trip, how to identify warning signs, and how to stop it.

A trip refers to the intoxication from a drug that causes hallucinations. It is called a trip because the sensations that a psychedelic (hallucination-causing) drug causes can be so strange that it feels as if you are in a whole different world. A bad trip, also sometimes called a bad acid trip, occurs when the trip a psychedelic drug causes is negative.

Bad trips can lead to excessive fear, agitation or emotionally disturbing situations. Someone who is having a bad trip may feel as if time is standing still and may have disturbing hallucinations that cause extreme fear or mood swings.

What Causes a Bad Trip?

There are several things that can increase the probability of a bad trip, but anyone who is using psychedelic substances is at risk of having a bad trip. Some of the things that can increase the risk of having a bad trip include:

  • Taking higher doses of a psychedelic drug
  • Being in a negative emotional state before using or while using psychedelics
  • Being in settings with excessive stimulation
  • Using alcohol at the same time as using a psychedelic drug
  • Not having someone stay with you while using psychedelic drugs
  • Not drinking enough water

While avoiding these risks can reduce your chances of having a bad trip, anyone can have a bad trip at any time while using psychedelics. Someone who has been using psychedelic drugs for years and has never had a bad trip can have a bad trip while using, even if they have not changed anything about how they use.

Drugs That Can Cause a Bad Trip

Any drug that can cause hallucinations and lead to a trip can cause a bad trip. These drugs are called psychedelic drugs and are often used for the hallucinations they create. Some common psychedelic drugs include:

  • LSD – Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), also known as acid, is primarily taken for the hallucination that it creates. LSD is probably the best known psychedelic drug.
  • DMT – N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a powerful psychedelic drug that can lead to a bad trip. Because of how strong the effects of DMT are, it is more likely to lead to a bad trip than many other psychedelic drugs.(See More: What is DMT
  • Mushrooms – Psilocybin mushrooms, also known as “shrooms” or “magic mushrooms,” are hallucinogenic fungi that can lead to a bad trip. A bad mushroom trip may also be referred to as a bad shroom trip.
  • Molly – Molly, a slang name for the drug MDMA, is a psychedelic drug that is commonly used in parties or raves. Bad molly trips are more common in situations where people become dehydrated from over-partying.
  • Salvia – Salvia, also known as “sage of the diviners,” is a hallucinogenic drug that is shorter-acting and more potent than many other psychedelic drugs. Bad trips while using salvia are reported to be more terrifying than those experienced while using other psychedelic drugs.
  • Marijuana – Bad trips while using marijuana are uncommon, but can definitely still occur. Some of the most common bad trip symptoms occurring with weed are anxiety and facial numbness.

Symptoms of a Bad Trip

Bad acid trip symptoms are highly individualized and may be different from previous bad trip symptoms for the same individual. Some common bad trip symptoms include:

  • A sensation that time is standing still
  • Negative thoughts or interpretations of events around you
  • Extreme paranoia
  • Extreme and sudden mood swings
  • Negative hallucinations that may include sensations, sounds or sights

If you are with someone who is experiencing these symptoms and they have recently been using a psychedelic drug, they could be having a bad trip. If you are with someone who is having these symptoms and you are not sure if they have taken any drugs, you should take them to the nearest hospital or call 911.

How to Stop a Bad Trip

Stopping a bad trip may not be possible, but there are things that can be done to help someone who is having a bad trip. If someone is having a bad trip, they should be moved away from noise and stimulation, as this can make a bad trip worse. A bad trip guide can also help. This involves having someone who is sober stay with the person having the bad trip and talk them through the trip. Not everyone will benefit from a bad trip guide, and some people may develop a paranoid attitude towards the guide or even become aggressive.

Some medications may help to stop a bad trip, but these can only be given in a hospital. Calling 911 or going to the nearest emergency room can help provide someone who is having a bad trip with these medications.

Related Topic: Treatment options for LSD

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Editor – Rob Alston
Rob Alston has traveled around Australia, Japan, Europe, and America as a writer and editor for industries including personal wellness and recovery. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN
Benjamin Caleb Williams is a board-certified Emergency Nurse with several years of clinical experience, including supervisory roles within the ICU and ER settings. Read more

Carbonaro, T.M., et al. “Survey Study of Challenging Experiences […]egative Consequences.” Journal of Psychopharmacology, August 20, 2016. Accessed August 14, 2019.

Davis, Kathleen. “Salvia: What Are the Effects?” Medical News Today, January 16, 2019. Accessed August 14, 2019.

Sturtz, Rachel. “Refinery29: 7 Ways To Help Someone Who’s Having A Bad Trip.” Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, 2019. Accessed August 14, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.