Yes, we know those aren’t the right drugs. We told our illustrator, Alec Borchardt, to draw drugs and this is what he gave us. Close enough.
Why A Bad Trip Is No Excuse
The internet has run rampant with accounts of casual and occasionally blasphemous drug use, strongly coinciding with Vice entering the vogue.
It would follow that the notion of the drug culture unifying together would make drugs not only more accessible, but more responsibly imbibed, such has not been the case. Gone ought be the days of recklessly ill-conceived acid trips resulting in physical and mental scars. LSD, mushrooms, MDMA and other drugs of this class are some of the safest highs on the planet – but public perception that they are dangerous persists.
What advice is there? With a tired frequency do I hear the banal advice so easily summated by “Set and setting.”
“Set and setting, man, just remember, set and setting.”
This pearl of sage wisdom is as true as it is useless.
“Set and setting” represent a point in space and time but becomes useless in the untethered experience that is to follow. Good intentions won’t follow you into the ether.
Yes, these are vital constituencies of virtually any experience regardless of psychoactive property, but they are far too static in nature. Let’s look at it another way, shall we:
So you’ve found three of your bestest pals and planted the lot of you within an expansive meadow containing no authority figures or sharp edges. Fabulous. Now you each dissolve a tab of higher consciousness between your gums and cheek –what then of the next six hours of existence?
What regulation or warranty do you have over where James’ mind wanders, where the trip meets reality?
From merely a recreational standpoint, drugs are not in and of themselves a righteous experience. They may act as a catalyst for a good time, but more ingredients are necessary, for that catalyst is unspecific by nature. A strong hallucinogen will shoot whatever permeates your brain-stem to the moon whether it be good, evil, or ambiguous.
Despite all pretension to create an amicable circumstance, darkness and the struggle for control over one’s constitution are ingrained in human nature. The former must be resigned to incorporate its innate beauty, while the latter must be mediated; now does that responsibility fall upon the set or the setting?
What I intend to address here is the dire necessity for not only consideration for the set and the setting, but the presence of the Shepherd. His or her role is to escort novices through the skewed realms of altered states. This sage may be in equal parts intoxicated or wholly sober. I myself have taken on this role many times.
Without arguing whether drugs have any non-recreational merit, there is something profound to be said of the accomplished acid freak.
I vividly recall an acid trip I led: our come up was spent in a certain languid car ride out into the open desert. The drive was accompanied by the notably intense Oingo Boingo track Insanity, a 90’s epic that only Danny Elfman could orchestrate (this is neither here nor there, but one of my greatest frustrations in life is the immediately dated reference to Dan Quayle in what would otherwise be a rock masterpiece), and served to absolve us of the suburbia in our rear-view and beckon us into the abrupt isolation that was ahead. It was a daring choice but it proved fruitful.
To have experienced unwavering duplicity among dimensions, poked holes in time and space or encountered unicorns with the mind’s eye, and nonetheless maintain any regard for objective reality, is a monumental feat, as made most evident by the burnouts littering our alleyways.
Psilocybin and its relatives teach us the merit and necessity to relinquish portions of the rigid control of our senses our subconscious holds so dear. It is when our subjective comprehension fails us that fear begins to take root. This slick slope is the cause of most negative drug experiences. Psychedelics either teach us how to let go or what happens when you don’t.
Letting go isn’t a free-fall into madness or depravity (unless you already have evil within your core, in which case whoever is around you should have known better than to do drugs with your ass), it is accepting the invariable state of affairs, the stoic nature. “I am on drugs, and that is okay.”
Should you and proverbial James only have each other to relay any certainty of what is and isn’t a manifestation? The Shepherd is an anchor that will ably indicate to you when is and isn’t the time to freak the fuck out. It is their prerequisite experience and understanding of the drug that should provide this.
Hunter Thompson would not be the idyllic testament to excess that he is if there wasn’t an underlying grasp of the cognitive state. There is no atrocious story of him running down mother and carriage in his Cadillac accompanied by Lucy and Jim Beam. No account of him mistaking Juan for a wild cougar amidst a hallucinatory stupor and taking aim. This would be no role idol. The chaos that he allowed gracious company to experience was of a subtly organized sort. He knew his mind, he knew his body, and he knew his drug. He tested the limits of each, but he never trusted any of them.
It is this that separates drug use from a drug experience. Without an entity to reliably assure that everything is okay whilst urging you forward along the journey, you and your buddies are doomed to the fetal position in respective corners, too afraid to let the embers build.
I’d like to address another important facet of the drug experience that is vehemently ignored by the bland hippie community and that is the aforementioned darkness.
There is no good in the world without bad to contrast it. No welcoming of summer’s soothing warmth without reflection on the pricks of winter. While the notion of tripping balls on heavenly clouds of fluff is certainly curious, it would be utterly mundane. I have lead many a novice on their first steps into psychedelia and I assure you it is not comfort and warmth that lingers in their retrospect, it is the excitement of adventure.
Anyone in the depths of a drug binge will want some grasp on their surroundings or where they are being lead, but I’ve consistently disregarded this nagging plea, while maintaining a careful balance of assuredness in my accord (never take someone holding no previous degree of resolute trust in your goodwill, anywhere, on a head full of acid).
As a trip lead, I do not antagonize, I hold their hand, beckoning them onward into uncertainty with a destination in mind and a bag of tricks in my pocket.
I nurture their needs, mediate their fears, on their way to somewhere they never would have gone.
The above represent the most fundamental truths of drug use I have learned over my years, but the most important lesson of all is not to do drugs in the first place, ever never!
Below lies assorted tips I might lend a novice user to keep in mind and are occasionally over-simplifications of general truths I’ve found.
While all psychedelics express themselves in a recognizably similar fashion, there are distinctions to be made and experience in one does not always translate to another.
Psilocybin (Magic Mushrooms)
Psilocybin and mescaline are both first-pass metabolized and as such convey a much stronger synergy between the body and the mind. The inner turmoil of digestion can have a lasting effect on the trip well beyond the initial come-up.
Psilocybin plays out in a typical bell fashion, rising, peaking, subsiding steadily.
Whereas mescaline distinctively plays out in striking waves, undulated by periods of relative albeit deceptive periods of sobriety. This simple variance allows for the drug to be far less intimidating as one can abate a moment of undesired intensity by the reliable lapsing.
I can’t weigh in on this one as I have deliberately avoided it, but I will explain why:
The exploration of the psychedelic realm, the opening of the third eye, expansion of the mind, whatever nebulous way you want to express it, inevitably loses its enchantment as mastery of a substance grows. The drug becomes something understood and assimilated into the consciousness. There is no more mysterious allure in taking LSD anymore; though curiosity begs me to up the dose into the unreasonable, chasing that dragon leads to devastating futility. I only dare to tell you how to do drugs because I have managed not to fuck it up as many of my brothers have, collapsing into oblivion, the hallmark stupor.
As such, I have decided, along with my dearest tripping companion, to save this particular substance, lauded as the most potent of the hallucinogens, for our thirties. So that something unconquered awaits us. Life, as much as drug abuse, benefits greatly from the virtue of delayed gratification. The most benefit is gained by keeping trips relatively infrequent so as to most magnify the contrast between the altered state and reality itself. Otherwise, it becomes your subjective reality and loses its majesty.
LSD does not progress linearly by dose as mushrooms might. More mushrooms feels likes more mushrooms vaguely similar to how more beer feels simply like more beer.
LSD, however, MUST be respected as an incremental ladder into a dark attic. While three tabs is obviously more potent than one tab, it is not merely a magnification of what the experience of that one tab was, it is an entirely new beast.
Any responsible acid freak ought steadily progress up this ladder, conquering each peg, respecting it as something new and unventured.
As such, regardless of previous experience with any drug, take one dose on your first occasion.
Granted a positive experience, you may escalate the next encounter to two, then three, and so on. LSD is not forgiving of over-confident companions.
Acid must be addressed in far more abstract terms, in my humble opinion. I have always regarded it as a sort of amiable parasite affixed to the back of my head that possesses needs and desires apart from my own, that must be given pause and compromise. It, or she, or whatever term of endearment you want to use, will never drive you toward harm. Any detriment comes from your own psyche alone and must be dealt with on its own terms, soberly, and ideally prior to the bonding. It is an unfortunate fact that many of our darker recesses are allowed to be repressed by our guilt and ego until the acid pulls that rug out from underneath. Tread wearily.
All drugs have fascinating contraindications and synergy with one another. I consider it a folly that most hesitate from mixing and matching (by the same token, never be oblivious to what else might be targeting your serotonin receptors). I have typically sought to maintain a drug trifecta of sorts to reach an ideal state. A stimulant to balance out and bring forth the best components of a depressant: ganja to even out the edges of a psilocybin come-up; or caffeine and nicotine to contrast the sloppy nature of a drinking binge.
Don’t play this haphazardly, have a primary intoxicant and add practical compliments in equally practical quantities. Caffeine, nicotine, and marijuana go well with just about anything. How they will intensify mushrooms can be unpredictable, but one rule I can extend is that everything feeds the acid, and the acid is always hungry. Give me three tabs of acid and I’ll be contented, but the acid itself is going to want a six-pack, a joint, and a carton of Pall Malls.
The come-up phase of any trip should be treated with as much reverence as what follows. Nerves are tense, anticipation high. Have the transition from normalcy bridged by something equally transient.
In summation, the old adage is the best adage: Know your body, know your mind, know your drug.
Other tidbits rise to mind but we’re getting rather long in the tooth. I would love to hear your feedback or other thoughts and tips you have for amateur freaks in the comments below. Happy tripping!
Previously by Aaron Miles:
My Life As A Corporate Shill Ain’t So Bad
The Greatest Concert Venue Of All Time Is In Phoenix.
Aaron Miles couldn’t handle the simple task of writing a bio in third-person unironically. He later went online to make sure “unironically” was in fact a word. He was fairly certain, and was in fact correct. Miles wants to change the world, but in reality is just an above-average billiards player.
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