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How Do I Know If I’m Integrating My Psychedelic Experience?

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How Do I Know If I’m Integrating My Psychedelic Experience?

I keep hearing about “integration” but what is it exactly? I’ve only ever taken psychedelics at music festivals with my friends. How do I know if I’m integrating my experience and do I need to do that to enjoy psychedelics?

Great question! Integration is the practice of identifying lessons from your drug experiences and mindfully incorporating them into your daily life. The idea is to approach altered states with the mindset that everything contains opportunities for growth and benefit, even if the only takeaway is learning how to better navigate challenges or roll with the unexpected/uncomfortable. 

At the end of the day, integration is really a commitment to ongoing growth. It is, arguably, the most important part of implementing long-lasting change after a psychedelic experience. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing psychedelics without integration afterwards — purely recreational drug use has its own set of potential benefits! — but integration can make the experience significantly richer, more meaningful, and more therapeutic. 

An easy example of integration is journaling or talking about the trip in the days, weeks, or even months/years following, unpacking the emotions that came up, what was difficult, what felt good, what felt weird, or any interesting thoughts that you had. This technique is particularly useful when utilized with the people you tripped with, assuming that you have a good relationship with them. Looking for the lesson is a very powerful tool that doesn’t always produce obvious answers. Sometimes there are clear themes to a trip (grief, loneliness, connection, direction), but other times integration might sound like phrases such as “I noticed that I…” or “I’d like to think more about…” or even “next time I’ll…”. Ultimately, a goal of integration is to know and care for yourself better, especially if your trip was challenging. 

Psychedelics are really powerful drugs. The vast majority of trips will involve some kind of discomfort or confusion at some point in time, and it’s not really talked about enough (during or after). Integration is an act of profound self-love, and I encourage everyone to explore various ways to bring the lessons of their psychedelic journeys into their sober life as well. It’s one thing to have a great night; it’s another thing altogether to have a better life overall because of intentional choices about perspective and behavior.

My boyfriend and I went to a party and were offered LSD by someone we didn’t know. He wanted to take it, but I was nervous. According to my boyfriend, classic psychedelics like LSD and mushrooms don’t get tampered with. Is it safe to take psychedelics from a stranger without testing them?

The most important thing here is to note that drug use is inherently risky, and that it will never be “safe” to do drugs, let alone take them from strangers. This being said, there are indeed various levels of baseline risks to various drugs AND to taking certain drugs from strangers. Your boyfriend is partially correct in that it’s very uncommon for classical psychedelics like LSD and mushrooms to be adulterated, but it is not impossible. 

When it comes to mushrooms, it’s pretty simple: Either you have the right kind of shroom or you don’t. That question is best posed to a mushroom identification forum like the Shroomery, and is more related to correctly identifying the species you’re dealing with so you don’t end up eating something poisonous. You can’t really test mushrooms and you don’t really need to; no one’s going to sprinkle something on your mushies, and you can’t “cut” them. 

LSD is a little more complicated. There is a small subset of LSD adulterants on the market, including the notorious 25i-NBOMe and other compounds within families like DOx (which contains substances such as DOM). The reason that it’s so much less common for LSD to be adulterated is mainly that blotter paper can’t hold very much material. At most, blotter can hold a few milligrams of liquid, which is a sub-threshold dose for pretty much everything (with the exception of the aforementioned drugs and some other similar ones). Anything active at under a few milligrams could theoretically fit in a drop of liquid or a piece of blotter. 

One of the biggest indicators that something is amiss with a tab is a strong, metallic, bitter taste. Pretty much every major LSD adulterant (or drug that’s misrepresented as LSD) tastes distinctly terrible, hence the phrase “if it’s bitter, it’s a spitter.” If you are taking blotter from a stranger and you aren’t testing it, touch it lightly with your tongue to see if you taste anything first. While extremely uncommon, it is also possible for carfentanil (a very powerful opioid, more powerful than fentanyl) to be laid onto blotter. Ideally, all tabs would be tested with Ehrlich’s reagent and a fentanyl strip, but ultimately the likelihood of LSD being misrepresented as something that is a) dangerous and b) not disgusting is relatively unlikely.

Some friends and I went camping and gave mushrooms to a friend who has never done psychedelics. He had a terrible time and we didn’t know what to do to make it better for him, especially since we were all tripping too. I don’t want to go through that again, so is there anything I can do to prepare for something like that in the future?

Sorry to hear that happened! That’s a difficult situation to be in. The most important part of giving someone a drug for the first time is informed consent, which means doing your due diligence in not only ensuring that you yourself are very well-educated about its potential risks and benefits, but that you also share the information you learn with the person you’re dosing. For example, people who are prone to anxiety — especially those who are nervous about doing psychedelics — should probably have their first experience in a comfortable, calm environment. This is one of the core parts of “set” and “setting.” 

If a person has been adequately warned of the kinds of challenges that can come from tripping in certain environments and they choose to do so anyway, their difficult experience is not a problem that you have to “fix” or be held responsible for. No one can know everything about drugs, and at the end of the day whoever you give a substance to is ultimately responsible for doing their own research and making their own choices. You can reduce the risks involved by ensuring that the informed consent piece is as comprehensive as possible. (You can also check out something like the Zendo Project’s 4 principles of psychedelic support.

While many people enjoy tripping on camping trips or in natural environments, others find it overwhelming, frightening, dirty, and isolating. Mushrooms tend to be pretty finicky in this regard. Processing the intense emotions that come up while tripping is a very personal experience, and creature comforts like a cushy bed, soft lighting, and easy access to multiple settings (outside, inside, moving, lying down, alone, together) reduces the strain of feeling trapped. People need to get their sea legs with drugs like psychedelics, and the first 10-odd experiences (or more) will all involve getting a feel for what does and doesn’t work for an individual person’s needs. 

The bottom line here is, if you’re giving someone a drug for the first time it’s a) important to share what you know with them so that they’re going in prepared, and b) best for the experience to be in a predictable, controlled environment where sober help is available (if not present) and it’s possible for the person to be physically comfortable and cared for. Tripping in nature — especially dark nature — can be really intense for even seasoned psychonauts. Have an exit plan and cover all of your physical and psychological bases before dosing, to anticipate problems that might arise and address them in advance.

About Your Psychedelic Auntie

When we have questions about psychedelics, we often consult our Auntie. An Auntie can be a person of any gender who offers wise advice about psychedelic substances and how to effectively use them. Lucid News is asking a collection of well-informed people to step in as Auntie and answer your questions about psychedelics. Some of the best peer-based, accurate information about psychedelic substances and harm reduction comes from DanceSafe, a nonprofit educational organization founded in 1998. DanceSafe provides health and safety services at festivals and events. This month, our Psychedelic Auntie is DanceSafe Programs and Communications Coordinator Rachel Clark. Send your questions to the Psychedelic Auntie via the Lucid News contact page and watch this space for the answers. 

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