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Could Mushrooms Help Me Recover From a Bad Break-Up?

Is it safe to mix ketamine with other psychedelics? I’ve only ever done it by itself, but am curious about the potential benefits or disadvantages of mixing it with other substances.

As always, whenever we look at interactions, we need to look at the specific drugs involved, not just a general class of drugs. For a bit of semantics: The word “psychedelics” technically refers to “classical psychedelics,” which are drugs that act on the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor to produce the stereotypical effects of drugs like LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, and DMT. Language is fluid, though, so it’s pretty common for people to use “psychedelics” to encapsulate all kinds of other drugs like 2C-B, 25i-NBOMe, DOM, salvia, you name it – anything with a psychedelic effect tends to get lumped under the classification of being a psychedelic, even when it’s not technically the case.

Ketamine in conjunction with most other hallucinogens – a broader class description that ketamine itself is a part of – tends to be pretty tame from a physical safety perspective. There are limited exceptions such as drugs that can disrupt your body temperature regulation, or are broken down by the same enzymes that ketamine is. What I’d focus more on is the psychological component, which is informed by your general reaction to each individual drug involved. 

Most hallucinogens tend to produce psychotomimetic effects, meaning that the experience may look and feel like certain elements of psychosis. That does not mean that the experience is psychosis, or that someone is in a psychotic episode. It just means that someone is experiencing an altered state where their perception of reality has shifted temporarily.

There are a few reasons why this is relevant:
1) If you have a family or personal history of mood or psychotic disorders, having an intense experience while altered (in general, on any drug) may pose a higher risk for psychological upset. This is typical of stressors in general, which can act as triggers. Consuming drugs can also be a stressor, just like sleep deprivation or a breakup. This may be compounded if you’re mixing multiple substances that could induce a highly altered state.

2) When you’re tripping, time dilation can make it really easy to lose track of time.This may lead you to take a bunch of bumps of ketamine in the span of a few minutes, which will k-hole you in a whole new (and extra-weird) kind of way. I advise setting timers and having a more-sober friend help out with keeping track of dosing and timing. It’s helpful for that more-sober person to also be in charge of holding on to the bag.

3) Mixing ketamine with other hallucinogens, like classical psychedelics, can be a great time, but not everyone responds well to it. I suggest trying this combination for the first time in an environment that’s more familiar, where you know people and have access to support if you need it. I also suggest – of course – starting low and going slow. Ketamine can take you a lot further when you’re also tripping and may make it tough to keep track of where you’re at – both emotionally and in terms of your limbs in space. You should be aware of the possibility that this mixture could be intense, depending on how high you are before you take the bump of ketamine.

I just went through a horrible break up and am feeling depressed and upset. I could use a reset and thought mushrooms might help. It would be my first time taking psychedelics, so should I wait, or is now prime time?

I think it’s easy to internalize psychedelics as a way to “reset” or “shake things up,” but let’s make two things clear: 1) Shrooms are unpredictable, and 2) they’ll amplify everything that’s already inside of you.

With that said: I don’t think it’s necessarily a terrible idea to do this. I’m thinking back on a previous column where someone asked a similar question about whether it would be a good idea to trip for the first time on a first date. In this case, I don’t think I’d recommend an initial mushroom experience at this point in time. If you decide to proceed, you need to consider the possibility that you could experience serious emotional upset, even to a traumatic degree, because of the amount of baseline distress you’re currently in. 

A lot depends on how well your environment is set up to support you through what might be a very difficult journey. Note: It’s always possible for any journey to be/become difficult. The circumstances surrounding your trip tend to influence the likelihood of that happening. 

How much social support is available to you right now? Do you have friends who are 1) experienced with psychedelics and 2) willing and able to sit with you, or help you integrate your experience afterwards? Do you have stable housing? A space that you feel comfortable and safe in? Access to healthcare for additional support?

Another important factor here is dosage. Larger doses of mushrooms make the experience more volatile and prone to sudden shifts, so if you choose to proceed, I’d recommend microdosing (that’s about 0.1-0.3 grams of mushrooms, with a true microdose being in the 0.1-0.2 gram range) first. This would allow you to gradually acclimate to the sensations and changes in perception. 

It’s common for psychedelics to make people cry a lot, so get ready for that. Most importantly, take adequate time to get grounded in the fact that nothing is a silver bullet, and mushrooms aren’t guaranteed to change you in any way. What truly matters is how you pull lessons from your experience and integrate them into your daily life. It is often said that integration is the most important part of any psychedelic experience, which I have always found to be true.

Remember that psychedelics are very powerful substances. They can make your own bedroom feel like an alien planet, which may feel deeply frightening or lonely – or super cool, depending on where you’re at. Difficult experiences are frequently hailed as being the most transformative and positive in the long-term, but it’s important to have resources available for processing them. 

Doing drugs takes practice! You will learn much about yourself, if you choose to read between the lines. Part of that is being able to check your motivation – why do you want to do mushrooms at this time? Is it because you want them to fix how you’re feeling? Is it because you’re holding an expectation? Is it because you’re surrendering to the next chapter? Or are you seeking something?

These are all part of your intention setting, which is more like a preparatory process than a wish list. The mushrooms don’t care what your wish list is – they’ll give you whatever they want you to see and feel – but setting your intentions will help you roll with the punches and accept what comes. At the end of the day, this, too, shall pass. As it always has, and as it always will. I hope you find your feet on solid ground soon.

I’ve noticed that when I take lower doses of psilocybin it seems to magnify my anxiety and the judgy voices in my head, and then I get stuck there for the duration of the trip. This appears to be the opposite of what the studies are showing. Any idea why?

I’m curious what “lower doses” means to you, since some people might consider that to be under one gram and others might consider it to be over two. I’ll say right off the bat that many people find doses of under a gram to be a “one foot in, one foot out” kind of situation, where you’re not quite fully settled in being high versus being sober. This tends to exacerbate existing feelings of being socially out of place or awkward, which can feel isolating. It’s a normal part of this awkward middle-ground dose range for a lot of people!

On the other hand, this is an interesting thing to take note of, and I really suggest exploring it more instead of trying to move away from it. Every dose tier of psychedelics presents new opportunities for understanding yourself. Since this low-dose middle ground tends to be a bit more uncomfortable than either true microdosing or full trips, it poses a unique opportunity to get really good at meditatively observing your thoughts and emotions.

One way to do this might be sitting back as a third party who’s watching yourself think and feel: “Looks like my body is in a state of fight or flight. It appears that my calves are tensing, which means that my body is trying to direct blood flow to them so I can run from a predator. Unless I’m in physical danger, that doesn’t seem like an appropriate use of my body’s energy right now, and I know I’m not in physical danger. So I don’t think I need to do anything about it. It’s a false alarm.”

Engaging in this kind of gentle therapeutic process while on mushrooms can feel frightening, uncomfortable, or deeply cathartic. But it can also give you loads of insight into what brings you anxiety, how you respond to it, and why. You can think of it as a sort of sandbox experience where you’re experimenting with different methods of reacting to your thoughts, physical sensations, and emotions.

I personally believe that you have to “pay the troll toll” to get many of the fabled all-fun-all-the-time experiences on psychedelics. Even then, it’s canon that most trips involve at least some physical or mental discomfort. Since tripping tends to amplify what exists within you, things can surface that you’ve been avoiding (or just aren’t in the mood to face). That’s a part of this whole ordeal, and it can be deeply, enormously transformative if you allow it to be. 

True personal transformation is usually slow and intentional, and sometimes profoundly difficult and painful. Being aware of this and engaging in these uncomfortable spaces voluntarily, of your own accord, is a brave act of its own. The lessons aren’t always obvious, but they’re always there if you look for them.

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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