9 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Taking Psychedelics For Health & Personal Growth

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In a world that can feel increasingly chaotic and fractured, do you desire internal peace and satisfaction? There are potential benefits of "magic mushrooms" and other psychedelics for healing and personal transformation, but you might be unsure of where to even begin.

The use of the word "psychedelic" in English is often originally attributed to British psychiatrist, Humphry Osmond, who wrote in a letter to famed writer Aldous Huxley in the 1950s, "To fathom hell or soar angelic, just take a pinch of psychedelic." 

If you have experience with these powerful compounds, that sentiment may resonate. It's important to understand that these psychoactive compounds found in plants and fungi are tools and not toys.

Your setting, intention, and preparation can have a large impact on the actual experience. But people often make mistakes when first approaching the use of psychedelics for personal growth and transformation.

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Here are 9 common mistakes you need to avoid when taking psychedelics for treatment.

1. Not considering safety and contraindications.

Plant medicines/psychedelics can (and often are) highly useful and healing to many people, but there are certain situations, medical/pre-existing conditions, and medications that need to be taken into consideration before a person engages with these modalities.

Psychedelics and plant medicines are tools, not toys, and they should be approached with the appropriate amount of care and consideration. 

Psilocybin, the hallucinogenic compound found in magic mushrooms, for instance, has likely been used for thousands of years to aid ritualistic experiences vital to many communities. 

2. Not thinking about set and setting.

Your mindset prior to entering into a journey on plant medicines can have a large impact on the experience.

Setting is equally important, as the mind and body need to feel safe and secure in order to relax and allow healing and exploration to occur.

I generally spend a considerable amount of time with my private clients on this aspect of preparation prior to them approaching a therapeutic session on their own. 

3. Not testing substances.

Unfortunately, we are currently in an era of prohibition (though that seems to be changing) and, as such, these medicines are not regulated.

It's important that you know and trust your source and, when possible, test the substances you are taking. A simple rule to easily remember is: "Test before you ingest."

4. Not knowing the dose.

Dosing some medicines can be as simple as weighing them (though potency can be different), but with other medicines, it can be difficult to know the dosage.

One good rule of thumb is to take a small amount first and see how it affects you if you are unsure of the dosage.

A small financial investment in a proper digital scale can make the difference between an experience being fairly pleasant and valuable versus one that brings you farther out into the psychedelic waters than you are prepared to swim. 

There's also the popular trend of microdosing to take into account. This involves taking an exact small dose of certain compounds like magic mushrooms for anxiety or ketamine for depression in order to eliminate symptoms without compromising cognitive function. 

The benefits of microdosing are currently being thoroughly studied. 

5. Not having a plan and doing your research.

Most of the "bad trips" that I've heard of are a result of one or more of the following: 

Not having a well-thought-out and intentional plan.

Taking a substance that they weren’t totally sure what it was (or unsure of the dose).

Not taking the medicine in an appropriate setting.

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6. Not having support or a sitter.

This is important for most, if not all, journeys, but particularly if this is your first time.

These can be profound experiences and having someone there to hold the space and help you remain somewhat grounded, especially as you come back down, can be the difference between a positive experience vs. a less-than-desirable one.  

7. Not vetting facilitators.

There are a lot of facilitators, practitioners, and shamans out there. Like anything else, some are better and more concerned about your well-being than others.

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Consider whether they talk about safety and what their background is. Do they have personal experience engaging with the medicine? What does your intuition tell you? 

8. Remember that you're on a drug.

This may sound over-simplified, but once you have experienced a journey on psychedelic plant medicines you will understand. The experiences a person has can (and often do) feel hyper-real, and you can lose your grounding in time and space.

The word "psychedelic" has its origins in Greek, combining "psyche," meaning "mind" and "deloun," meaning "to make visible or reveal." Thus, it translated to English as "mind revealing."

Taking them can be a bit of a difficult experience for some, depending on your level of familiarity and comfort with non-ordinary states of consciousness. However, this is a part of the process and can be beautiful if one can surrender to it and focus on the benefits of magic mushrooms and other psychedelics.

A simple reminder to yourself that you intentionally choose to partake in this experience. It's only momentary and will end, and it can be a major source of peace and comfort in the midst of what may sometimes feel like a storm. 

9. Not having an integration plan.

Most of the time people choose to engage with these altered states of consciousness in order to provide some sort of healing, expand their consciousness, and develop enlightened perspectives.

Bringing these profound "mountain top" experiences into your daily life can be difficult.

But, working with a knowledgeable practitioner that can help you properly prepare for and successfully integrate these wonderful experiences into your life is often the difference between having an interesting experience vs. a truly life-changing event

These are just a few of the benefits of magic mushrooms and other psychedelics, and more research is pouring in all the time. Soon we may know the answer to questions like, "just how do psychedelics help depression?" 

Consider this quote from George Andrews as a reminder of the need to pay careful attention to our approach with these medicines: "Whether drugs lead to illumination or degradation depends on the spirit in which one takes them." 

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Troy Madsen is a certified Psychedelic Integration Professional who's passionate about supporting individuals along their personal healing journey. Learn more about Troy and his work on his website