This year, millions of people will use psychedelics outside of supervised medical contexts, many of them for the first time. Taking psychedelics can result in overwhelming and uncomfortable experiences, more likely with high doses, amongst first-time users, and without adequate preparation or setting. Psychedelic harm reduction includes a variety of methods to help prevent and transform difficult experiences while in a non-ordinary state of consciousness.
Providing Services to Festivals and the Community
The Zendo Project:
Reduces the number of psychiatric hospitalizations and arrests
Creates an environment where volunteers can work alongside one another to improve their harm reduction skills and receive training and feedback
Demonstrates that safe, productive psychedelic experiences are possible without the need for law enforcement-based prohibitionist policies
Zendo Project's 4 Guiding Principles for Psychedelic Experiences
If someone is having a challenging experience try to move them into a comfortable, warm, and calm environment. If possible try to avoid noisy or crowded spaces. Ask what would make them most comfortable. Offer blankets and water.
Talk through, not down
Without distracting from the experience, help the person connect with what they are feeling. Invite person to take the opportunity to explore what’s happening and encourage them to try not to resist it.
Sitting, not guiding
Be a calm meditative presence of acceptance, compassion, and caring. Promote feelings of trust and security. Let the person’s unfolding experience be the guide. Don’t try to get ahead of the process. Explore distressing issues as they emerge, but simply being with the person can provide support.
Difficult is not bad
Challenging experiences can wind up being our most valuable, and may lead to learning and growth. Consider that it may be happening for an important reason. Suggest that they approach the fear and difficult aspects of their experience with curiosity and openness.
Characteristics of a Challenging Psychedelic Experience
Psychedelic experiences can vary tremendously, and are sometimes unpredictable, but are most influenced by these factors:
- Presence of impurities
- Sense of safety
- Level of noise/activity
- Emotional state
- Psychological well-being
- Previous experience with substance
Possible characteristics of a challenging experience:
Feeling alone or trapped
Altered sense of time and space
Fear of losing control
Zendo Project is sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a 501©3 research and education organization that develops medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana. To find out more, visit MAPS.org.