AND JUST SO YOU KNOW: This post isn’t meant to glorify psychedelic drug use in any way — only illuminate the vast range of effects they have and hopefully educate y’all a little bit more about them. These anecdotes represent only the experiences of the people who wrote them, and neither drug will affect one person in the same way as the next.
Acid (aka LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide) and magic mushrooms (psilocybin mushrooms or shrooms) are listed as Schedule I substances under the Controlled Substances Act, which means that they have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the US, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. In other words, they are illegal and always potentially dangerous. ???
OK, let’s go!
There are differences between the two drugs, but some may find the effects similar.
“Both were different but also similar. Shrooms is like an intense body high that almost makes you nauseas, but with visuals. Solid things like doors and mattresses breathe up and down, and you can stare at them forever. LSD was a lot more mental. It was as if my head was opened and my brain was scrubbed clean and soaked in mouthwash because there was so much clarity. There’s still visuals and swirls, but it’s less intense than shrooms. On LSD, you hallucinate less but everything is a lot more beautiful. I felt like I had stepped into a Wes Anderson film and every shadow and light and color complimented each other perfectly.”
They aren’t anything like what you’d see in TV shows or movies.
“It’s not like TV/movies, where cartoon characters will appear out of nowhere, but you will experience thoughts and sights you would’ve never thought of, or perceived, while sober.”
They can affect your senses.
“I tried mushrooms with my three close friends in the comfort of our own apartment during a blizzard, which was the perfect setting because we felt safe and cozy inside, away from the snow. I found that tripping allowed me to revert back to a childlike way of thinking; everything was funny, wonderful, light. Music sounded better, colors looked brighter, food exploded with flavor in my mouth. I stared at the ceiling for a solid hour because the visuals made it seem like the textured plaster was almost breathing in the most warming, welcoming way.”
And they can also cause visual hallucinations.
“I had an Iron Maiden concert poster in my room and the lights from the stage were flashing on and off. It felt like I was actually there. And when I looked down at my jeans, and then looked at my arm, my skin looked denim textured.”
Which might sometimes resemble synesthesia.
“Took it at a festival and wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of visuals that everyone talks about. I could see rainbows everywhere and I could physically see music. I could see music in the shape of different colors and fractals forming on different surfaces. I would watch my friends around me interact and could see the vibrations when they would speak — I could see everyone’s aura. Where my friends all had auras in oranges and yellows and lime green, a friend’s ex-girlfriend had a blue and forest green aura when she came closer. I truly felt like I was in Alice in Wonderland where colors and shapes were brighter and clearer.”
They can affect your perception and awareness of dangerous situations.
“During a spring break road trip this past year, my boyfriend Omar, our friend Marshall, and I all decided to take 2.75 grams of shrooms in a state park in Florida. Omar has also done psychedelics a few times and we both consider ourselves pretty well versed in how to handle them. Marshall had never tried any before and was pretty nervous about how they would affect him. The park was beautiful, so we were hoping for a chance to enjoy nature along with some nice self-reflection.
The shrooms affected me first and after only 20 minutes I was wildly tripping and could see incredible geometric shapes in the blue sky. When we were all tripping, we decided to go into the woods to get closer to nature. We were having a great time talking about our experience. It felt like we had been in there for years, but really it had only been a few hours when it started to get dark. We were excited to head back and start a bonfire at our campsite. On the walk back we accidentally wandered into an open field. It wasn’t until we got further that we realized there were about 25 deer there. At first, it was so exciting to be close to something so natural and beautiful, but then we noticed that the biggest buck in the group was stomping on the ground and “hissing” at us. That’s when I realized we were actually in a really scary situation. The scene had changed abruptly, and I felt trapped. They all blended together in the group so it was hard to see where one deer’s body ended and the other began.
All of a sudden, the biggest female came sprinting out of the group and charged us head on. Even though I was tripping, my adrenaline kicked in and I ran faster than ever before back toward the path, not even knowing if the deer or my friends were behind me. Once I was safely away, I saw that Marshall and Omar had followed, and the deer was retreating back to the field. We were absolutely terrified, and couldn’t believe what was happening. We headed back to the correct path and on the walk back, there were dead palm trees lining the path, and every single lead looked like the face of the deer that came at us. It was so dark and I felt like hundreds of deer eyes were on us.
We all felt like we had come down from the shrooms quite a bit by the time we got back. We started to build a fire, and then realized there were about four deer at the edge of the woods near our tent. I was too scared to move and didn’t know what would happen, so the three of us slowly walked toward the car and climbed in to wait out the rest of the trip. Out of nowhere, Marshall started slamming his hands against the window of the car; he told us that he was really in a dark place and couldn’t stop thinking bad thoughts — he kept saying nature was out to get him. We helped calm him down by reminding him that he was on a drug, and that the drug always wears off. We told him the world was not out to get him, and that he had to remember this situation could happen to anyone. I had never seen anyone have a bad trip before; this one was truly heartbreaking.
We had totally come down from the shrooms after a few hours in the car, but we didn’t feel safe sleeping in a tent outside because it was very possible that we had disturbed the deer and they had targeted us as a threat, and when we got out of the car, the deer were still in the woods. So we packed up and drove ourselves to the nearest hotel outside the state park. We all had nightmares that night and even the next morning the three of us were on edge.
I’ve always associated deer with nature, but since that trip, I’ve been incredibly uncomfortable whenever I see deer — and much jumpier around any wildlife in general. Biggest lesson? If you choose to do psychedelic drugs, do NOT do them in an area that you are unfamiliar with or where you do not have a safe place to come down because it can be very dangerous, especially if you have reservations about how the drug is going to affect you.
Smaller, more mundane things in life can be magnified.
“Once at a house party, me and my boyfriend at the time each took about a stem and a cap of shrooms, which is not much. Later that night when I thought the trip was over (it was not), I ended up in a fast food burger joint drive-thru. I spent a solid five to 10 minutes staring at the menu. Mushrooms make colors appear incredibly vivid, and the contrast of the perfectly crisp green lettuce, the ruby red tomato with obligatory water drops around the edges, the electric yellow slightly melted cheese, and the deep brown char-grilled burger was about the most beautiful thing I could have imagined in the world at that moment. It made me realize that beauty can be found in the most mundane places.”
And they might change how you see the world.
“I took a moderate dose of shrooms and went for a solo adventure in the Big Sur wilderness, where I entered an incomprehensible state of total euphoria. At the peak of my trip I was laying on a massive fallen tree that formed a natural bridge over a small creek. It felt as if I was completely connected to the surrounding nature, as if the molecular composition of my body was vibrating at the same exact rate as everything around me. I still find it difficult to describe what it was like to feel this level of connectedness, but I can say it was one of the most beautiful and intimate experiences of my life.”
“I took some mushrooms one day and went into the forest. I felt like I could see the trees/plants breathing, and this pulsing energy around them. It was pretty cool and pretty eye-opening in a way. Ever since that instance I got really into recycling and the environment, and I still am.”
—Devin Smith, 28
Including a new perspective on all the things that have been going on in your mind.
“Ever since my first mushroom experience in my early 20s, I’ve made it a point to eat some mushrooms at least every couple years. For me, the experience is grounding and helps me take stock of where I am, what I’m doing, and where I’m going in life. It’s not a party experience. They are a little bit like going to a work conference for my life. They’re a way to create some mental distance from the day-to-day and get a new perspective, especially when I feel stuck or the world seems particularly hostile and chaotic.“
They can make things seem profound in a way that doesn’t happen in the real world.
“In the midst of a trip, my friend and I were drawing with colored pencils. At some point, I took a pink colored pencil and chose not to use my piece of paper — I started drawing on her piece of paper instead. She looked up at me, and said, ‘This is slavery.’ It might not sound like it makes sense, but my friend was a woman of color. We had this intense moment, and in her profound wisdom, she nodded and said she would fix it. Then she slowly ripped off my little pink section of the paper. We hugged and continued to draw and converse. It was a poignant moment that I think back to often.”
Or affect how you see yourself.
“Whenever I take acid, I get a feeling that nothing really matters. It’s almost like pulling back the veil on all these external pressures that we put on ourselves every day. I’m at a phase in my life where every decision and every mistake seems so crucial, which can lead to me being really hard on myself. When I’m on acid it gives me a nice moment to tell myself, ‘It’s fine. You’re doing OK. The world is actually pretty cool and you have so many reasons to be grateful.‘”
They might take you on an emotional ride.
“It absolutely changed my life. The first seven hours were beautiful, hilarious, and awe-inspiring. The last seven hours, however, were absolutely terrifying. I felt disconnected to the two people I had taken it with, as they were better friends, and felt completely trapped and alone. It was like your worst anxiety attack times 1,000,000. The bad part of the trip scared me straight, but it did help me to live a cleaner, more healthy life. I would recommend anyone who tries LSD not to think of it as a party drug or a way to have fun, but as a very emotional journey.”
And having a bad trip can make later ones just as uncomfortable.
“I’ve dropped acid a few times. However, the first time I did it, I was bit by what felt like a million mosquitos. Any other time I dropped acid from that trip forward, I’d itch endlessly for hours, even in the dead of cold winter. I’d hope with each acid trip that it wouldn’t happen, but it still would.”
You might think deeply or notice things you normally wouldn’t.
“It was one of the most eye-opening experiences. I took LSD with my friend and we ran around campus laughing and giggling at everything. The most surreal moment was when I looked down at my hands and made a fist. I thought about how my brain sent a signal to my hand to clench, and that I am just a human meat machine designed by millions of years of evolution here on this tiny, insignificant ball of dirt flying through the universe. I still carry that perspective with me today, and it has shaped my outlook on life.”
And some people find the experience to be life-changing.
“Surprisingly, the mushrooms really helped me come to terms with PTSD caused by an extremely abusive relationship. With each trip I faced my demons and learned more about myself, with the pinnacle being the last time I ever did them. I was at friend’s cabin out by a lake, and he put on an album about an angel being thrown out of heaven and sent to hell. From there, the angel climbed out of hell to earth, and then back to heaven. During my trip it felt like I was doing the same thing, and afterward, I finally felt like a human being for the first time in years. That trip was a major turnaround in my life and I’ve never looked back since.”
Or at least have an effect that lasts for weeks…
“After reading some promising studies regarding the effects of psilocybin on PTSD symptoms, I decided to give them a go. It wasn’t a decision made lightly — I’d spent the previous 15 years navigating every imaginable treatment, all of which had major side effects and few benefits.
In a calm environment with low lighting and gentle music, I choked down the recommended amount without really knowing what to expect. Within 30 minutes, I felt as though I’d taken a gentle muscle relaxer. Within an hour, I was in a place that can only be described as ‘bathed in texture,’ where all of my senses were blended and my perception entirely abstract. At some point near the 90-minute mark, the magic happened. If you’ve never fallen into a deep depression, you can’t know how heavy the thoughts and emotions can become. Your brain feels thick with pressure, bogged down with a chemical mud you can’t see or think or feel your way through. The mushrooms made me feel as though someone had poured crystal clean water through all of that terrible, miserable sludge. It was a washing away of the shackles that dug into my brain. I could breathe again. The world was bright.
I was myself, for the first time in far too long. I flat wept in relief. It was the only calm I’d found in a years-long storm of horrible memories and broken fight-or-flight impulses. It was nothing like the numbing of Xanax or Klonopin, or the icky fog of booze or benzodiazepines. It felt natural and clean, artistic and welcome. When the experience was over, I felt mentally and emotionally present for weeks afterward, as though I’d meditated for years and had relearned how to focus.“
Although sometimes they may cause lasting negative effects.
“At first it was amazing; everything was bright and colorful. I was camping with some friends in the middle of the desert and it looked like the entire desert was lit up with neon lights. But as I got further into my trip, I started to panic. One moment I would be by our tent, and the next minute I’d be in the middle of the desert without remembering how I’d got there. Everything felt different to the touch. I remember having a baggie of almonds in my pocket, reaching in there, and thinking they were small bugs crawling through my hands. I felt trapped in this trip. One of my friends zipped me up in a sleeping bag, and I thought it was a body bag and he was a firefighter. I thought I was dead. The next day, and for months after, I felt sad and anxious. I won’t say that I regret trying shrooms but I will say that I haven’t been the same since, and I will never do them again.”
“I’ve taken acid a handful of times; the first few were very pleasant, but the last one has me scarred for life. Three years ago, I took an unknown dose, which was probably way too much, and the hallucinations were terrifying from the beginning. There was a point where I realized I am truly alone in this world and that everything is pointless.
By the the end of the night, my brain had become so overwhelmed with stress that it started shutting down my body. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk, and I had tunnel vision. I had to go to the hospital and the majority of my body stayed numb for several weeks. To this day, I have heart trouble along with anxiety and panic disorders that cause non-epileptic seizures. Please be careful when or if you use acid, and make sure you know how much you’re taking. I regret that trip so much.”
And they can quickly become too intense.
“A group of us went hiking and took one tab each (I took a second tab about 6 hours later). The effects came slowly; the first thing I noticed were the clouds zooming across the sky right toward me. I looked at my friends and I could see their veins all throughout their bodies, or at least what I thought were veins. I laid down on the ground and felt as if I were a part of the Earth.
But then the effects intensified. I was crying super hard, and when I realized I was crying, I started crying even harder because I didn’t know why I was crying in the first place. One of my friends, who was also tripping, walked me away from the group to calm me down, but the way he was helping me, I started to think I was in a video game being guided by a character, and that freaked me out even more. After all of those intense feelings subsided eventually.”
Which can be especially bad if you’re typically an anxious person.
“I have pretty bad anxiety so I was prone to bad trips. Every time I took acid, I was afraid to touch my body in any way because I felt numb and thought I was accidentally tearing up my skin. One time I was at a McDonald’s and thought there was an ambulance outside. My friend asked me, ‘Is it something we did?’ They were asking if they triggered my bad trip, but in my head I thought they were asking why I hurt myself. I was convinced I had scratched part of my face off, but I was too scared to ask anyone.
Soon after, we were in the car with my friends dad and I could’ve sworn I heard him say, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll take her somewhere that can help her.’ I thought we were in a police chase. Finally, there are just some hella weird parts too. For example, I once saw tree branches all curling into a spiral. And an ice cream truck passed by and I kept hearing it for hours despite it being long gone.”
They might make you lose control and affect your judgement.
“The first time I ever properly tried mushrooms, I was 17 and I full blown went for it. I was drunk and at a party, and my dumb, inexperienced ass decided to cram at least two handfuls into my mouth. It was far beyond an amount you should do for the first time. I went back to the party, had a tickle fight with someone, then sat down in the lounge. At some point, the room became more and more vibrant; every color was trying to reach out to me and the room began to warp and close in on me. I tried getting away by going to the bathroom, where I shut myself inside, and had a solid conversation with the toilet.
In front of the house, there was an empty camper van with a large double bed inside. It probably saved my ass that night. I left the bathroom and headed to it because I knew I was losing control very fast, and I had to get away from people. As I was struggling to open the front door, one of the people who lived in the house came over to help me. I muttered some gibberish to her about going to the van and I remember her nodding and letting me out, then staring at me as if she were amused. This little moment truly sent my brain on an intense downward spiral later on. I convinced myself that my entire life had been leading up to this night, that everyone knew this was gonna happen to me, and that they had set me up. I actually believed that everything I had known or experienced up to this point in time had never actually been genuine. I thought about my brother’s death the year before, and believed that even that was part of the ‘plot.’ It was horrifying.
The inside of this van had orange fairy lights strung across the windows. They warped into different shapes, at one point turning into long sharp claws that tried to take my eyes out.
There was actually a period where I left the van and took a walk down the road. I didn’t know where I was trying to go. I ended up in a field, where I sat for awhile. At this point in the trip, I had convinced myself that I had been personally chosen and possessed by Satan himself. I felt powerful and invincible, so I decided to throw myself under the next car I saw to test my invincibility. I saw one, but at the last moment, a tiny section of my brain reminded me that I was tripping, and being run over wouldn’t be good. I sat bolt upright, and then realized that the car was actually an illusion.
Once I was back at the van, I stopped thinking I was possessed and fell back into thinking my whole life was a setup and the terror of this very scary trip. This has actually become the reason for every one of the panic attacks I’ve experienced in everyday life. Time as a general concept lost all meaning, and I imagined feeling unbearable pain, like I was being suffocated. I started having suicidal thoughts as well as thoughts about attacking others. And suddenly I started flailing around inside the van (which, thankfully, was padded all around) trying to harm myself. Fortunately, I gradually lost the urge to harm myself or others.
I can’t remember the next couple of hours, but I think I was drifting in and out of sleep. All I remember was trying to use my phone, but I couldn’t understand it. When I finally came to around 6 a.m., I was still tripping, but not as intensely as earlier, and I was aware and coherent — I spent that remaining time giggling at my morphing face in a bathroom mirror inside the house. That bad trip left a permanent impact on my mental state, and I’ve learned that you should never underestimate hallucinogens. The second you do, they’ll flip you inside-out and you’ll completely land on your ass.”
Oh, and it’s prooobably not a good idea to crossfade with other drugs.
“I did some mushrooms at the beach and had such a great experience that I wanted to keep the high going, so I ate a weed brownie to extend the good vibes. Worst idea of of my life. I ended up going out of my mind; I thought I was on a roller coaster being chased by life-sized pieces of fruit. I then spent a solid six hours screaming-crying because I thought a life-sized banana was trying to kill me. The feeling was absolutely awful — you are a prisoner of your own mind. I couldn’t separate my hallucinations from reality, so I really experienced the blood-curdling feeling of being hunted. By a giant banana. On a roller-coaster. The hallucinations were so terrifying that I never touched the stuff again, and now I have an irrational fear of life-sized fruit.”
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
If you are thinking about suicide, talk to someone. You can speak to someone by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and or by texting HOME to 741741, the Crisis Text Line. Suicide helplines outside the US can be found here.
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