When I was deep in the midst of a candy flip last weekend and thought about writing this article, I couldn’t stop laughing at how ridiculous it seemed to describe and help others through this kind of journey. That’s because it was intense in a way that now, three days later as I write this out, I’m still a bit shattered. Candy flipping, or mixing LSD and MDMA, is an advanced psychonaut technology that should be approached with caution and respect, and in my opinion, only by those who already have extensive experience with both substances separately.
What is Candy Flipping?
“Candy flipping” is slang that originated in the UK for taking acid and molly during the same trip. It’s not a new trend, but one of the oldest and most popular poly drug mixes or drug “flips” out there. There’s some debate online as to the timing of taking each substance and what actually qualifies as a candy flip, but when I started looking into it, the most consistent advice I could find was to take LSD first and then MDMA somewhere between two and five hours later.
The preference around timing really depends on a few factors. Some like to avoid coming down from the MDMA while still on LSD, and so they take their molly later on in the trip (at hour four or five) to wind down from both substances around the same time. However, others swear by peaking on both substances at the same time, and so tend to take their MDMA earlier in the journey (between 45 mins and two to three hours) or even simultaneously. (I think this ended up happening up to me—which I’ll get into more detail below—and was incredibly intense, so be cautious about aiming for this as a goal.)
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When I made a candy flip survey and asked people about their timing preference, the majority of the 63 participants said they take LSD first and MDMA sometime between one and five hours later. In general, most folks like to get used to the acid experience first before incorporating MDMA.
That made sense and appealed to me, and so at 1:40 PM on a Saturday my partner and I each took a tab of LSD we were familiar and comfortable with. I wrote the time on a pad of paper and left it on our kitchen table. The acid came on evenly and I began to enjoy myself. There was a new mood about it knowing this was just the appetizer, that the main course, putting MDMA on top of this feeling, was coming later.
I “plateaued”—to borrow language from the Shulgin’s—at around 4:30 and was feeling ready to take the MDMA, but waited for my partner to bring it up. I didn’t want to force it on him, but he soon smiled at me and declared he was feeling ready. We each took a dose of MDMA at 5 PM, 3 hours and 20 minutes after the acid. I wrote it on the notepad.
What is Candy Flipping Like?
The MDMA come-up on acid was weird. Even though I had plateaued on the LSD and liked where I arrived, I didn’t realize how deep the acid space was until the molly started rolling through me. It had this upper, almost sobering effect, where my LSD visual swaying and patterning lessened. I started feeling rushy and became really aware of my teeth and conscious of tensing my jaw.
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It was honestly kind of a hard transition, and we struggled to find the right music for the new forthcoming sensation that was like a tidal wave moving towards us. Our mellow acid playlist was no longer cutting it. My partner was having a lot of trouble expressing himself and kept trying to say something along the lines of, “Psychedelics are a very personal experience and MDMA is such an outward one, I feel like they don’t mix.” Later, he explained what he meant was he really wanted to talk to me in that deep boundaryless way that we can on molly, but the LSD was getting in the way and scattering his thoughts too much to express the profound feelings he wanted to share with me.
I think I was feeling the acid less than my partner was and just held space for him trying to express himself and sometimes not fully succeeding. I was in this weird almost sober state that was much clearer than my previous four hours on acid. Eventually, we went up to our roof terrace to watch the clouds change colors as the sun dipped below the mountains in the distance and put on a loud and energetic classic funk playlist that helped us transition to the new mood.
It was then that I really started feeling the MDMA. I had that excited shortness of breath feeling and my eyes kept watering at every thought. The whole acid trip, and a lot of my journeys on different psychedelics lately, have very much revolved around self-acceptance and accessing a sense of worthiness that I have trouble seeing in my slightly depressed day-to-day. I was watching the rich late afternoon clouds swirling around the horizon and I had this sensation that in the blue sky beyond there was a major realization waiting for me. My eyes were pouring tears even though I wouldn’t call it crying—not in a sad way, anyway—and beyond those clouds I could sense a breakthrough, like I was the last to know what a good, worthy, and talented person I am. And in that moment I felt pride and extreme self-acceptance wash over me and realized, this is the candy flip.
It was an explosion of feeling that was overwhelming in this way where I could hardly believe what was happening to me. It was incredibly beautiful and even though my visuals had mostly died down, everything looked and felt exceedingly significant. The sensation was deeply profound, but the candy flip was an emotional rollercoaster. As someone who already experiences a lot of emotional ups and downs on a day-to-day basis, that part was a bit intense, and made me long for the even, slightly detached perspective LSD on its own was giving me before.
Yet, the most surprising thing to me was instead of the experience being a warm, fuzzy, lovey feeling with acid visuals, it was its own powerful sensation that I’m glad I re-experienced in the privacy of my own home rather than out in public. (The first time I candy flipped was at the Jersey Shore after prom over 10 years ago). For this re-introduction to the acid and molly mix, I think it would have been way too intense to fully feel and let go in front of other people at a party, music festival, or rave. Plus, my body felt so weird—like it was full of air and constantly on the cusp of nausea—that I don’t think I could have handled dancing or exerting myself much more than moving from one space in my house to another.
However, my survey participants candy flipped in an array of locations, including raves, music festivals, parties and camping, and they described a range of experiences. Yet, the most common word they used to explain the flip was “amazing.” That’s not to say everyone had a perfect journey, a few people described some overwhelm like I felt and mostly cited taking too high of doses or taking the substances too close together as the reason. But many folks felt the two drugs complimented each other well and called the flip “the best of both worlds” or a “dynamic duo.”
A couple of participants felt like my partner had, and found it was hard to communicate on both substances, but more folks reported candy flipping made it easier to joke, socialize and connect with their friends than being on acid alone. A few people felt like me, that the two drugs intensified each other to create a distinct and powerful sensation that was more than feeling super good and empathetic on acid. However, more participants reported the molly made the acid “softer” or easier to handle in a way. “Even dark LSD things are very easy to observe and deal with,” a 29-year-old who flipped 200 ug of LSD with two 65 mg doses of MDMA described.
Candy Flip Dosage
The LSD my partner and I took was supposedly 120 micrograms. Then around hour 3.5, we took one tablet each of MDMA which had 160 milligrams. When we take molly on its own, we often make a booster dose available, but agreed beforehand not to for the candy flip. In retrospect, I would take a smaller dose of MDMA, maybe closer to 80 or 100 mg because it felt quite different on top of the LSD.
When asked about safe candy flip dosing, Mitchell Gomez, the executive director of DanceSafe, a nonprofit harm reduction organization, he says that looking at what dosages are used in clinical trials is a reasonable way to go about it. For context, the dosage of MDMA in clinical trials is about 120 mg of MDMA—but keep in mind, that’s with supervision in a therapeutic setting. Right now, there are no LSD trials in the US, but starting low and going slow is always your safest bet. Gomez borrows a quote from Timothy Leary, “You can always take more later, but you can never take less.”
“You can always take more later, but you can never take less.”
“The only way to know your preference is to start low,” Gomez elaborates. “I think it’s worth being cautious especially the first time you try a new combination.” He mentions that we all have unique neurochemistry and doses are going to affect everyone differently. “I think it’s always worth starting on a slightly smaller dose and then seeing where things end up,” he says.
So start with a low dose of acid you’re comfortable with, which for many who filled out the survey was one tab of LSD or around 100 to 120 micrograms. Remember the MDMA will intensify the experience so it’s better to take a little less than you normally would, or even half, for a manageable drug flip, and experiment with other doses in subsequent trips.
How Long Does Candy Flipping Last?
Candy flipping is a long journey. When I was finally able to fall asleep, I was still lightly tripping on acid and it was 11 hours after I put the blotter paper under my tongue. The general consensus is that candy flipping lasts somewhere between eight and 14 hours, really depending on how long your dose of LSD lasts for you. That’s why we took it so early on a Saturday afternoon: We wanted to be able to sleep that night and recover with enough time to return to work on Monday. (Spoiler alert: Work was really hard to get done that entire week regardless of all the time we gave ourselves).
I would be cautious about taking this combo to go out to a concert or club because of how long it lasts. You’ll likely still be tripping on your way home, and if that includes a taxi or public transportation, that could be risky, or at least pretty uncomfortable. So be sure to plan ahead because these kinds of details can get lost when you’re in the acid space.
Is Candy Flipping Safe?
Mixing low to moderate doses of LSD and MDMA seems to be physically safe with a few caveats. First, it’s critical to test your substances to ensure you’re actually taking acid and molly. “Both are relatively heavily misrepresented substances in the US,” Gomez says. Meaning, oftentimes, when you buy LSD or MDMA on the underground market, they could actually be something else, like novel research chemicals. Gomez says, in the case of LSD, often drugs in the NBOMe family (synthetic phenethylamines that are more toxic than LSD) and DOx compounds (psychedelic amphetamines that were inventions of Alexander Shulgin) are sold as acid. When it comes to MDMA, there are “literally hundreds of compounds that have been misrepresented,” Gomez says. “Right now, it’s mostly substituted cathinones, which is the family of drugs the media insists on calling bath salts.”
So, while mixing acid and molly is basically safe (at least physically speaking), without testing your substances, you could be mixing two completely different drugs that could potentially have dangerous consequences. “There’s literally no way to know what the contraindications might be [for two misrepresented substances],” says Gomez. “And in some cases, you might be the first person in human history to ever try that combination.”
However, while “most people who candy flip don’t have problems, that doesn’t mean it is safe enough to give to people who are dealing with mental or other health issues,” says Matthew Baggott, PhD, a neuroscientist, psychedelic researcher, and founder of Tactogen, a new public benefit corp exploring psychedelics’ safety, efficacy and accessibility. He explains more research is needed to “understand how different doses of the two drugs increase the more worrisome effects of MDMA, such as the tendency to increase blood pressure or the tendency to retain water in the body.”
Gomez also brings up the fact that the potential physiological risks of the combo come mostly from the MDMA. He explains that for healthy people, most of those risks are environmental, and so folks on MDMA need to remember to avoid hot environments, take time to cool down and hydrate (but don’t overhydrate), and to consume electrolytes (such as in Gatorade).
Plus, both Baggott and Gomez bring up re-dosing, which is common with MDMA, but can increase a person’s risk of neurotoxicity. “You need to know that compulsive dosing with MDMA doesn’t really work,” Gomez says. “That’s the problem that people often run into with MDMA, they try to chase that initial feeling they got when they first took it… But there’s no dose you can take at three hours in that will get you back to where you felt an hour and a half ago when the first dose kicked in.”
According to Baggott, “candy flipping is almost certainly more neurotoxic than MDMA alone.” He explains that the risk is likely higher when you also have higher doses of either drug, or when you repeatedly take more MDMA. More frequent use of MDMA probably also increases the risk,” he continues. “There have not been enough studies for us to know exactly why candy flipping increases neurotoxicity. One possibility is that both drugs increase extracellular dopamine, which is easily oxidized and can be neurotoxic if there’s too much of it in the wrong place. Both MDMA and LSD can also increase body temperature, which may increase neurotoxicity.”
But as Gomez points out, it might be harder to remember all those things while you’re on acid, or candyflipping. “And so that’s sort of where the additional risk comes from, that the LSD can make you a little careless about the physiological risks of the MDMA,” he says. Baggott mentions a similar possibility, that you increase your risk of making bad decisions when you have a reduced understanding of your surroundings. He recommends having a sober and responsible trip sitter around to help reduce those risks.
It should also be noted that some medications, like SSRI and SNRI antidepressants, contraindicate with psychedelics and MDMA, and so drug flips should be avoided while on these meds to avoid further complications, like the possibility of serotonin syndrome, which can be potentially fatal.
Mixing Acid and Molly Side Effects
The side effects from mixing acid and molly are pretty in line with each substance’s own possible side effects. Many folks can experience nausea, especially on each drug’s come-up, and that can be increased if you have a lot of food in your stomach beforehand. Jaw clenching and tensing is also pretty common, especially with MDMA, and I found that feeling to be extra uncomfortable while I still had the acid in my system.
My partner and I each got terrible headaches as the MDMA started to wear off, and we were still very much on LSD. I attributed the splitting headache I got above my eyes to the amount of tears I shed during the molly’s peak; I’ve gotten similar headaches after heavy mushroom trips where I do a lot of cathartic crying. However, my partner’s emotions weren’t pouring out of his eyes like mine, so his headache could be due to something else.
In my survey, nausea, jaw clenching, and anxiety were the most common side effects mentioned. Although, many folks reported no side effects at all. Plus, a handful of participants recommended taking a magnesium supplement before the trip to ease the tense jaw feeling. Others reported some body temperature issues, like getting the chills or feeling sweaty. And a few people reported not being able to sleep afterward.
Candy Flip Comedown
Maybe I’m just getting old (I’m 31 and my partner is 38), but the candy flip comedown was the hardest part of this particular journey. First of all, coming down from the MDMA while I was still on LSD was rough. Instead of a transition back to normality, because of the timing of when I took each substance, I transitioned from the powerful emotional overwhelm of the candy flip back to the inquisitive LSD headspace. I then spent the rest of the evening dissecting each of my feelings from different angles and turning all my realizations inside out and back again in my mind.
Despite the heavy pain above my eyes and a slightly tripped out mindset, I was able to wind down into a light sleep sometime between midnight and 1 AM. However, the next day was hard and I had a much heavier hangover-type feeling than I had ever experienced from LSD or MDMA alone. Even though I spent the day resting, I felt pretty fried for the whole week and had a lot of trouble concentrating and getting work done on time. By midweek, I found myself giving up on trying to make my deadlines and instead opted to just take long walks in the woods with my dogs to ponder the experience.
I transitioned from the powerful emotional overwhelm of the candy flip back to the inquisitive LSD headspace.
The majority of the survey participants reported manageable comedowns the day of the trip. As far as the following day or two, the answers were mixed. Many people reported feeling tired the next day, or straight up “exhausted.” Others described a brain fogginess that one person described as “blank or empty, but in a good way.” I definitely felt that blank feeling, which on the one hand was nice because I was anxiety-free, but when it continued into the week became frustrating.
Some folks reported some down feelings or “Depression Tuesday” in the following few days, mostly citing the “serotonin dump” they experienced from the MDMA as the reason. “It can be a super depressing feeling days after,” said a 37-year-old, who has candy flipped about 50 times, “[but] I have to remind myself that when I’m feeling awful it’s because of eating both L and MDMA and that I made this choice and these are the after effects.”
Yet, a 23-year-old who’s candy flipped about 30 to 40 times explained: “A few days after the effect wears off I get a bit sad, but that feeling usually only lasts a day or two. After that I feel better than I did before dosing.”
Many folks reported taking the supplement 5-HTP after their trip to try and mitigate some of the post-MDMA blue and irritable feelings. Others said that as long as they get enough sleep and don’t mix the flip with more than one alcoholic drink, they find it pretty manageable, and some even experienced an afterglow of sorts. Others reported that if they candy flip or take MDMA too often, the comedown and hangover can feel a lot worse, so they’ve learned to keep it special and only indulge occasionally.
One person even mentioned some vertigo for a few days, and a few mentioned that adjusting back to their baseline state of being was hard and took a couple of days. Lastly, in my research on HPPD I’ve been told by experts that mixing substances might put folks at a higher risk for developing symptoms, like seeing lasting trails, halos, tracers or feelings of dissociation. Of my 63 survey participants, three people reported some lasting trails or visuals that went away after a few days, one person reported still experiencing tracers to this day, and one reported a previous large dose of MDMA that caused light sensitivity for a week. There’s still very limited research on these after-effects and their causes, but I think they’re important to know if you choose to go into such a powerful psychedelic experience.
All in all, with the right safety precautions and doses, candy flipping can be a powerful psychedelic experience that produces a synergetic effect that is distinct from either drug on its own. But even though the name sounds sweet and easy going, this can be an intense journey that should be prepared for and considered thoughtfully. Safe travels!
Michelle Janikian is a journalist focused on drug policy, trends and education. She’s the author of “Your Psilocybin Mushroom Companion: An Informative, Easy-to-Use Guide to Understanding Magic Mushrooms”, writes a column for Playboy about psychedelics and cannabis and has also contributed to High Times, Herb, Rolling Stone and Teen Vogue.