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How to Choose the Right Psychedelic For You

Ayahuasca, shrooms, and LSD, oh my!

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DoubleBlind Mag is devoted to fair, rigorous reporting by leading experts and journalists in the field of psychedelics. Read more about our editorial process and fact-checking here.

If you’re new to psychedelics or it’s been years since you considered tripping, it can be hard to know where to start. Mushrooms, LSD, MDMA, ayahuasca? What about cannabis? While some people may be called to a particular plant medicine, for others, the choice isn’t as easy. This guide is here to help.

Remember, always do what makes you feel most safe and comfortable. And, whatever you choose, never rush into a psychedelic journey: Do your homework on the right substance and dose for you, and then prepare your set and setting. Safe travels!

Mushrooms

Deciding if a mushroom journey is the right path for you depends on a few things. Ask yourself what kind of experience you’re looking for: If it’s a mystical, more inward-looking journey that connects you to yourself, your loved ones, and your surroundings in a new and profound way, mushrooms may be a good fit. First-timers looking to get their feet wet may want to start at a low dose of about .5 to 2 dried grams, or a microdose of .1 to .5 grams.

It’s important to note that the mushroom experience can be intense, deeply personal, profoundly sad, and sometimes confusing and hard to navigate. So if you don’t have experience with altered states of consciousness (like with cannabis or holotropic breathwork), it might be best to start with something less intense and work your way up to a mushroom journey. Plus, most psychedelics—mushrooms most definitely included—don’t offer you an escape from your problems, but rather, a long, hard look at them. Therefore, it’s important to have the time and space in your life to continue to work on the things that arise during your journey, and to always be ready to accept challenging material rather than avoid it.



READ: The Definitive History of Psilocybin and Magic Mushrooms

MDMA

Some underground psychedelic therapists like to see how clients react to an MDMA session before guiding them on psilocybin mushrooms. That’s because MDMA can be easier to navigate; often, reality doesn’t distort beyond recognition. For starters, there are practically no visuals, so it’s less likely to make you confused or paranoid. Plus, you’re not likely to be overwhelmed by challenging, negative emotions. Even though strong feelings and memories that are not positive can bubble up, MDMA can help you navigate them, accept them, and show love and forgiveness toward them. In fact, it’s pretty common to feel immense love and understanding for everyone and everything, yourself included, which is part of why MDMA is considered an “empathogen,” rather than a classic psychedelic.

While MDMA is less of a mindtrip, you will need to pay attention to your body during the experience. While classic psychedelics like mushrooms or LSD have no lethal dose, on MDMA, you’ll need to be sure that you’re taking a safe dose (around 100 milligrams) and that you’re hydrated before going into the experience (but don’t overdo it). To be extra safe, do not mix your MDMA with other substances (including alcohol), and test it before use with an at-home drug-checking kit (like the ones DoubleBlind sells in collaboration with DanceSafe), so you can be certain it’s not mixed with adulterants.



READ: MDMA: What is Molly?

Ayahuasca

While ayahuasca can be incredibly intense, some people choose it for their first psychedelic journey because they want to have a ceremonial container to hold space for them as they go inward. The ceremony space might help you “surrender” to the medicine, feel safe, and be open to what emerges.

The psychedelic brew has the potential to open you up to a new way of thinking about yourself—and set you on a path toward self-healing that you never could have imagined. It’s definitely not for everyone, though. Firstly, you should be comfortable in the ceremonial space, where you’ll likely be surrounded by between five to more than a dozen people you don’t know who are also tripping. While mushrooms may make you feel nauseated, part of the ayahuasca ceremony is “purging.” (Some don’t end up vomiting their first time, but be prepared for the medicine to have an effect on your entire body.) Make sure it’s safe for you to drink if you have a heart condition, or are taking any SSRIs or SNRIs. It’s important that you trust the community or retreat center you go to, and that they do a thorough intake of your mental health and medical history before allowing you to participate. And, lastly, research the ethics of ayahuasca tourism and sourcing before you sign up for a ceremony to be sure your choices support social and environmental justice within the burgeoning industry.


READ: The Ayahuasca Experience: A Pilgrimage of Spirit

Cannabis

“Weed’s not a psychedelic,” you might say, and I thought that, too–until recently. But, because of how cannabis can open you to up to a new way of thinking—which can either be fueled by anxiety or bliss, depending on your set and setting—I can no longer deny its “mind revealing” properties. So if you’re curious about psychedelics, but are inexperienced, start by using cannabis intentionally, in different ways.

If you don’t like the way cannabis makes you feel, that could be even more of a reason to stick with it and learn to surrender to what’s emerging, before moving on to stronger medicines. Although cannabis and “classic psychedelic” trips are often very different, their main navigation skill is the same: You have to trust, let go, and be open to the experience, no matter what it is.

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READ: Acid and Weed, Mushrooms & Weed: Should You Combine Them?

LSD

So maybe you want a classic psychedelic experience and can’t decide between mushrooms and LSD? While they can evoke similar sensations, the one thing that’s undeniably different is the length: LSD lasts quite a bit longer than shrooms. While a typical mushroom trip is around six hours, an LSD journey can be eight to twelve. Beyond that, the rest of the differences are much subtler and more subjective.

While every trip is different and impossible to predict, LSD can have a more outward, potentially social effect in contrast to mushrooms, which can be more introverted and emotional. Some folks say they feel energized by an acid trip and motivated to do more physical activities like hiking or dancing, but it really depends on the individual. If LSD interests you, start with a low dose (1/2 a tab or 40–60 micrograms) or even a microdose (6–12 micrograms or 1/8th–1/12th of a tab) for your first time, and always test your substances for purity first. Lastly, whether you’re experimenting with LSD, mushrooms, MDMA, or any other psychedelic for the first time, it can be helpful to have a guide, trip sitter, or at least partake with more experienced journeyers to help you navigate any challenging or confusing moments. There’s an infinite number of ways to take psychedelics, too—whether at a legal retreat center, in ceremony, or with friends while camping—so be sure to think about the setting that you’re most called to.

READ: LSD: Everything You Should Know

*This article was originally published in DoubleBlind Issue 03.

DoubleBlind Magazine does not encourage or condone any illegal activities, including but not limited to the use of illegal substances. We do not provide mental health, clinical, or medical services. We are not a substitute for medical, psychological, or psychiatric diagnosis, treatment, or advice. If you are in a crisis or if you or any other person may be in danger or experiencing a mental health emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency resources. If you are considering suicide, please call 988 to connect with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Interested in having a psychedelic experience, but don't know where to start? Get our definitive guide on trusted legal retreat centers, clinical trials, therapists, and more.

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