You walk past an apartment building in New York City. From the outside, it looks like any other brick building nestled in a row of decaying, overpriced walk-ups in Brooklyn. However, inside, on the sixth floor, is a sex club. You should see the dungeon. The basement of the building contains a cannabis speakeasy—only open on Tuesdays. A family is living on one of the top floors; the father works in tech, the mother in fashion PR. Their 18-year-old son is in his room, high on shrooms, writing an essay about his bisexuality. This building is home to entire secret worlds; nearly every building in this city of eight million is.
Oh yes, I should mention that on this stroll, you’re also tripping—rolling, actually, on MDMA with a side of LSD. It’s why you stopped to notice the building. Its bricks are moving like waves, in tandem with the street noise.
There’s nowhere like New York. But before you trip there, you should learn some street smarts. First we’ll go over the basics. And then we’ll get into the nitty gritty of New York City.
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You need a trip sitter
If you’re going to trip in New York fucking City, where walking to work sober feels like an advanced level in an a video game (dodge, leap, run, duck!), you need someone there to make sure that you don’t dive into the subway tracks to befriend a rat. Have a trip sitter—someone you trust—to watch over you, and who stays (at least mostly) sober.
Read: How to Trip Sit
Let’s take the example of our friend Chris, a 33-year-old New Yorker who recently got into psilocybin mushrooms thanks to a dear lover, or paramour. He took four grams—what Chris describes as an “epic dose”—and enjoyed the experience at his paramour’s apartment. His lover left him mostly to himself, but was present when Chris needed him. “I got cold so he made me tea. Then I started tripping hard. I was getting some really intense visuals. It was lines of the visual light spectrum radiating in a circular pattern out from my center of vision, like tons of little rainbows,” Chris describes. “I also started having some real intense and rapid epiphanies. [When] I came down from my trip, I gave my paramour a hug and thanked him for the amazing experience.”
The paramour’s hands off, but caring presence allowed Chris to feel safe, while diving deep into the psychedelic experience. A good trip sitter both knows how to hold space when you need it, and gives you the independence to have the experience you’re meant to have.
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Know your mental health history
Know your family’s mental health history, and if you do have a mental health condition, act accordingly (that might mean avoiding psychedelics altogether, or working with an underground therapist, or an integration therapist after you’ve had the experience). Alternative medicines can heal, but they can also trigger challenging mental states if you don’t have the proper set and setting. While psychedelics can save lives (such as by treating depression that might otherwise lead to suicide), any substance comes with risks. Some psychedelics can bring out undiagnosed conditions, and no one wants an MDMA-comedown to remind you of your suicidal ideation, whilst dodging honking yellow cabs on your way home.
That said, if you take a psychedelic under supervision for a specific ailment, the results can be life-changing. Take, for instance, ketamine for PTSD and treatment-resistant depression. I started getting regular ketamine infusions shortly after a shooting to jumpstart the healing process, and found it did wonders for my depression. Navigating the subway system after an hour-long ketamine infusion can be a trip, but hey, at least I don’t have to drive in New York City.
Find somewhere beautiful
Setting is crucial to having a positive trip. New Yorkers and tourists alike know the distinct feeling of getting off the subway into the cesspool of panic attack that is Times Square. Do not enter Times Square. I almost did once on molly and thankfully avoided the crowds, merely admiring all the lights at a safe distance.
New York is dirty and crowded. But it also has great nature escapes, such as Central Park (so many parks!), the High Line, the Westside Highway, and Greenwood Cemetery if you’re feeling spooky.
“New York became so big and so small all at once. We had silent conversations and shared loud glances as we watched people walk by. The mix of tourists and residents from every environment brought us endless joy.”
Lee, 32, recently ate shroom pizza (yes, that kind) with a friend at the High Line—which has a pretty drug-friendly name, once you point it out. “I had always wanted to get high on the High Line, I just didn’t know you could fly there,” he says. “We arrived and were floating down the High Line into the sunset and neither of us will ever forget it. New York became so big and so small all at once. We had silent conversations and shared loud glances as we watched people walk by. The mix of tourists and residents from every environment brought us endless joy.”
In addition to the natural (well, naturally manmade) splendor of parks, New York has some really trippy spots. Locations such as the sex and cannabis club NSFW (The New Society for Wellness), the trippy Brooklyn dance space House of Yes, and ZeroSpace, a giant event space filled with psychedelic interactive art installations, can be fabulous to trip at. Natalie, 37, recently took a gram of mushrooms and went to ZeroSpace. “One room is full of bean bag chairs over a fake grass rug and plays forest sounds,” she says. “We took the shrooms right before going inside.” While she wishes she had timed the experience differently, Natalie gives the space an A+. Environments created around music, art, and sex positivity also come with community, which can make or break a trip.
Buy an at-home testing kit
While New York City’s greatness can mean great drugs, it also means there are some scam artists among those eight million people. Test your drugs to ensure you got what you paid for, and not something that’s going to land you in the infamous Bellevue Psych Ward. “To give just one example, a drug called 25I-NBOMe was, for a long while, being sold as ‘acid’ throughout the United States, and physical complications from this substance caused literally hundreds of deaths globally,” says Mitchell Gomez, the executive director of DanceSafe, the harm reduction nonprofit that DoubleBlind partnered with to sell at-home drug testing kits here. “It has become less common, thankfully, but we still do see it on occasion.” Don’t risk it. Test your drugs.
Avoid crowds, bars, and maybe even the MTA (that’s the subway, for the non-New Yorkers reading this)
New York is pretty safe these days, but it’s still easy to get on the wrong subway and end up alone at Coney Island. Perhaps even scarier is getting smashed by body after body into a crowded subway—especially if you’re tripping. “Psychedelics generally don’t cause ‘true hallucinations,’ where a person genuinely believes that something that is not there is, or vice versa,” says Gomez. “That being said, they can often make a person less aware of dangers around them.” In addition to having a sitter and testing your drugs, try to avoid crowded areas, places with lots of police (like the subway), or loud fratty bars—basically anything that will give you anxiety or cause you to get lost. Alex, 31, suggests sticking to places in New York that you already know while tripping. “Go somewhere that you’ve been before and feel comfortable in,” he says. “You want to spend the least amount of time possible making decisions and the most amount of time possible experiencing the world around you.”
Still lost where to go? Try one of the City’s many museums, like the Met, catch a Broadway show, or even a movie. “Cats is an insane movie. Full stop. Now, to have the audacity to attempt to view it on shrooms was a silly idea to begin with,” Alex says. “Cats feels like a drug trip, even without the help of shrooms. The whole experience of Cats made it impossible to even realize when I started feeling any effects because the visuals are so strange and unlike anything I’ve seen before. I mean Rebel Wilson unzipped her skin in the first 15 minutes.”
Whether it’s Cats or watching a stage fighting class while on LSD at the High Line (been there) you don’t have to go far in New York City to find psychedelic entertainment. Just make sure you implement the proper precautions so you don’t end up alone and screaming in Times Square.
Sophie Saint Thomas is DoubleBlind’s Community Engagement Editor. Her writing has been published in GQ, Playboy, VICE, Cosmopolitan, Forbes, Allure, Glamour, Marie Claire, High Times, Nylon, Refinery29, Complex, Harper’s Bazaar, PRIDE Magazine, SELF, and more.