Responsible drug use
Responsible drug use (also known as harm reduction) broadly refers to a set of practices intended to maximize the benefits and minimize the harms associated with recreational substance use. The harm reduction approach follows from the idea that substance use is an high-risk activity that innately entails the possibility of injury, addiction, and death. Therefore, the best strategy one can employ (outside of avoiding use entirely) is to take appropriate measures to mitigate its potential harms.
Recreational substance use can be viewed in a similar manner as other risky-but-beneficial activities like driving a car, skiing, skydiving, surfing, or mountain climbing. Although the risks of these activities are innate, they can be minimized by using caution and common sense. This view holds that individuals are solely responsible for ensuring they are doing adequate research and taking the appropriate precautions to ensure reasonably safe and enjoyable experiences for themselves and others.
Examples of general harm reduction advice include avoiding hazardous situations, excessive doses, and hazardous combinations of substances; avoiding injection; and not using substances at the same time as activities that require a sober state, such as driving or operating machinery.
This article is dedicated to providing information about the variety of factors that should be considered before deciding to experiment with psychoactive substances. The first part concerns harm reduction tactics for all substances while the bottom half focuses exclusively on those for hallucinogens.
Main article: Dosage
Within the context of psychonautic or recreational substance usage, it is important to understand and pay close attention to the dosage intended for use. Administering the wrong dosage of a substance can lead to negative experiences such as extreme anxiety, distressing side effects, hospitalization, or (in extreme cases) death. Taking too low of a dose can make one feel uncomfortable and frustrated; this may promote reckless behaviors such as redosing multiple times in a short time span and inadvertently overdosing.
Main article: Choosing dosage
One should avoid dosages which they are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with. An inexperienced user should always start at low dosages with the goal of working their way up in small increments until they are familiar with the substance. This should be done by slightly increasing the dosage with each separate experience and avoiding taking large, erratic jumps forward.
This minimizes the risk of an accidental negative experience enormously; it is important to remember that everybody reacts differently to every substance depending on factors such as their own personal tolerance, neurophysiology, body weight, metabolism, and personal sensitivity. Another factor to consider is substance purity which differs between batches of product.
Main article: Allergy testing
Some individuals, especially those with health issues, exhibit adverse reactions to substances in the form of allergic reactions, uncomfortable physical or cognitive effects, or hyper-sensitivity. To mitigate this risk, one can perform an "allergy test", which is simply dosing a minuscule amount of the substance (1/10 to 1/4 of a regular dose) and waiting several hours to verify that one does not have an untoward or idiosyncratic response.
Main article: Eyeballing
Eyeballing is strongly discouraged. Eyeballing is a highly inaccurate and unreliable method of measuring substances which involves looking at a substance and making a rough guess of the weight. Since there is not much difference between 10 mg and 30 mg visually, it can easily result in taking too much of a substance.
There are numerous forms of eyeballing methods including using micro scoops and the graph paper method, both of which result in inaccurate dosing.
Users should not trust a vendor's word that their product weighs a certain amount as it is not unheard of for vendors to accidentally or intentionally give out the wrong amount of a product, resulting in overdoses for some users.
It is especially dangerous to eyeball substances that have extremely low doses (under 10mg).
Main article: Milligram scales
When buying chemicals in powdered form, it is strongly recommended that one invest in a reliable and accurate digital milligram scale to ensure the ingestion of safe and known doses.
To achieve the most accurate measurement, the scale should only be used on a completely flat surface away from vibrations, wind, and drafts. Low batteries can also affect the scale's accuracy, so one should occasionally replace them.
There is a large variety of different scales available online through various sites. To choose a quality scale, users should read the reviews before buying and come to their own personal decision. Users should ideally choose a scale that has a 0.001 gram readability. When using a scale that has 0.005 gram readability (5 milligrams), the weight will be off by 5 milligrams in either direction, meaning that if one measures 20 milligrams of a substance, the results will be between 15-25 mg.
Milligram scales under $1000 cannot accurately weigh out doses below at least 50 milligrams and are highly inaccurate under 10 - 15 milligrams. For potent substances, the volumetric liquid dosing technique is advised.
Most milligram scales are more accurate in higher ranges (5 - 15 grams) than the lower ranges. Therefore, it is better to weigh one's drug while the 10 gram weight is on the scale.
Main article: Volumetric liquid dosing
This technique makes it possible to use a cheap $30 scale and still measure accurately to only a few milligrams.
There is a volumetric dosing calculator located here which will calculate the amount of drug and solvent needed as well as the concentration.
Main article: Recovery position
The recovery position refers to a position of the body in which an unconscious but breathing person can be placed as part of first aid treatment to prevent death by the suffocation of vomit after a drug overdose.
Many combinations of substances, especially depressants such as alcohol and GHB, can result in dangerous or even fatal levels of respiratory depression. There is an increased risk of vomiting during unconsciousness and death from the resulting suffocation. If nausea or vomiting occurs, users should attempt to fall asleep in the recovery position or have a friend move them into it in order to prevent possible death.
Main article: Reagent testing kits
When purchasing psychoactive substances, one should always be certain precisely which chemical they are in possession of because it may very well differ from what it was advertised/sold as. If this is the case, it could potentially result in a negative experience or even death. Investing in Marquis, Mecke, Mandelin, or Ehrlich reagent tests will provide the ability to test chemicals at home without needing to submit them to a laboratory.
One can look up and compare their results with the data provided online to verify the content of the chemicals one has. Test kitting has become particularly important since Chinese chemical manufacturers became involved in the research chemical scene, sometimes selling impure and/or mislabeled products.
There are detailed instructions on how to use these testing kits available here and displayed within the infographics below.
- Although many substances are reasonably safe by themselves, there are many combinations which can be extremely dangerous or even fatal. This should always be considered when combining multiple psychoactive substances and adequate independent research must be performed in order to determine the safety of the combination if one wishes to avoid potential physical harm, hospitalization or death. Many prescription medications interact negatively with commonly used recreational substances. The most common cause of substance-related deaths is the combination of depressants (such as opiates, benzodiazepines, or alcohol) with other depressants.
Main article: Subjective effect index
It is important to know in advance the duration, pharmacology, subjective effects and potential adverse effects which the substance or combination of substances are likely to induce. There are many online resources to use for education and reference regarding this aspect of substance usage, such as the psychoactive substance index.
For further research on the effects of any substance that one may be considering, a combination of Erowid, Wikipedia and Google can be used. It may also help to read relevant anecdotal trip reports found here on PsychonautWiki or elsewhere on the Internet.
If one knows the exact effects of the drug in advance, then they will know what to expect. This is something which significantly reduces the chances of a negative experience by a huge margin through the prevention of unexpected circumstances.
If a person is to use a substance responsibly, the frequency in which they use should be monitored closely. Many stimulants and depressants are extremely physically and/or psychologically addictive. Careful consideration and research should be put into the regular use of any of these substances.
Although many of the classical psychedelics are physically benign no matter how frequently they are used and come with a built-in tolerance which prevents using them more than once a week, this is not the case with all hallucinogens. Dissociatives, deliriants and certain psychedelics may come with potential adverse health effects that need to be individually researched before use. Any hallucinogen can cause problems with a person's psychological health if overused. Keep in mind that substance usage becomes an addiction once the negative aspects start to outweigh the positive aspects, but one continues to use regardless.
- Choosing an appropriate and suitable place to undergo the effects of a hallucinogen is extremely important and plays a major role in determining the outcome of the experience. The ideal place for an inexperienced user is a familiar, safe and indoor environment devoid of factors that can negatively influence one's mental state.
- Ensure that one is completely free of responsibilities for the duration of the experience (and possibly the day after). This is because even the simplest of tasks can become incredibly difficult and potentially stressful to perform while under the influence of hallucinogens. One should be prepared to fully relax and be comfortable, not perform chores or everyday routines. This includes driving and operating heavy machinery (for obvious reasons).
- Avoid people who are not directly participating in the experience. This includes parents who are sleeping in the same house and friends that are anything but extremely trustworthy, understanding, and informed about the effects of hallucinogens. The mere vicinity of unaware people can prompt anxiety and discomfort as well as prevent full immersion in the experience.
- Avoid unfamiliar, loud, cluttered, and/or public environments. The user should select an environment which they have a considerable degree of control over. This can be as simple as having the ability to adjust the air conditioning settings or freely enter and exit a restroom. The user should be able to sit, lie down, and walk around as they please for the full duration of the experience. Examples of such settings include a safe, comfortable room at home or a friend's house. The chosen setting should be equipped with privacy, relaxing music, comfortable seating and readily available food and water.
- Avoid sources of anything that can generate "bad vibes". This may seem obvious, but one should not expose themselves to unpleasant or disturbing stimuli such as scary films or dark music. If bad vibes are encompassing the experience, they can be escaped by quickly changing the immediate environment the user is in. For example, if one is sitting down with the lights off, stand up and turn the lights on, change the music or move to a different room in the house.
- Once one has become intimately familiar with their substance of choice, it is up to them as an individual whether they would be comfortable tripping in a less controlled environment such as out in nature, social gatherings, parties, raves, etc. However, tripping in these settings entails considerably more physical and legal risk.
State of mind
The user's state of mind in plays a major role in determining the outcome of a trip. Hallucinogens amplify one's current state of mind, mood and outlook; a positive mindset will likely become more positive and a negative one will become even more negative. It is because of this that hallucinogens should be avoided during acutely stressful or negative periods of life. Users should be fully aware of the ways in which hallucinogens, particularly psychedelics, are able to force one to face their internal problems that they may not be psychologically prepared to handle at that time.
Those with preexisting mental conditions (especially individuals with psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia) should avoid hallucinogens due to the way they strongly amplify one's current state of mind and emotions as well as cause temporary delusions and hallucinations. Those who wish to take hallucinogens with such conditions should seek the advice of a qualified medical practitioner.
During the experience, the user needs to "let go" and allow the effects of the substance to take charge. One should take the metaphorical passenger seat and forgo trying to control or suppress any part of the experience. It is extremely important that the user simply relaxes and take things as they come, as any resistance will only serve to amplify what is trying to be avoided.
Additionally, the user must understand that the experience of tripping is often incomprehensible, meaning that one should accept being unable to understand or express the full scope of what is happening during the experience. One should embrace the fact that their thought processes, although more lucid in places, will be unavoidably impaired along with motor control, conversational skills and general functioning. The user should be sure to view these effects as normal and most importantly, temporary.
- The user's current bodily condition is just as important as one's mood and mindset when going into a trip. If one feels tired, sick or injured, these sensations will manifest as amplified versions of the same conditions which, when combined with possible body load, may easily detract from or ruin the experience. Instead of tripping while stressed, tired, sick or injured, one should wait for a more suitable opportunity. This will drastically lower the chances of having a negative or unfulfilling experience.
Main article: Trip sitter
If one is using hallucinogens, a sober, responsible trip sitter is strongly recommended to be present, particularly if one is inexperienced with the substance. It is the tripsitter's responsibility to assist the individual or group by maintaining a calm and grounded frame of mind. This can be accomplished by simply watching over the trippers and calmly reassuring them if they experience any anxiety or stress, whilst also preventing them from coming to any harm. There is an obvious correlation between the name trip sitter and babysitter; this is because trip sitting often feels like babysitting and it is a responsibility that must be taken every bit as seriously.
A good trip sitter needs to be sure of a number of things throughout the experience. They should ideally be sober and able to relate to the group member's situation from personal experiences or researched knowledge. Trip sitters should understand that when an individual is tripping, they may not be able to communicate as they usually do. Also, their balance and spatial judgement may be impaired so assistance in performing tasks such as staying hydrated can greatly reduce anxiety and confusion. The trip sitter can participate in the conversation, but should also remember to give the trippers space to explore the experience without too much external influence.
Once the user becomes familiar with a substance, it becomes down to them whether or not they feel comfortable enough to trip without a sitter.
In the context of hallucinogen usage, an anchor is an activity or physical object which keeps the user grounded during heavy distortion of a person's sense of time, space, memory, and sense of self. At higher dosages, this can result in extreme disorientation and confusion. Anchors are often used to counteract this and maintain one's concept of the current situation as it is within reality. Examples of anchors include:
- Familiar and uplifting music. An example of this includes our community good vibes portal. However, the creation of a playlist that is comprised of music one personally associates with being happy is highly recommended.
- An extremely personal and ingrained image or object.
- Continuous repetition of a meaningful word or motto as a mantra.
- Writing an easily readable reminder onto a large piece of paper and placing it close within one's visual field throughout the experience. Common reminders include the name of the substance along with its dosage and phrases such as "You are tripping on LSD." The same principle can be used to write reminders on one's hand or other visible body parts.
- An item of clothing or an accessory which is only worn during and therefore associated with the act of tripping.
Hallucinogens have the potential to become overwhelming and push trippers into paranoid and dreadful moods, particularly if they are inexperienced or in an inappropriate setting.
If one decides to terminate the trip, benzodiazepines and other sedatives such as some antipsychotics can be considered analogous to an "eject button" of a downhill-headed or extensively long trip. They are very effective tools in preventing panic attacks, paranoia, and possible traumatic experiences. However, experienced users advise waiting out difficult parts of a trip for as long as possible as these moments are often temporary and later turn out to be the greatest learning experiences. Independent research should always be done to ensure that a combination of two or more substances is safe before consumption.
- The Importance of Measured Doses (Erowid)
- Psychoactive Vaults: Dose (Erowid)
- Research Chemical FAQ (Erowid)
- Safer Partying (Trip Project)
- Guide to Drug Combinations (TripSit)
- Fundamentals of Responsible Psychoactive Use (Erowid)
- Erowid Psychoactive Vaults: Dose | https://www.erowid.org/psychoactives/dose/dose.shtml
- How big is a milligram? (Ask Erowid) | https://www.erowid.org/ask/ask.php?ID=2282
- The Importance of Measured Doses by Fire Erowid & Spoon | https://www.erowid.org/psychoactives/basics/basics_measuring1.shtml
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