Risks of self-medicating bad drug trips: a warning from doctors

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Doctors are raising alarms about a growing trend where individuals use potentially dangerous drugs, referred to as ‘trip-killers’, to abruptly end unpleasant experiences (‘bad trips’) after using psychedelics like LSD or magic mushrooms.

This concern is detailed in a research letter published in the Emergency Medicine Journal.

The doctors based their warnings on an analysis of discussions on Reddit, a popular social media platform.

They noticed that drugs such as benzodiazepines (sedatives) and antipsychotics are often recommended as trip-killers on these forums. However, there’s a worrying lack of information about the possible harmful side effects of these substances.

Psychedelic drugs can sometimes lead to distressing experiences, including agitation and even psychosis.

Recent research has shown that over 8% of drug-related visits to emergency departments in Europe are due to psychedelic drugs. As the clinical use of psychedelics grows, doctors fear that the number of such incidents might increase.

The concept of using additional mind-altering substances as trip-killers is not new, but its popularity has surged on social media in recent years.

To understand this trend better, the doctors analyzed Reddit threads from 2015 to 2023. They found 128 threads with 709 posts discussing trip-killers.

Their findings showed that nearly half of all the recommended trip-killers were various benzodiazepines, followed by several types of antipsychotics.

Other suggested substances included antidepressants, alcohol, opioids, antihistamines, herbal remedies, prescribed sleeping pills, cannabis, and cannabidiol.

Most discussions about trip-killers were in the context of LSD, magic mushrooms, and MDMA (ecstasy). However, only a small fraction of the posts mentioned the possible harmful side effects of using these substances to counteract a bad trip.

The doctors specifically expressed concern about the frequent recommendation of benzodiazepines. These drugs can be addictive and have been linked to overdose deaths.

The doses discussed on Reddit could lead to over-sedation, dangerously low blood pressure, and respiratory depression (where breathing becomes dangerously slow or stops).

They also noted that the recommended doses for one of the antipsychotics, quetiapine, were high, ranging from 25 to 600 mg. Few posts made a distinction between its fast and slower release formulations.

The doctors highlighted a significant gap in public health information. Despite the apparent risks posed by trip-killers, there is little to no information available through drug advice services.

This lack of guidance may lead individuals to make uninformed and potentially dangerous decisions in attempting to manage bad trips from psychedelic drugs.

The warning from the medical community underscores the need for greater awareness and education about the risks of self-medicating with trip-killers.

It’s crucial for individuals to understand the potential dangers of mixing drugs and to seek professional medical advice in case of a bad psychedelic experience.

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The research findings can be found in Emergency Medicine Journal.

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