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What Causes a Bad Trip?

What Causes a Bad Trip?

Getting high off drugs is usually related to a feeling of euphoria, but at Banyan Treatment Centers, we know that this is not always the case.

When someone experiences a bad trip, it means that their high is unpleasant and accompanied by negative feelings. Bad trips are most often associated with psychedelic drugs that cause hallucinations but can also be used to refer to other drugs like marijuana. Whether or not someone will experience a bad trip on drugs depends on a variety of factors. 

The Many Possible Causes of a Bad Trip on Drugs 

A bad trip can happen to anyone abusing these drugs, but some people may be more prone to a bad trip than others. In reality, everyone is different and several things can cause a bad trip. 

Expectations are usually one of the most common reasons for a bad trip. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, people who are worried about having a bad trip may be more likely to experience one. Before they take the drug, they are already in a negative state of mind and taking the drug can exacerbate these negative feelings.    The environment can also play a big role in whether or not someone experiences a bad trip. Too much stimulation can be overwhelming and lead to anxiety or paranoia that causes a bad trip. Also, being surrounded by people you do not know or in an environment you are not uncomfortable with may also lead to a bad trip. 

Mixing drugs is another big reason people have a negative experience. Combining substances is dangerous and can lead to serious problems for the user both physically and mentally. Although some people may mix drugs with the intent to get a more euphoric and stronger high, the combination may actually have the opposite effect and cause a bad trip. People who are in the habit of mixing drugs of abuse may need intensive inpatient care to stop. 

Why some people may experience a bad acid trip may come down to how the high affects brain chemistry. In a study of psychedelic drug users, those that had higher levels of glutamate in the prefrontal cortex of the brain while using the drug were more likely to be experiencing a bad trip. On the other hand, those with lower levels of glutamate in the hippocampus were more likely to have a positive experience while high.1 These glutamate levels can activate different receptors that can result in both positive or negative emotional responses. Research still needs to be done to determine why people experience different levels of glutamate when on these drugs. 

How to Deal with a Bad Trip 

First of all, abusing drugs of any kind is dangerous and you never know how your body will react. Some people will have a bad trip the first time they abuse drugs. Other people may never experience this feeling, but that does not mean that their drug abuse doesn’t leave them feeling bad hours later from withdrawal or lead to other negative consequences in their life. 

If you notice that you start to experience bad trips more often, it may be a sign that you need help. Some people claim that bad trips become more common the more frequently you abuse certain drugs. Along with experiencing bad trips more often, regular use can also lead to dependency and addiction. A few bad trips may be a sign that you need addiction treatment

At Banyan, our treatment centers across the United States offer several different programs ranging from detox to outpatient programs to help people in every step of the addiction recovery process. If you or someone you care about has a substance abuse problem, do not wait to get help and start the recovery journey.  

To get more information about our many facilities and services, call us today at 888-280-4763.


  1. Nature - Me, myself, bye: regional alterations in glutamate and the experience of ego dissolution with psilocybin
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
What Causes a Bad Trip?
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