Zendo Project: Psychedelic Harm Reduction

This year, millions of people will use psychedelics outside of supervised medical contexts, many of them for the first time. Many psychedelic users are unprepared to tend to a psychedelic-induced difficult experience if one were to arise. As part of our efforts to minimize harm related to the non-medical use of psychedelics, on this page we provide advice for helping someone having a difficult psychedelic experience.
It is not uncommon for psychedelic users to have difficult psychedelic experiences. This is most likely to happen with first-time users, especially with high doses and without adequate preparation or guidance. These experiences are sometimes called “bad trips.”
A difficult psychedelic experience is not necessarily a bad one. With proper preparation and understanding, it is possible to help a person having a difficult experience to receive the most benefit from it. Difficult psychedelic experiences can be frightening, but also among the most valuable experiences someone can have. Difficult psychedelic experiences can be the result of external factors, such as a chaotic environment or traumatic events, or the result of painful or troubling emotions that arise during the experience.
By working with these experiences, rather than trying to “talk someone down,” together the sitter and the psychedelic user can make a difficult psychedelic experience a chance for personal growth.

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The Zendo Project Mission Statement:

It is our mission to 1) provide a supportive space for Guests undergoing difficult psychedelic experiences or other psychological emergencies in order to transform potentially traumatic experiences into valuable learning opportunities, and to reduce the number of drug-related psychiatric hospitalizations; 2) to provide an environment where volunteers can work alongside one another to improve their therapeutic skills and receive training and feedback; and 3) to demonstrate that the psychedelic community can take care of its own without the need for law enforcement-based policies.

Four Principles of Psychedelic Harm Reduction

  1. Create a safe space
  2. Sitting, not guiding
  3. Talk through, not down
  4. Difficult is not the same as bad

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Manual: How to Work with Difficult Psychedelic Experiences
LSD Psychotherapy by Stanislav Grof, M.D., Ph.D.
The Secret Chief Revealed by Myron Stolaroff
Handbook for the Therapeutic Use of LSD: Individual and Group Procedures (1959)
Article: A Model for Working with Difficult Psychedelic Experiences at Events
Article: Psychedelic Harm Reduction Services at the Boom Festival in Portugal
Article: Psychedelic Harm Reduction Services in the Black Rock Desert
More Psychedelic Harm Reduction Resources
Psychedelic Emergency Services
Psychedelic Harm Reduction Training Manual
Psychedelic Harm Reduction in the Media
Article: Zendo Project 2012: Harm Reduction in the Black Rock Desert, by Linnae Ponte
Zendo Project Psychedelic Harm Reduction – Volunteer Training 2014
The Manual of Psychedelic Support
Zendo Project 2016 Fundraising
Zendo Project: Fundraising Success, Event Updates, and More
Zendo Project: Help Fund Psychedelic Peer Counseling
The Haven: A Safe Space for Difficult Experiences at Ozora 2012 in Hungary
Trust, Let Go, Be Open: Psychedelic Harm Reduction in the Desert and Beyond