Recreational Use of Psychedelics
Set, setting & substances for recreational use, tripping vs. drinking, plus a little trip report from Burning Man
I’ve been avoiding this topic. Mainly because I’ve had judgment against recreational psychedelic use for as long as I’ve been into this topic.
I came to this work through my own healing journey, so my entire relationship with psychedelics has always been based on that. While I’ve had a handful of “social” journeys with friends over the years, I’ve always set some type of personal intention and carved out some time to go deeper on my own. I never saw the point in tripping just to trip. Part of me worried that taking psychedelics recreationally would be escapist, other parts were convinced it wouldn’t do these medicines justice.
Well, you live you learn.
I just got back from Burning Man, where for the first time I properly dove into the world of recreational use. I’m a fan.
I’m a fan because I’ve come to realize that psychedelics are not just for healing and spiritual exploration, but also for joy, fun, and leisure. (Plus, they always sneak in a little healing insight here and there anyways, but more on that shortly).
If you’re interested in recreational use, read on to learn what substances and doses are a good fit, how to think about set and setting, how to navigate recreational trips, and how tripping compares to drinking in social settings.
All You Need to Know About Recreational Use: Set, Setting & Substances
My journey into recreational psychedelic terrain began shortly before Burning Man. I decided to take a gram of mushrooms and go on a hike with a friend. My intention was simply to be present and enjoy the hike. It was a lovely experience that I’d 10/10 recommend. Do I need mushrooms to enjoy a hike? Absolutely not. Do mushrooms make hiking more fun? Certainly.
At Burning Man, I went into it with no intention other than to have fun. Oh boy, fun I did have. There were so many giggles, waves of gratitude and awe, appreciation of art and my fellow humans, and a deeper experience of the music.
In terms of set, aka your mindset and mental state going into a recreational experience, it’s critical to be in a good headspace going into your experience.
You might think that that always needs to be the case, but I’d disagree. When I came to Ayahuasca I was in the worst mental headspace ever, and it still saved me.
Yet, if you’re feeling off, and you’re hoping that some mushrooms or LSD will help you escape that feeling — don’t get your hopes up. They won’t. They amplify whatever is present in your mind, so escaping really doesn’t work well with psychedelics. It may work with drinking, but not with psychedelics.
There are many potentially fun recreational settings. Festivals and hikes are only two of them. Others could be nature adventures, beach days, or creative endeavors. Whatever you’re into, really.
Regardless of the setting, I definitely recommend only venturing into recreational settings once you’ve had some psychedelic experiences in more controlled settings. This will help you build a relationship with the substances and familiarize yourself with how they make you feel. It will also give you confidence in how to navigate them.
God forbid you to take a bit too much and end up melting. You wouldn’t want your inaugural melting and ego dissolution experience to be on a dance floor surrounded by hundreds of people.
Here are the two factors that influence recreational settings more than anything else:
Make sure you’re surrounded by people you feel safe and comfortable around, people with a good vibe, people who are in a good mental headspace themselves on that day. If your company is getting anxious it’s hard to remain unaffected because psychedelics amplify every situation and dissolve boundaries between you and those around you.
Music comes down to personal preference. I don’t appreciate super hardcore techno on psychedelics, I’m happier with more mellow, down-tempo tunes. Either way, make sure to have a backup in case you hate the music and can’t escape it, because this will make or break your trip. E.g. at a festival, ear plugs or noise canceling headphones can be a solid safety net.
#3 Substances & dosing
So, which psychedelics are the best fit for recreational use, and how much should you take?
Since I’m new to this myself, I can only share what I’ve experienced so far.
One thing I can tell you for sure is that medicines like Ayahuasca and Ibogaine should never be consumed recreationally. I don’t have an opinion on mescaline yet.
The best candidates in my opinion are LSD and mushrooms, with LSD probably being my first choice (depending on what you do).
In more upbeat, social settings, LSD will give you energy and connect you deeper with yourself and your surroundings. Mushrooms do the same, but I’d argue they’re a better fit for more introspective or quiet endeavors such as a hike because they do make you more mellow in my experience.
I’ve never tried Ketamine but I hear it’s a party favorite for many people, too. So is candy flipping (combining MDMA and LSD), which I haven’t dared to try yet.
In terms of dose, I’ve found the sweet spot to be low to medium doses.
For LSD, this would be half (or less) of a regular 150 mcg tab, for mushrooms this would be 0.75-1.5 grams. To find what works for you, start small and work yourself up.
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Navigating Recreational Trips
Psychedelics in lower doses are still psychedelics. This means that they require some level of navigation. Let me tell you a little story to illustrate what I mean.
During one day at Burning Man, I was enjoying a medium dose of acid. The trip was fun, at times intense, but manageable and certainly entertaining. I was giggly for most of it. Except for when I had a mini emotional breakdown on the dance floor.
My company and I decided to briefly split up because I wanted to continue dancing and he wanted to walk around and absorb the sunset. I told him I’d wait exactly where we’d been dancing together. He took off and I went on to do my thing, which at the time felt like making love to the music.
After 20 minutes or so, I began feeling a little anxious. Thoughts started creeping in, “what if he doesn’t come back?”. I wasn’t worried about him ghosting me as much as I was concerned he’d get lost or need my support. I began feeling left alone and it felt uncomfortable.
Now, as a psychedelic novice, I would’ve been completely absorbed by the anxiety and probably spent my entire time waiting for his return freaking out. But because I know how psychedelics work, I recognized that the drug was amplifying an emotional state.
So, I asked myself, “what is it that is so unbearable about being left here right now?”
As soon as I asked myself this question, the underlying emotional reality came through — the feeling of being left in the context of heartbreak.
A feeling that had been unfamiliar for years, because I hadn’t let myself like anyone remotely enough to get hurt throughout most of my 20s.
I began balling in the middle of the dancefloor.
Then, the LSD did its magic and my experience shifted, as I realized the following:
I was ready to be left.
Finally, I was ready to get my heart broken again.
Tears of fear and grief turned into tears of joy and relief. Just at this moment, another friend found me on the dancefloor and hugged me from behind.
It was a flawless psychedelic epiphany — simple but profound.
These experiences don’t always happen in recreational settings, but when you’re open and curious enough, they can.
Tripping vs. Drinking
At this point, I’d like to share some thoughts on why I believe low-dose psychedelic trips are superior to drinking alcohol in recreational settings.
…makes it harder to be present
…is a depressant
…may make you do questionable things
…can make you sloppy and forgetful
…will make you feel terrible the next day
…make it easier, almost effortless to be present
…induce feelings of euphoria, joy, awe, and wonder
…make you simultaneously feel more connected to your inner world and your surroundings
…increase appreciation for art and music
…produce an afterglow during the following days
Just some food for thought….the choice is ours.
I, for one, have no intention of ever going back to drinking and am excited to dive into this next chapter of intentional, recreational use.
Recreation vs. Re-Creation: same word with a hyphen added.
Re: Mescaline, it’s the champagne of psychedelics. Natures MDMA. Start with 100mg. Lovely magic, esp. at the Burn.
Thanks for the article! 🥰
I think you probably meant to say micrograms (mcg or ug) and not milligrams (mg). Big difference.
Where is the line between recreational and therapuetic? Is there really a difference? Can recreational be therapuetic? Rhetorical questions. I think the word 'recreational' is used when the term 'social setting' or 'very large group' sometimes fits better.
I would caution anyone to be very comfortable and experienced in small groups before embarking on experiences in very large crowds. Even then I think it's probably best to have a friend present who has not ingested. There can be external as well as 'internal' dangers.