Psychedelics can be funny at times – but safety ain’t no joke.
When we say “safety is our top priority”, we mean it.
Although psychedelics are generally considered safe under the right conditions, substantial risks do exist and are amplified by certain factors. It’s our responsibility to communicate these to you, as well as our safety protocols as part of informed consent.
BLUAYA’s 6-Point Safety Commitment
Our strict safety measures and protocols help reduce and eliminate the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual risks to participants. Here are 6-ways we do this:
Strict Qualification: Our strict application and screening process assesses risks to the individual and group based on medical conditions, behavioral characteristics, and other factors. Some conditions will instantly disqualify individuals whereas other conditions are subject to future assessment before qualification status can be determined.
Preparation Assistance: Helping participants prepare for their experiences, set expectations, and establish optimal mindsets.
Optimal Setting: Offering a safe and comfortable environment, with different rooms, outdoor area, available refreshments and food.
Quality Mushrooms: We use locally sourced mushrooms that are slow-dried, then stored in vacuum sealed bags with silica gel desiccant packs to keep dry. Our process not only helps the mushrooms retain stability and potency but also protects them from mold (which can cause side effects if ingested).
Trained Facilitators: Our facilitators have over 10 yrs of personal experience, professionally guiding and supporting journeys since 2020, and keep up to date with industry best-practices and harm reduction protocols. Many of our harm reduction protocols are adopted from https://zendoproject.org/education.
Integration Support: In the days following an experience, we provide integration advice. It should be noted that proper preparation and integration is crucial in maximizing the benefit one receives from a psychedelic experience and failing to do so can increase risks.
Understanding Difficult Psychedelic Experiences
Challenging psychedelic experiences are not uncommon. The very nature of the psychedelic state, with its limitless sensations, expressions, and dynamics, can be disorienting, confusing, and at times frightening. The same elements that can influence someone’s decision to explore psychedelics – change in perception, expanded awareness, and altered consciousness – can be the very things that can contribute to a difficult experience, challenging our beliefs and assumptions about ourselves and the universe.
Various psychedelic substances have been used for thousands of years by different cultures to induce altered state experiences, which has been seen by many as a doorway into personal and collective healing. By seeing that which we have suppressed, we have an opportunity to heal it. When psychedelics are used in a ceremonial or therapeutic setting, difficulty is expected and even welcomed as part of the experience. With certain substances like ayahuasca or peyote, it is commonly understood that facing the fears and inner demons revealed by the medicine is a trademark of the experience. Becoming conscious of our repressed aspects and memories and integrating them into our awareness is at the core of the psychological and emotional healing process. Psychedelics can catalyze this process of awareness, which is why they hold so much promise in mental health treatment.
However, this knowledge can often be forgotten and replaced with often unspoken and misleading beliefs about the psychedelic experience, for instance that it is supposed to be fun, connecting, enjoyable, transcendent, peaceful, or euphoric. It can definitely be these things-and much more…
Because psychedelics are nonspecific amplifiers, the ingestion of these substances can allow us to expand our insight into every possible aspect of the human experience, everything from joy, bliss and love to fear and confusion, and hatred.
If the individual under the influence is in a supportive environment free of shame and judgment they are more likely to be able to surrender to whatever the substance is revealing to them.
Helping someone having a difficult psychedelic experience means creating a safe environment for the individual to surrender to the experience.
One of the challenges with recreational environments like concerts, festivals, and parties is that these environments can be highly varied and unpredictable. Combined with a psychedelic this can create conditions in which the individual cannot surrender and can begin to resist, causing a spiral of more struggle and challenge.
Individuals may be confronted with their fears or unresolved issues from the past.
Some may attempt to avoid this experience because it makes them feel afraid, threatened and uncomfortable. For others, such states may simply be a case of sensory overload. People may feel panicked or overwhelmed. Fear can quickly escalate, aggravating and magnifying the very thoughts and feelings that the person is trying to avoid. Helping to remove or reduce resistance and fear can help shift the person’s mental perspective. Such reassurance can help the person focus on the personal growth that can be gained from these experiences. Any difficult or powerful experience – whether involving an altered state or not – can be considered an opportunity for personal evolution.
Set & Setting
Though the effects of psychedelic substances vary widely, all psychedelics have a similar pattern: there’s the doorway with different physical, mental and emotional manifestations. There is a buildup, then an extended stay on a plateau, then the coming down, re-entry.
A psychedelic experience is influenced by the set, setting, and drug. Set refers to the mindset of the person taking it. What is the person’s intention, their emotional state, and their previous experience with the substance? Setting refers to the physical environment: noise, lighting, other people, familiarity, safety. Drug refers to the substance taken. What is the dose, duration, and purity of the drug? Changes in set and setting can radically shift a psychedelic experience.
Old traumas can be remembered and relieved. These memories can be of a physical nature (reliving one’s birth, childhood abuse and/or illness, memories of famine and/or war, accidents, or rape are some of the possibilities of re-emergence). These memories can also be of an intellectual, emotional nature (reliving verbal abuse, a lack of basic emotions, body contact, love, nurture, or a disassociation due to a traumatic experience). These traumas can be of a transpersonal nature, meaning phenomena that go beyond our personal identity or biographical understanding of the universe.
One of the most commonly felt threats to sanity is the feeling/experience that one is going crazy, losing one’s mind, or that this will never end. This feeling/experience can be brought on by changing mental states and sometimes powerful changes in perception. Major shifts in ego and personality structure, regarding one’s belief and understanding of oneself, the world, and god, are common.
Effects of Psychedelics
There can be many different, sometimes never experienced, sensory, energy, and body sensations. These can range from hearing colors to seeing music. It could be an extremely heightened sense of smell, taste, hearing and vision. Some of the most frightening manifestations of the psychedelic experience are energetic. People go through powerful releases, rendering their bodies out of control, shaking, twisting and vibrating. These energies, being activated by the psychedelic substances, could be related to birth, an opening of a frozen body pattern, bioenergetic, neo-Reichian type of release, or be a reconnecting with the universal life force. The life-force is called the kundalini and it manifests in a powerful opening of the body’s energy center. It could also be an intensive sexual or other emotional release.
Working with Difficult Psychedelic Experiences
These are a few principles to help a challenging journey.
Principle 1: Safe Space
The presence of a grounded, compassionate individual can go a long way in helping someone feel safe in a time of crisis. Approach guests with kindness and openness, creating an environment of acceptance and compassion. Let the person know that they are in a safe place and that their experience is welcome. Let them know that whatever is coming up for them emotionally or mentally is ok and invite them share their experience if they would like, making no expectations.
Try to create a calm environment, most importantly, be a calm presence. Take the body posture and position you want to instill in them (e.g. sit relaxed vs standing).
Invite them to move to a quiet place with few inputs. No Bright lights, loud music, and lots of people can contribute to disorientation.
Ask what would make them most comfortable.
Offer suggestions of items rather than open-ended questions: o “Can I get you a blanket?” – rather than “Do you need anything?”
Offer blankets, snacks, water, tea, and electrolytes.
Confirm with and remind the person that they are in a safe space where they will be treated with compassion and without judgment.
Remind them that their experience is welcome.
Let them know that whatever is coming up for them emotionally or mentally is ok and invite them share their experience if they would like, making no expectations.
Keep personal information in confidence.
Suggest that they may want to wait until after their psychedelic experience has resolved to assess any major life decisions in a clearer light.
If a person indicates that they may do something that impacts their well-being and safety, invite the person to explain the situation as clearly and calmly as they can while seeking support of needed (see “Situations Requiring Additional Assistance”)
Principle 2: Sitting, Not Guiding
Words can often confuse or get in the way. Use them sparingly unless the individual is desiring to engage in a dialogue about their process. Rather than analyze their experience, listen with an open mind and heart. If engaged in dialogue, ask questions which help the individual deepen into their experience. Listen from the heart and become curious about their reality. Allow and encourage the individual to come to their own insights or conclusions. It is ok to provide your perspective on their experience, but focus should be more on helping them come to their own insights and conclusions through compassionate inquiry. Let go of your agenda and try not to get ahead of the process.
Focus on promoting feelings of trust and security.
Help the individual turn toward their experience rather than away from it. Trust in the process and the person’s inner guide.
Seek to be a calm meditative presence of acceptance, compassion, and caring.
Let the person’s unfolding experience be the guide.
Try not to get ahead of the process.
Let them know that you are listening and that you care
Encourage them to explore their self-awareness and ask clarifying questions where appropriate to confirm or clarify your understanding of their situation.
Ask questions which help the individual travel deeper into their experience.
Respond in a way that shows that you understand, or are genuinely trying to understand what they are saying.
Explore with them what they would consider a good outcome to their situation.
Individuals may want to discuss sensitive or personal topics; Sitters should give the individual permission to explore these issues in confidence, while maintaining their own emotional and physical boundaries.
Everyone’s experiences are unique. Be kind, attentive and reassuring.
Principle 3: Talking Through, Not Down
Help the individual turn toward their experience rather than away from it. Trust in the process and the person’s inner guide and inner wisdom. Trust that whatever is showing up for them is something that they are being invited to learn about. Never dismiss or invalidate someone’s perceived reality. Try to avoid rushing the experience, trying to fix the scenario, or find a solution. Rather than provide answers or solutions, remain in a place of not knowing, or beginner’s mind.
Without distracting from the experience, help the person connect with what they are feeling.
Invite the person to take the opportunity to explore what’s happening and encourage them to try not to resist it.
Encourage them to discuss their own perceived emotional strengths and resources.
Encourage engaging in forms of artistic self-expression: writing, drawing, etc.
If a person feels anxious or tense, you might encourage them to take deep, slow breaths or engage in some form of movement that releases tightly wound energy.
Individuals should be given the opportunity to express themselves and/or release excess energy by whatever means they feel is necessary – such as making noises, crying, singing, chanting, or moving around in whatever way is useful to them within reason given the environment.
When possible and appropriate, remain with the person while they are being cared for and continue to reassure them.
Ask them if they want to lie down, change body position, or move their body. Sometimes simply moving from one position to another can help shift someone’s experience.
Don’t dismiss or invalidate someone’s perceived reality. Arguing with someone’s reality is typically counterproductive. This is especially the case for paranoia. If someone is experiencing paranoia, it can be helpful to let them know that you hear their reality even if you don’t agree with their perspective.
Try to avoid rushing the experience, trying to fix the scenario, or find a solution. Rather than provide answers or solutions, remain in a place of not knowing, or beginner’s mind.
If the individual is behaving in ways that are aggressive, set boundaries around behavior while validating the emotions behind the behavior such as “I hear that you are angry. You are welcome to express your anger with your words and emotions, just not with aggressive behavior