Side Effects Of Medical Psychedelics: How To Deal With Them
Medical psychedelics are compounds that are effective in the treatment of a medical condition, which are generally physical or psychological. The medical psychedelics that many researchers focus on include psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms), ayahuasca, iboga, MDMA, and ketamine. These compounds — when coupled with psychotherapy — can help those struggling with severe, hard-to-treat, or treatment-resistant mental health conditions. But while effective, medical psychedelics can also entail some side effects.
You may find some of the side effects of medical psychedelics are unimportant and manageable. Others, meanwhile, can be a nuisance and make you feel quite uncomfortable during your experience. In this article, we are going to explore how to deal with the most common side effects of medical psychedelics. These side effects can be reduced or managed, and in some cases, they can even be prevented.
Nausea And Vomiting
Two of the more common side effects of psychedelics are nausea and vomiting, including psilocybin-containing mushrooms, ayahuasca, and iboga. Typically increasing with higher dosages, nausea can be mild, moderate, or severe. It’s also more common than vomiting when using psilocybin mushrooms. However, both nausea and vomiting are common following the ingestion of ayahuasca and iboga. See below for how to reduce both side effects from occurring:
- Taking the psychedelic on an empty stomach and fasting beforehand can be helpful. This practice is commonplace with many ceremonies and retreats involving mushrooms, ayahuasca, and iboga.
- Rectal administration: by taking the compound through the rectum (also called ‘plugging’), you bypass the stomach. This reduces nausea in the process. It’s important to note that this route of administration (ROA) can be unappealing to many. Also, for this ROA to be practical, you would want to take extracted or synthetic compounds, not the whole plant that contains those compounds. This would mean, for example, taking synthetic psilocybin or extracted ibogaine (found in the shrub Tabernanthe iboga).
- Many studies have shown ginger to be effective at preventing nausea and vomiting. To prevent nausea and vomiting from medical psychedelics, eat raw ginger root, drink ginger tea (using fresh or powdered ginger), take a ginger supplement, or consume ginger-containing products. You can consume ginger before and during the dosing of psychedelics to deal with nausea.
- Antiemetic drugs (those that are helpful for preventing and/or relieving nausea and vomiting) include dopamine antagonists (e.g. metoclopramide, haloperidol, domperidone, and levomepromazine), antihistamines (e.g. cyclizine, promethazine), serotonin 5HT3 antagonists (e.g. ondansetron, tropisetron, granisetron), and cannabinoids (e.g. cannabis, a cannabis extract, or CBD).
Dizziness is a side effect of medical psychedelics that can occur with psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, iboga, and ketamine. You can deal with this dizziness by:
- Lying down and closing your eyes until the dizziness passes, then getting up slowly.
- Moving slowly and carefully.
- Drinking water and staying hydrated (as dehydration can be a common cause of dizziness).
Also Read: Just what, exactly, is psychedelic therapy?
Lack Of Coordination
Medical psychedelics that can result in ataxia (a lack of coordination) include psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, iboga, MDMA, and ketamine. This can involve finding it difficult to walk, speak, and perform everyday activities. When participating in a ceremony or treatment involving these medical psychedelics, you can deal with impaired coordination by:
- Lying or sitting still.
- Not having any obligations to walk around or perform any duties.
- Having a guide, facilitator, or therapist present, who can ensure that you are physically safe.
Jaw Clenching And Teeth Grinding
Bruxism (jaw clenching and teeth grinding, also known as ‘gurning’) occurs most commonly with MDMA. For some people, bruxism is an inconvenient aspect of the MDMA experience, but in some cases, if it’s not managed, it can lead to issues such as tooth damage and damage to the lips, tongue, or cheeks, as a result of unconsciously chewing on them. However, significant damage from bruxism usually follows MDMA abuse. It is less likely to occur with something like clinical ketamine therapy, in which doses will be lower than used recreationally, and with only a few sessions taking place. But if you are worried about bruxism, you can deal with this side effect of MDMA by:
- Using chewing gum or chewing on a pacifier, so you don’t grind your teeth together.
- Taking a magnesium supplement: magnesium helps to increase levels in the brain and it is believed that the bruxism resulting from MDMA is related to how the drug decreases dopamine levels.
Persistent Mental Health Effects
In some instances, a negative psychedelic experience can lead to a persistent, negative impact on one’s mental health. This is more likely with traditional psychedelics like psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, and iboga, rather than MDMA or ketamine. Negative, lasting effects can include anxiety, confusion, depersonalization (feeling like an outside observer of your life), and derealization (feeling detached from your surroundings). If these unpleasant effects don’t subside on their own and in a matter of weeks, you can:
- Seek counseling or psychotherapy
- Try to integrate your experience: by making sense of a psychedelic experience, you can lessen negative effects such as anxiety and confusion. Integration can take place within counseling or psychotherapy, on your own in the form of introspection, reading, and journaling, or among other psychedelic users in the form of a psychedelic integration group.
- Practice self-care and look after your mental health: this can involve watching your diet, getting good quality sleep, exercising regularly, and having a regular meditation practice.
- Use medications to manage the severity of the symptoms (best to speak with your primary doctor or mental health professional to discuss if medication is necessary and what sort of medication you might need).
Also Read: Here’s what to know about psychedelic side effects
Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD) is a rare condition among psychedelic users. It involves the experience of visual distortions, even when the substance has been eliminated from the body. A lot of the time, HPPD will pass on its own, in a matter of weeks. But it doesn’t, you should:
- Refrain from using psychoactive substances, especially psychedelics.
- Reduce your stress levels.
- Seek treatment for any mental health issues occurring alongside the HPPD, such as depression and anxiety.
- Use prescribed medications if nothing else works. Commonly prescribed medication for HPPD include benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam (Xanax) and clonazepam (Klonopin).
Accepting The Side Effects Of Medical Psychedelics
Many side effects of medical psychedelics are common and should be expected (e.g. vomiting in the case of ayahuasca). For this reason, one of the best ways to deal with the side effects is to accept them as part of the process. Every drug has side effects and for many people, the side effects of medical psychedelics are worth it for their benefits. Always make sure you find the best ketamine therapy clinics.
After all, these side effects tend to only last as long as the experience lasts, yet the benefits of the compound can persist in the long-term.
Polaris Insight Center – San Francisco, California
Temenos Center for Integrative Psychotherapy – Petaluma, California
The Center for Transformational Psychotherapy – San Anselmo, California
IV Wellness Center – San Rafael, California
Mossbrae Medical Group – Mount Shasta, California
Colorado Springs Ketamine Treatment Center
Crestline Health and Wellness – Birmingham, Alabama
NeuroRelief Ketamine & Infusion Therapy – Sherman Oaks, California
Ketamine Infusion Centers – Phoenix, Arizona