Podcast 455 – “Going Off the Psychedelic Rails”


Guest speakers: Annie Oak, Irina Alexander, and Bruce Damer

“The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys”
By James Fadiman


Today’s podcast features a panel discussion about some of the difficulties that can be encountered during a psychedelic experience. This panel discussion took place at the 2014 Palenque Norte Lectures at the Burning Man Festival and features Annie Oak, Irina Alexander and Bruce Damer. In addition to the featured speakers, several members of the audience also spoke about a few of their own difficult experiences with psychedelics and how they dealt with them. This would be a particularly good podcast to listen to before you attend a festival or other large event. And keep in mind, it isn’t just the inexperienced people who sometimes go off their rails. It can, and does, happen to highly experienced trippers as well. So be prepared!


PCs – Right click, select option
Macs – Ctrl-Click, select option

“The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys”
By James Fadiman

Posted in Annie Oak, Bruce Damer, Consciousness, Culture, Education, Family, Irina Alexander, Palenque Norte, Psychedelics.


  1. Being in nature is the BEST for psychedelic experiences
    “be with the other species” i concur
    i also agree with taking time to allow these ideas to ripen. From my experiences that process has taken up to a decade.. things happen exactly when and as they are going to.

    thank you

    Annie, Irina,Bruce, and Lorenzo. 🙂

  2. Your comment summed it up well, Lorenzo, but I felt there was quite a bit missing here and if this was supposed to provide people at Burning Man with practical guidance I do think it fell a long way short.

    I would say:

    – Know what the psychological effects of psychedelic substances actually are. Read Stan Grof. This is critical information for anyone venturing into self-exploration.

    – Know yourself. If you have deep seated psychological issues which may surface under the influence of certain substances in the relatively uncontrolled environment of a festival, better you adjust the choice and dosage to avoid this happening and instead carry out that exploration in another time and place with an experience and qualified guide.

    – Festivals, and a fortiori Burning Man, are hardly the place to experiment. You go there to have fun and make connections. Don’t do anything you haven’t already done in a more controlled context, and adjust dosages in keeping with this goal of fun. Self-discovery may well be an important by-product, but it should not be the intention of a trip at a festival.

    – I don’t think it is helpful to use the language of “journey”. Journeying is something shamanic practitioners do. By definition they have been inducted into a practice and know what the purpose is. This purpose is never self-discovery: journeying is a tool to help others. Spreading confusion on this point I think is terribly bad advice. Shamanic practitioners venture into non-ordinary reality with a purpose, they go there and get the job done. Psychedelic trips happen to the subject in a way which is largely beyond, and perhaps should be beyond, their control. Yes, there is intention and there are some ways to navigate but it is not comparable to a shamanic journey. It is, in other words, a much more passive and a much more personal experience.

    – If you are on SSRIs, and you want to explore psychedelics, in my opinion you need therapy to get off them first. If you haven’t had such therapy, festivals seem to me a very bad choice of setting to try out untested and uncontrolled experiments on yourself. SSRIs have a persistent effect on the serotonin metabolism long after stopping and AFAIK need to be stopped weeks or even months before any use of psychedelics which is not very strictly supervised.

    – There is a certain tension between advocating the use of psychedelics in psychotherapy and advocating their unsupervised use on which I think more self-reflection is due. If these medicines are a powerful tool to unlock psychic blockages then it follows that we should be careful in their use. Under conditions of prohibition, self-medication is inevitable. However, you still owe it to yourself to do this with all the care and attention possible. I think raves and community gatherings are extremely healing events in and of themselves, and if you go to them then you should aim at the minimal dose needed to get the experience you are looking for and no more. If you are aiming at deep intrapersonal experiences (“intentionally going off the rails”), choose another setting and the appropriate guide.

    Sorry if I sound a bit of a curmudgeon but I felt this needed to be said.

    On an unrelated point, I would not say necessarily to sit on guidance received during a trip for a period of months. This really depends on how confident you can be in it, which depends on your prior experience and history and varies from one person to another. Personally I would look for independent validation of a course of action that emerged in this way. In my opinion, if the universe is calling you to a radical life change and if you are open to it, it will be made eminently clear in various ways, not just one, and thus you have nothing to lose from some initial skepticism provided you do remain open. However, a time line of months would be excessive if you have really the connection to source needed to obtain validation without involvement of the ego.


  3. Does anyone know why the ‘flashing light’ phenomenon has that effect?

    Half a lifetime ago when I first dropped LSD some fool who hadn’t taken it before thought it would be fun to flash lights in my and another first time tripper’s eyes. It freaked me out having just started experiencing the effects for the first time, but then an experienced tripper told me as should be done in a calm voice that everything was alright and under control. I realized quickly after that LSD for me was actually about the easiest substance ever to control my mind under it’s influence, but it was thanks to those words of wisdom and certainly not due to the flashing lights and the fool wielding them.

  4. For the benefit of anyone wanting to view the harvesting of frog venom for Kambo healing ceremoies see “Peru 2014 Kambo frog venom harvest” in youtube. And for the benefit of the frogs.

Comments are closed.