Have you ever taken a high dose of a psychedelic substance, only to find that you didn’t experience any of the hallucinogenic effects that you were expecting? If so, you’re not alone. Despite the profound, life-changing experiences that many people report having while tripping on psychedelics, there are others who seem to be immune to their effects.
In this article, we’ll explore the reasons why this might be the case and what you can do to increase your chances of having a positive, mind-altering experience. Before we dive into the reasons why your psychedelic drugs and magic mushrooms might not be working, let’s first take a closer look at what a psychedelic drug trip actually entails.
Defining the Psychedelic ‘Trip’
Using the standard definition of the word, a trip is an act of going to a place and returning; a journey or excursion, especially for pleasure. But in this article, we’re not talking about going on a vacation or taking a trip to the grocery store.
In the psychedelic sense, the term “trip” describes the hallucinogenic event that occurs after taking a certain dose of a psychedelic substance. Perhaps some might describe the experience as visiting or touring different realities.
The phrase was coined in the 1950’s in studies led by scientists at the Central Intelligence Agency who were experimenting with illegal drugs like LSD for potential use as an interrogation tool.
Despite the US government’s early attempts to use psychedelic drugs for coercive purposes, modern scientific research has shown many potential positive mental health effects from psychedelic use, including alleviating symptoms of treatment-resistant addiction, depression, anxiety, and PTSD, to name a few.
Science has yet to determine the exact mechanisms that cause a psychedelic trip, but anecdotally we do know that these altered states of consciousness can be profound, life-changing, and sometimes result in mystical experiences.
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Common Themes of a Therapeutic Psychedelic Experience
Though different depending on the particular substance, a psychedelic trip has common themes which permeate the experience whether you’re taking magic mushrooms or LSD, including visual hallucinations, mood alteration, perceptual changes, and enhanced bodily sensations.
Some users also experience a lowering of inhibitions, the recollection of repressed or significant memories, and an increased ability to healthily address difficult or challenging personal and mental health issues.
For most, the visual components of a psychedelic experience are unlike anything ever experienced before. They include things like increased visual acuity, sensitivity to light, and visual modulation of the surrounding environment.
Specific patterns or details that normally go unnoticed may draw in one’s attention and receive newfound appreciation for their beauty or complexity. Colors may be enhanced, appearing more intense and powerful than they do with sober eyes. Objects may also appear to be magnified or “zoomed in” relative to other things in one’s visual environment.
More complex visual components like the warping of objects and scenery may also be experienced. This may just be a distortion of an object that is already there and can happen both outwardly (with eyes open) and also internally (with eyes closed).
For some, this appears in the swirling of one’s face or the movement of the lines of the design on a rug. It may also produce a wall that appears to be breathing, with undulating light that may extend outwards to eventually encompass one’s entire environment.
With some psychedelic drugs, particularly ayahuasca and DMT, the visual components are more intense and may include kaleidoscopic geometric patterns like shapes, colors, and fractals.
These visuals may get so vivid that, in combination with specific body sensations, they fully override all visual and physical perception, leaving the psychonaut to feel like they’ve left their external environment have temporarily “broken through” into a new reality.
This imagery is also consistent with a state of consciousness where most transcendental, spiritual, or mystical insights are gained, an “ego death” takes place, or where a connection with spiritual entities occurs.
Some trips are not visually-dominant, and the user may experience changes in mood, body sensations, and thought patterns. Mood changes can range depending on the particular set and setting, from sorrowful to joyful, introspective to adventurous, or even anxious to calm.
The release of the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, serotonin, associated with psychedelic use may also create a pleasant body high. Temporary changes to your brain chemistry may allow you to shift the perspective of your thinking, while changing personality and spirituality, connecting the dots and events in your life in a more meaningful way.
For many, the tripping mind is still clear and aware but becomes an ungovernable observer of these new and intensified senses. The relative control you have over your thoughts and emotions ebbs and flows as the power of the psychedelic takes over.
The psychedelic experience is inextricably linked with an element of surrender, a loosening of the reins, and the concept of entrusting your mind to the natural or synthetic substance they’ve consumed. This can be both exciting and absolutely terrifying.
No two trips are the same and many elements of the trip itself are ineffable and difficult to process (this is why we are so big on integration work). And some people don’t experience any of these phenomena at all.
Why Doesn’t Everyone Feel Psychedelic Effects?
The reason we can spend so much time discussing the experiences that arise when one is tripping is because, comparatively speaking, we have a much greater understanding of what a trip is compared to how a trip works. Some scientists have tried to make some sense of how these experiences happen—of how our brain can produce the imagery we’ve mentioned here.
In fact, Euclidean geometry has actually been discovered as being one way to describe how the brain produces certain hallucinations. The patterns of connection linking the retina (the visual cortex) and its neuronal circuitry allow us to make sense of contours and edges. It’s thought that this is also the area of the brain that produces geometric hallucinations.
While scientists have devoted a tremendous amount of work to psychoactive drugs and their mental health benefits, the scientific literature is almost entirely devoid of investigations as to the recreational practices of psychedelic use.
Many people seek out the pleasurable “tripping” experiences for reasons outside of therapeutic potential, yet we still have relatively little understanding of the psychedelic “trip” itself. Given the prohibition and federal scheduling of these substances, there’s a scarcity of research into how the trip occurs. For that reason, much of the evidence in this space is anecdotal.
Relatedly, it’s important to mention that experiences vary significantly, and it may be difficult to draw any conclusions about why you’re not tripping. However, through insight from our community, we’ve compiled 5 common reasons one might not experience a psychedelic trip.
Everyone experiences psychedelics differently. We understand the frustration of taking magic mushrooms, wanting to harness the healing power of psychedelics, only to have nothing happen after consuming the substance. Trust us, there is nothing wrong with you.
Regardless of the case, it’s helpful to be able to share experiences and feel supported by those who might understand where you’re coming from. If you’re tired of scouring internet forums only to be more confused than you previously were, Psychedelic Passage is here to give you the hands-on support and actionable mental health knowledge that you’ve been seeking. Our pre-vetted network of psychedelic facilitators and integration specialists are ready to help.
5 Reasons You Might Not Be Tripping on Psychedelics
1. Impact of Environment
Two of the most important words when it comes to psychedelics are set and setting, with set referring to your mindset and setting referring to your surrounding environment. The context of the psychedelic experience, that is–the physical space, is absolutely crucial, not just from a safety standpoint, but also because it plays a huge role in the experience of the trip itself.
Early psychedelic research that neglected set and setting was associated with unpleasant experiences. Not only were these less positive, but they also many times resulted in someone not being able to feel the psychedelic substances.
Alternatively, when study participants were given a “psychedelic” (which in actuality was a placebo) along with an appropriately designed set and setting, many of them reported that they tripped. This shows the importance of set and setting in facilitating the psychedelic trip.
Considerations for set include an examination of your current state of mind as well as identifying stressors that may impact your experience. For example, you may be going through a difficult life circumstance where your mind is in survival mode, and therefore rejects the release of control often associated with psychedelic use.
The same may occur if you don’t have an intentional setting. The preparation of setting most notably revolves around feeling safe and comfortable in one’s physical environment. It can also involve preparation like fasting for at least three to four hours prior to a trip. If you’re interested in learning more, check out our guide for how to prepare for a psychedelic journey.
2. Ego Causing Resistance
While the physical environment could be considered the setting of the equation, the ego also plays a major role in your mental state, or set. In psychoanalysis, the ego may be defined as the bridge between the conscious and unconscious mind and the mechanism behind reality testing. It is also responsible for your sense of personal identity, whether limiting or not.
Think of your ego as the culmination of your thoughts, beliefs, and feelings about yourself and your life. The ego is all about stability and familiarity to increase your chances of survival, but in this modern world, an overactive or rigid ego may have some drawbacks.
Though dependent on your intention, the mere curiosity of wanting to try a psychedelic substance threatens the ego because it means something may potentially change. Since psychedelics challenge our perception of reality and who we are on a deeply spiritual level, the ego may cause resistance to the psychedelic trip.
It goes without saying that it takes a certain level of comfort and acceptance for whatever will arise in order to fully experience psychedelics. It’s often easier said than done, but surrendering to the psychedelic substance will contribute to your capacity to fully experience it.
A certain level of anxiety is common before an encounter with psychedelics. If this persists, it can be thought of as the ego gripping too hard, preventing one from fully surrendering to the experience.
Similarly, the continuous thoughts that “it’s not working” may have an analogous effect. Given our tendencies to overthink and constantly evaluate our daily lives, it can be difficult to avoid doing the same during a psychedelic experience. It may seem scary, but fully letting go and trusting in the experience can help produce a smoother and more profound trip.
If it’s not already in your practice, a daily meditation routine will help you quiet the ego in ways that’ll also help you trip. Thoughtful discourse in preparation of the trip, including setting intentions, are also vital to quieting the ego.
Like with some other substances, a tolerance with psychedelics has been observed. Another reason you may not trip is tolerance, which can include your body’s natural tolerance (or conversely, sensitivity) to a specific substance, as well as temporary tolerance build-up from recently consuming a psychedelic drug.
In fact, several studies have discovered that there’s a very rapid tolerance to psychedelics like LSD. Interestingly, there has also been a cross-tolerance reported when study participants use both LSD and psilocybin.
Aside from DMT (which hasn’t been associated with cross-tolerance), many psychedelics involve the same mechanisms as well as a common pathway in the brain. It’s thought that if psychedelics are consumed two days in a row, use on the third day will produce few or even entirely non-existent effects.
For you to feel the effects of a psychedelic substance, it’s recommended to put at least a few days between trips—but it’s probably better to wait a week (or a few weeks). We’ve written an article that goes in-depth on standard psychedelic dosage.
4. Drug Interactions
Many other drugs, both legal and illegal, will impact the psychedelic experience. A full chart of drug combinations can be found here but it’s also important to emphasize that if you’re ever unsure, you should approach psychedelics with extreme caution.
SSRIs (Antidepressants): SSRIs are a class of antidepressants that are generally known to blunt the effects of psychedelics. However, with MDMA, the two drugs combined can not only lead to an awful hangover, but can also lead to serotonin syndrome which can be fatal. That said, mixing MDMA and antidepressants is dangerous and should absolutely be avoided.
MAOIs (Antidepressants): Generally speaking, MAOIs have similar effects as SSRIs. They can lead to an unpredictable potentiation or depotentiation of hallucinogenic effects, as well as increases in duration of effect.
However, MAOIs are actually required in order for someone to experience the effects of orally consumed DMT (ayahuasca is a combination of DMT and an MAOI). Like SSRIs, MAOIs should never be used in combination with psychedelics as it can result in severe toxicity.
Therapeutic Stimulants (ADHD Medications): Combining stimulants with MAOI-containing psychedelics (ayahuasca) can lead to serotonin syndrome and be dangerous. Combinations with MDMA haven’t been studied extensively, but it’s understood to result in an additive effect and may be dangerous—especially in high doses.
When combined with the classic psychedelics (LSD and psilocybin), there is little mechanistic overlap and few risks. However, it may minimize the experience and should still definitely be approached with caution.
5. Adulterated Substances
Unfortunately, due to the fact that psychedelics are illegal, you really never know what you’re receiving when you purchase them illegally. In some cases, this means that the consumed substance is not actually the substance you wanted, or there may be unknown fillers and additives.
At best, this could lead to a delayed or weakened experience or produce no “tripping” effects at all. Sometimes, people end up taking more in an attempt for it to “work,” which we do not recommend. At worst, consuming an adulterated substance could lead to health complications that may severely harm you.
Psychedelics are generally very safe. But lack of regulation means users don’t have transparent information regarding the sources, constituents, and concentrations of psychedelic substances.
Most of the complications that arise do so because of someone consuming too much or consuming something different than they expect. That being said, it’s highly recommended that you have a reliable scale and drug testing kit to test each substance before consumption.
Also, if you’re not feeling the drugs, we never recommend upping the dose. Luckily, we have an entire article dedicated to reviewing the best psychedelic substance purity tests and the best mushroom grow kits.
Mushroom grow kits can be a great option for growing your own medicine as it allows you to be completely sure of the psychedelic mushroom strain that you have. Purity tests are convenient and easy ways to test for adulterating substances in your medicine.
Solution #1: Psychedelic Potency Test Kits
Imagine preparing for a profound voyage of the mind, only to find that your psychedelic experience falls disappointingly short of your expectations. This phenomenon can be disheartening, leaving you questioning the authenticity of your chosen substance. One primary reason for such letdowns is the degradation of the active ingredient in the drug.
This degradation can occur for various reasons. In the case of psilocybin mushrooms, improper storage conditions or the passage of time can lead to a decline in potency. Similarly, LSD and psilocybin can degrade over time, leaving users with a less potent product than initially intended.
Moreover, the inconsistency in the distribution of active ingredients within different parts of mushrooms or even different sections of a blotter sheet of LSD further complicates the matter. This variability makes it challenging to gauge the precise dosage, often resulting in underwhelming effects for those seeking a transformative experience.
Introducing QTests: A Quantum Leap in Harm Reduction
In a groundbreaking development for harm reduction practices, Dr. Felix Blei, based in Jena, Germany, has pioneered Miraculix QTests—the world’s first quantitative reagent test kits specifically designed for psychedelics. These innovative kits represent a significant leap forward in harm reduction within the psychedelic community.
Unlike traditional reagent kits that merely identify the presence of a substance, QTests go a step further by revealing the potency of psychoactive compounds in milligrams or as a percentage. This level of precision empowers users to make informed decisions about their psychedelic experiences, ensuring a more predictable and meaningful journey.
If you’ve ever wondered why your psychedelic adventure felt underwhelming despite taking what should have been a substantial dose, QTests may hold the answer. These kits allow you to assess the strength of your substance accurately, ensuring you achieve the desired effects.
QTests offer a comprehensive range of options to cater to various psychedelic substances. Whether you’re exploring the realms of MDMA, LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and even a cannabis, there’s a QTest kit tailored to your needs.
Visit the QTest Website to buy your first psychedelic potency test kit.
Solution 2: Psychedelic Purity Test Kits
One of the significant challenges in the world of non-prescription medicine is the prevalence of adulterated substances. These adulterants are added to psychedelics for various reasons, often driven by profit motives. The inclusion of impurities, substitutes, or other substances can significantly alter the intended effects of the drug, leaving users with an experience that falls short of their expectations.
These adulterants not only compromise the authenticity of the experience but can also pose serious health risks. Identifying and mitigating these risks is crucial for those seeking safe and meaningful psychedelic journeys.
DanceSafe: Guardians of Purity and Harm Reduction
Enter DanceSafe, a remarkable organization dedicated to promoting health and safety within the music and nightlife communities. Beyond their commitment to education and harm reduction, DanceSafe offers a lifeline to individuals seeking clarity about the purity of their psychedelic substances.
DanceSafe doesn’t just provide reagent test kits for various psychedelics; they embody a culture of transparency and empowerment. Their extensive range of offerings includes MDMA Testing Kit, an LSD Testing Kit, a Ketamine Testing Kit, and a Standard Set of 6 Reagents that test for MDMA, ketamine, and LSD.
What sets DanceSafe apart is not only their commitment to providing quality test kits but also their wealth of educational resources. Their website serves as a treasure trove of articles, educational materials, and resources on responsible drug use. They equip their community with the knowledge and tools needed to make informed decisions about substance use.
Visit DanceSafe’s website to purchase your first psychedelic purity test kit.
Explore How it Feels to be Connected
When it comes to psychedelics, safety comes first. It’s more important than the trip and it’s more important than any anticipated benefits or expectations from the experience. Some people don’t trip when they consume psychedelics, and it’s always better to try again later with better preparation than it is to increase the dose.
Without legalization and an increase in psychedelic-related mental health research, we may never discover all the reasons that may prevent someone from tripping. If you’re someone who generally doesn’t feel psychedelics, you may want to discuss this with a guide or trip sitter. It may also be advantageous to discuss any drug interactions with a doctor.
Just remember that you are not broken and that there is nothing wrong with you. Your inability to trip may actually be a vital step to your healing journey. Or perhaps psychedelics simply are not for you and your current mental health state.
If you’re looking to embark on a therapeutic psychedelic experience, we empower you to connect with our pre-vetted network of local psychedelic guides. Book a consultation with our psychedelic concierges to get matched with a facilitator that meets your needs. As always, head on over to our resources page for more, informative articles like this one. Safe and mindful journeying!