The Psychedelic Society of Utah does not promote, support, or endorse illegal substance use. Educational content is not a replacement for training and is intended for the purpose of harm reduction.
Exploring the realms of consciousness through the use of psychedelics can be a profound and transformative experience. However, for some individuals, this journey can lead to a challenging and often bewildering phenomenon known as "ego death."
Ego death is the sensation of losing one's sense of self and identity, which can be both terrifying and enlightening. As a friend, partner, or guide, providing support to someone undergoing this intense experience is crucial. In this article, we'll discuss how to offer meaningful assistance and ensure their safety during a psychedelic-induced ego death.
Understanding Ego Death
Before we delve into the support strategies, it's vital to grasp the concept of ego death. This phenomenon often occurs during high-dose psychedelic trips and is characterized by the dissolution of one's ego or sense of self. People experiencing ego death may feel detached from their bodies, memories, and identities, leading to a sense of oneness with the universe or a feeling of being reborn. Movement and communication can be difficult in this state, making your support vital.
The first step in providing effective support is to educate yourself about psychedelics, ego death, and the specific substance your friend is using. Understand the potential risks and benefits, common effects, and the duration of the trip. Knowledge is your best tool in offering support.
Always test substances prior to using them.
Testing supplies can be found at https://dancesafe.org/drug-checking/. Fentanyl is an extremely deadly drug commonly laced into substances. Fentanyl testing strips can be found here https://opidemic.utah.gov/fentanyl-test-strips/fentanyl-test-strips-distribution/. To be prepared in case of any undetected Fentanyl or other opiates, Naloxone, a life-saving substance can be found here. http://www.utahnaloxone.org/utah-pharmacies-with-naloxone-rescue-kits/
Create a Safe Setting
A crucial aspect of the psychedelic experience is the environment. Before the trip, ensure that the setting is comfortable, safe, and free from distractions or triggers that could induce anxiety. Dim the lights, prepare soothing music, and have blankets and water readily available.
Be a Calm and Reassuring Presence
When ego death occurs, individuals can feel intense fear, confusion, and vulnerability. Be a calm and reassuring presence. Offer physical contact, like holding their hand or giving them a reassuring hug, if they are comfortable with it.
Discuss ahead of time what safe, supportive touch might look like. The person experiencing the ego death will be in an incredibly vulnerable position. Ensuring that any touch is safe and consented to in a sober state is vital. However it is also important to pay close attention to body language during the experience. Supportive touch like hugging or hand holding agreed upon before the experience may feel uncomfortable to your friend during the experience.
Practice Active Listening
During ego death, individuals may have intense and complex thoughts and feelings. Listen attentively and without judgment. Allow them to express their thoughts and emotions without interruption. Validate their experiences and emotions.
They may not be able to express their experience in a way that makes sense. That is OK. It can be helpful to offer them other mediums of communication like pencils, crayons, or movement. Allow yourself to listen to your heart and soul and be OK with the abstract. It doesn't need to make sense to you.
Ego death often involves a struggle to let go of control. Encourage your friend to surrender to the experience and remind them that what they are going through is temporary. Reassure them that they are safe and that you are there to support them.
Use Grounding Techniques
To help your friend feel more connected to reality, employ grounding techniques. Suggest simple tasks like deep breathing exercises, touching various textures, or drinking water. These activities can help anchor them in the present moment.
Avoid Trying to "Fix" Them
It's essential to remember that ego death is a natural part of the psychedelic experience for some individuals. Avoid trying to "fix" or change their experience. Instead, focus on being a compassionate and non-judgmental presence.
If you're providing support, it's crucial that you remain sober. Mixing substances can be dangerous and unpredictable, and it's essential to be in a clear state of mind to assist effectively.
Be Prepared for Aftercare
The journey doesn't end when the psychedelic effects wear off. Be prepared to provide aftercare for your friend. Discuss their experience, help them integrate it into their life, and offer emotional support as needed in the days and weeks following the trip.
Contact a Professional
Many professionals offer preparation and integration services for psychedelic experiences. If you are struggling to find local professional services, contact the Psychedelic Society of Utah.
Call Emergency Services
Some substances create a higher risk for medical events than others. Mixing substances, including prescription medications, creates even more risk. Take your friend to the nearest emergency room or contact local emergency services if you see the following symptoms:
Loss of consciousness
Or if you are concerned for their or your own safety.
Supporting someone through a psychedelic ego death can be a profound act of kindness and care. Remember that each person's experience is unique, and your role is to create a safe and nurturing environment for them to explore their consciousness.
With knowledge, empathy, and patience, you can support your friend as they navigate this challenging yet transformative journey and potentially contribute to their personal growth and understanding of the self.
Written by: Andrea Hanson M.Ed LCMHC
Andrea, founder and co-director of the Psychedelic Society of Utah
is a MAPS certified complex-trauma specialist with a passion for psychedelic-assisted individual and community wellness. Visit andreahanson.net to learn more about Andrea.