The Long, Hard Road to a Science of Bad Drug Trips

If we’re going to use psychedelics for therapy, we’re going to have to figure out the proverbial bad trip.

This story is part of When the Drugs Hit, a Motherboard journey into the science, politics, and culture of today’s psychedelic renaissance. Follow along here.

In 1968, Thomas Ungerleider and Duke Fisher, two psychiatrists from UCLA, traveled to the suburbs of Los Angeles to witness the rituals of an LSD cult.

Two years earlier, Ungerleider and Fisher had authored “The Dangers of LSD,” a paper that documented the rising incidence of admissions to the UCLA psychiatric ward by people reporting adverse effects while tripping on lysergic acid diethylamide. The doctors had recently given a lecture on the subject of what’s come to be known as the “bad trip,” a catchall term for the difficult experiences some psychedelic users report, from mild anxiety to full blown psychosis and persistent delusions.

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