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How to Help Someone Who Has Taken an Illegal Drug or Substance

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Information to help and guide anyone who is suffering from a bad trip, or drug-related reaction from a substance they have taken.

Why someone could be having a bad trip

You're here to either help someone or prepare yourself to help someone in need of urgent medical care or attention when someone has consumed alcohol, illegal or pharmaceutical drugs, or any other substance you cannot identify — or a combination of some of them.

First and foremost, they may 'not' have taken anything but are suffering from severe withdrawal symptoms from any number of substances smoked, sniffed, drunk or injected.

If they are shaking or shivering, they could be suffering from heroin withdrawal symptoms and in need of more heroin. Methadone (used to help users stop taking heroin) or going cold Turkey (the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms)

They could have mental health problems or medical disabilities, such as epilepsy, or diabetes, which can make a person slur their speech, walk weirdly or seem incoherent. Or, not remembering anything.

They may (or may not) have dementia, and experiencing memory loss, confusion, and difficulty speaking. Or swearing and being offensive because of Tourette's syndrome. Many conditions can make someone look like they could be high or suffering from the effects of an unknown substance.

In addition, it's not just what they have taken, but the amount, strength and purity — as well as their body weight — and rate of metabolism of the person who has taken the drug.

Table of Contents

  • More than one type of drug could be the cause of the problem
  • How do I find out what they've taken?
  • How to help them calm down and recover
  • Try to keep them in a quiet place
  • When things are serious - What to do in an emergency
  • Long-Term Substance Abuse - Drug Death Statistics
  • Video: Risk factors for drug use and drug abuse
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If someone is seriously unwell and did not take any drug, they may have been unknowingly 'spiked'. Someone could have mixed a substance into their drink or food. If that's the case, call the hospital. Get as much information about their previous whereabouts, and keep any items (drinking glasses/bottles) that will be helpful to the police and ambulance. My article here will help; How Can I Tell What Drug Someone Is On? Things to Lookout For!

Be aware that someone on drugs may look half unconscious, but they are in a happy place (high, but happy - especially for heroin or Spice users). If that's the case, the last thing you'd want is to call 911 because many drugs could leave people looking half unconscious, but they're enjoying themselves, hence why they took the substance.

Other times, they may not want help but require urgent medical assistance. If they've knowingly taken a drug, and are very sick, try to find out what the person has taken. Easier said than done if someone's semi-conscious or incoherent.

If they've knowingly taken a drug, and are very sick, try to find out what the person has taken. This could be easier said than done if someone's semi-conscious. My article here will help; How Can I Tell What Drug Someone Is On? Things to Look out For.

More than one type of drug could be the cause of the problem

how_to_calm_people_down_who_are_haing_bad_trips

They could be suffering from a bad trip or an adverse reaction to something. These can include one or a combination of the following. Cannabis. Heroin. Magic Mushrooms. Acid tabs (LSD). Gamma Hydroxybutyrate. (GHB). Ecstasy. Crack. Amyl Nitrate. Phencyclidine (PCP). Cocaine. Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Synthetic Marijuana (Spice). Solvents - (Gas) & (Glue) substances.

Heroin users can look practically unconscious (even when standing) when they're high. This is normal for all users. It's called 'gouching'. However, they may have mixed their drugs with something else such as smoking too much cannabis or synthetic cannabis called 'Spice' which is much more dangerous and addictive than regular cannabis/weed/skunk. This synthetic drug could leave users feeling agitated, have uncontrollable body movements, pass out, and even seizures are quite common.

How do I find out what they've taken?

how_to_calm_people_down_who_are_haing_bad_trips

Things like LSD and magic mushrooms can artificially induce psychosis, which means they can lose touch with reality. To an observer, a person can appear crazy, but this state will evaporate once the drug has worn off.

If you're unsure exactly what they've taken, ask them directly. If they cannot respond, check their pockets. Anything you discover can be very helpful to you and the medical services. Remember, they could have taken more than one substance. If you 'can' discover what they've taken, it could save them from having their stomach pumped unnecessarily.

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How to help them calm down and recover

Concentrate on bringing them back to 'straight thinking' by telling them they're safe and whatever they've taken will soon wear off.

What they consumed could be better out than in, but trying to make them vomit could obstruct their breathing and cause other problems. Ask them if they need medical help.

Try to keep them in a quiet place

how_to_calm_people_down_who_are_haing_bad_trips

Keep them away from loud noises, crowds of people and flashing lights. Ensure they are in a calming place with soothing music. Get them to lay on their side — in bed, if you can. They may become agitated, so don't push them if they are not in a cooperative mood.

The colour of a room can make all the difference. Light green and blue rooms have a calming effect. Gentle massaging or talking to them is another option.

If they keep telling you that "a giant monster or alien is in the room" or "flying pigs are outside", they're enjoying their high, you don't need to worry or call the local mental asylum.

When things are serious - What to do in an emergency

how_to_calm_people_down_who_are_haing_bad_trips

If they're non-responsive or unconscious. Try to wake them up by nudging and shouting their name, and gentle slaps to the face. If they're still unresponsive, they could have just literally passed out or are in a very heavy sleep. If that's the case, let them sleep it over, and keep an eye on them.

Monitor their health and keep them in a comfortable position, either seated or on their side. Make sure their airways are clear. Observe their breathing and heart rate (pulse) and face colour. Has their face turned very pale or red? Some people are naturally very pale or red-faced, so any changes you notice, may not be obvious to the medics, so tell them.

If their temperatures high, and they are very hot or cold and appear in need of assistance because they are either sweating, vomiting or gurgling and finding it hard to breathe, call for medical help immediately. Help them calm down. Explain what's happening, and everything will be OK.

If things get too serious or violent, keep as far away from them as possible. But close enough to stop them from doing something dangerous to themselves or others. Keep calm and observant, and be on your guard.

If and when the medics get involved, tell them what they've taken, when, and how much. Give as much information as possible.

Long-Term Substance Abuse - Drug Death Statistics

When they are back to normal from their high, you should advise them to seek professional help or treatment immediately from their local drug and alcohol services. Educate yourself with information about addiction. Get them professional support such as counselling or encourage them to visit an "Alcohol Anonymous" (AA), or a "Narcotics Anonymous" meeting (NA).

The long-term misuse of substances could leave users suffering from long-term damage to their mental and physical health, including death.

Drug Overdose Deaths Remain High.

In 2020, 91,799 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States.

In 2020, 4,561 deaths related to drug poisoning occurred in England and Wales.

Video: Risk factors for drug use and drug abuse

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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat or cure any medical problem, and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or any advice from a licensed health professional.

© 2007 Tony Sky

Comments

Victoria on July 03, 2015:

you idiots saying marijuana cannot make someone "trip" really need to educate yourselves, or gain some more experience. It is not common, but does occur. I've had visuals from it one time when I was 15 (I'm 35), but I've had the mental aspect of tripping several times (do some lsd, you'll understand what I mean). I have done a lot of drugs in my life, more than most people ever will and I have a lot of first hand experience with all the drugs named in this article, except pcp, which I've only done 1 time. I no longer use anything except tryptamines (including psilocybin mushrooms). This article, while meaning well, is not sound advice. Can you imagine tripping and having some idiot who assumes you are scared or having a bad time, calling the cops/paramedics to come shoot you up with some sedative before whisking you away to the hospital/psyche ward/jail? Or tripping and along comes captain save a hoe to monitor your vitals, try making you lay down and massaging you? WTF? Lesson to be learned from this? Trip alone or with friends who you trust and are comfortable with who can calm you down at home if need be

Regularuser on March 02, 2015:

I've taken 15g of magic truffles on amsterdam, hell of a trip, allucinating with everything, but yet i had bad trip with a cannabis milk the other day, i've taken lsd, extasis, mdma, dmt, psylocybe cubensis, amanita muscaria. So don't bring me out I'm a noob guy on this, probably i don't smoke half ounce of weed a day, wont judge either, but i've smoken tons of weed in a day and you cant compare feelings and sensations, eating cannabis food can bring you toy 4 to 6 hours trips, the thc level in your body will be much higher lots of canniboids are lost when you smoke them.

DennisK on July 12, 2013:

Thanks for the tips. Much appreciated advice.

Just_FactS on May 04, 2013:

Excuse me wow!!

I know so many dealers and KNOW exactly that substances which I will not disclose are added/sprayed/mixed in to marijuana so THAT is why some people experience bad trips and even if the marijuana was NOT contaminated, it IS possible for some people to have a bad trip and feel very unwell and spaced out! these are the facts, the whole facts and nothing but the facts.

I rest my case.............or do !I!!??

J_F

wow on May 04, 2013:

I seriously can't believe what I am reading. Most of you guys are trying to make it seem like marijuana or "weed" is the problem. I have been smoking marijuana now for almost 6 years. On a daily basis I smoke almost a half ounce to an ounce. I have not once ever had a bad trip or even a trip at that off of marijuana. FYI for those that don't know measurements a half ounce is 14g. From what it sounds like you guys are experimenting with everything else except marijuana. Yeah LSD, ACID, SHROOMS yeah those kind of drugs will give you a trip. However, unless your marijuana is laced with anything your not going to have a trip.

You want a real laugh watch reefer madness.

thetruth on April 28, 2013:

ok I just wasn't to start by saying you can not trip on weed its just not possible you may be aware of the change in your psyche but its not enough to induce a trip at most if its your first time of you smoke a shit ton you might get sick but that's it

daytripper on November 11, 2012:

The worst part about all of these comments is the spelling and grammar. It's giving me a bad trip.

J on September 21, 2012:

I am 45 and I tripped out on weed twice on weed so don't say you don't trip out on weed. The first time was the first time I smoked it I could not talk or understand reality, I was very confused but it was funny and the second time was the sort of the same but many years later and I was paranoid and i could not talk, I was afraid very and trembling, but both were difinitly a bad trip. So just because so ppl haven't had a bad trip doesn't mean it is not possible (I have been there) and I have tried everything!!!!!

MagicMush on September 07, 2012:

this should be a thread to help people, so everyone should really try to limit their negativity. saying things like "you don't trip off weed silly boy" helps no one, even if you think your knowledge on weed is greater than anyone's. no, weed generally does not make a person "trip" unless it is laced (so rule #1--get your stuff from people you trust!), but sometimes strong weed can induce paranoia which leads to panic, and this can make a person feel helpless like they are tripping even if they are not. the most important thing with any drug really is set and setting, even when the drug is as seemingly mellow as marijuana. you should never use a drug if there are tasks that you must do that you might not be able to handle high/tripping. for example, I have experienced panic attacks from weed when i thought i was sober enough to get behind a wheel (stupid idea--inexperienced people should never drive high. i've been smoking for about 7 years and even i take caution). the responsibility of driving a car and being responsible for my and others' lives freaked me out when i was baked. A similar thing happened when I went to work. Unless you work at a really chill place where your boss and coworkers know you smoke weed and are okay with it, you should never get high and go to work. There are too many responsibilities and risks at stake. now, if i was really high and at home, listening to some chill music or watching a good movie, I would have never panicked. but having responsibilities I couldn't handle while high was what made me freak out. now, this may not be true for everyone. some people may take a few hits of bud and it may calm them down and they may actually perform better at the workplace. I am only sharing my personal experiences. So if you find yourself at times too high off a drug, just think--what's the worst that can happen? As long as its not something dangerous like cocaine or heroin, you're going to survive. there are no known weed induced deaths and very few from psychedelics (very rare cases mainly from strong disassociates like PCP; LSD is actually one of the safest drugs aside from weed). so know somewhere deep down that you'll live to tell the tale. second off, just enjoy it! as long as you don't have any responsibilities like driving or whatnot, enjoy being high! play some calming music, have a good meal (careful cooking while being too fucked up), or watch your favorite movie. things that calm you down when you're sober will do the same when high. take some deep breaths, lay down in room that soothes you, and enjoy yourself!

Ashley on August 22, 2012:

Im so disappointed in the answers here. My bf has been smoking since he was in middle school. He's a senior now. He still gets bad trips.. RARELY only if he smokes like a fuck ton.

I on the other hand have little experience smoking but I trip out bad easily. My boyfriend realizes that yes you can get a bad trip on weed and helps calm me down by giving me massages, talking to me, and reminding me I'm okay constantly.

Unlike the arragant assholes Hon here he knows everyone has a limit and if you exceed your limit you'll get trip out a bit. I don't mean the trip where you're hallucinating I mean when you like feel like your dying and your body goes numb and you don't feel your heart or anything anymore.

BEST ADVICE: Constantly remind yourself that your okay and drink and eat something. Milk works for weed when your having a bad trip. Atleast for me. A big glass of milk does the trick. (:

pamela on August 04, 2012:

Hey my boyfriend and me took so bad 2cb and acid on top of that 4 years ago; my bf went on one thinking id set him up on candid camera n undercover people we following us . and i was doing it to him. he also thought of really crazy stuff n was telling me i was behind it with other friends that weren't even at festival with us. i took him bk to the car to chill out wnen it was happening away from it all. the next day i drove us home n just looked after him for 3 days. Even now he is still 100% sure all this happened . i have tried every which way it hasn't also sometimes he comes out with accusations out the blue. he hasn't touched nething since.

Any ideas on how to make him see it was all a bad trip n wasn't real? He used to be so cool and laid back and now he is a paranoid mess x

TMK on July 21, 2012:

If you morons think that THC can have any type of negative physical effect, watch the movie/documentary "The Union." Don't worry, you only need about a fourth grade education to follow along.

chuy on April 21, 2012:

i also quit weed after having lsd + shrooms flashbacks but weed is harmless unless you are unexpirienced and i smoked pot since i was 15 im 21 now.now im sober like a soldier!!

jesus on April 21, 2012:

i ate shrooms and took a hit of acid had the most intense trip of my life ever seen everything from unicorns to robots to my friends face deforming the only thing that helped me was having someone sober there helped out alot...

AnonNo.514 on November 29, 2011:

Seriously, these comments are disheartening. I know some people who smoke weed seem to believe they understand EVERYTHING about it, but you guys might want to do a bit more research. First of all: weed CAN make nearly anyone trip, but the required doses are very high for most people. Extreme doses (like 10-20 grams of THC in a concentrated tincture) will make nearly anyone trip balls, and there are many reports of people taking such high dosages; especially in lab studies with THC. A large part of the scientific community considers cannabis a very mild hallucinogen in light of some fairly recent information and studies.

Now, for its effects upon a bad trip from another drug I believe that one should be very cautious about smoking weed during a bad trip if they've had anxiety problems with the stuff, or you have little experience with weed.

I personally use weed for my PTSD and related mental problems. It works as a highly effective anxiolytic on me, BUT everyone has a different body and brain chemistry. Just use common sense.

Forealman on August 28, 2011:

I'm tripping right now.

mcgrouby pacovich on August 15, 2011:

yep i as well had a trip on weed. shut up Badtripper your stupid you cant trip on weed it was laced. and plus you cant sleep when tripping so shut up yu little kid weed is amazing and you've never tried it if you say it made you trip

Gurny mcgurn on June 30, 2011:

You don't trip off weed you silly boy. Grow up.

Badtripper on June 10, 2011:

I had a bad trip on weed, i bought some weed after school one day this was my 4th time smoking i had 5 tobacco bong hits then 3 very very very small weed bong hits. After all the hits i said this weed is terrible ! , but then like a BANG! the trip hit me in the face, i walked over to my bed to try and calm down i woke up 3 minutes later but it felt like hours every time i blinked it felt unnatural, i then got up and stumbled down stairs i said to myself i need orange slices to calm my buzz, i sloppily cut open an orange and took a huge bite my heart was beating so fast and i could spell words out on the wall, i went in to the lounge to watch tv to try and calm myself down i was wAtching opera she was talking very slowly and i zoned out like a million times i felt horrible and scared, and then this song started to play in my head "NE - NE - NEVER AGAIN, NE-VER AGAIN WILL THIS HAPPEN TO ME!" and the room was warping i was so scared and when my mother got home i told her what i'd smoked and she rang a doctor and she told me to lay down on a couch and i calmed down very quickly and i started to enjoy my high, then she said your grounded for a month... Ruined my buzz and then i got huge munchies...

duff1 on August 31, 2010:

i took lsd for the first time the other week i took 2 hits and after about an hour things on my computer screen started to flicker i was enjoying the sensation and hoping for more after about 2 hours i realised i am tripping balls somepoints of my trip were hillarious and just silly i did panic near the end of my trip i didn't think it was gonna end i have a rep with being paranoid on drugs but i do know im not gonna die so just keep saying to yourself im not gonna die and even if you don't believe it don't worry you will wake up . LSD is fantastic i advise watching a walt disney classic such as bed knobs and broomsticks

Jordan on December 04, 2008:

i had a horrible trip on a mix of lsd and mushrooms u just gotta fight through it you may feel very terrified but i just kept telling myself its the drugs it didn't help but at leat i knew it was gonna go away and wasn't going to die so i waited it out and it took like 2 days to fully recover but as long as your on safe psychadelics you can usually deal with it all a bad trip is that you don't understand yourself so these psychadelics bring your personality out and you take a tour around your brain and your brain is very powerful and some arnt ready to take that trip

SMH from London on April 05, 2008:

A mix of mostly sensible advice and some very bad advice. Treating a bad trip with sedatives is very common in emergency departments but it is a terrible idea. While it is safe enough from a physical standpoint where LSD or other indole psychedelics are concerned, it is commonly reported to increase the likelihood of long-term ill-effects. But it can result in deathn when it is done with a person who is bad tripping on PCP or a number of other dissociative drugs and these are the drugs that are most likely to be involved in bad trips that produce beligerent or aggressive behavior.

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