5 True Bad Acid Trip Stories

Firsthand Experiences of LSD

Lysergic acid (LSD) is an unpredictable drug with a range of hallucinogenic effects. The period of intoxication on this drug, also known as an "acid trip," or just "trip," can quickly become unpleasant. This unpleasant experience is known as a "bad trip" and can cause feelings of terror and panic.

The following are a variety of true bad acid trip stories. These stories are presented to raise awareness of the kinds of experiences that can happen when people "drop acid," although the experiences described are individual and not necessarily representative of what is experienced by all users of LSD.

what can happen on a bad acid trip
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin
1

Jack Hallucinated About Bugs and Snakes

Jack took his final acid trip at age 20, which he described as "the only one in which I lost the ability to know the difference between what was real and what was induced hallucination." He ingested 125 micrograms of LSD, which took effect while he was walking on the beach with a friend, Bill, who was not intoxicated. This is what he described happened:

"All of a sudden I was transported to never-never land, a deep dark place where everybody was a bug with insect faces, antennae coming out of their heads and all this dripping and masticating going on with their mouths...Snakeheads were bobbing around every corner.

"As the visual distortions continued, I started raving, going nuts...I was gone. It was about three hours of grisly horror. I was so distracted by the ghastliness of it all that I didn't have time to notice how scared I was. I thought this metamorphosed world was reality. I was screaming and yelling and jumping around while Bill tried to maintain me."

The bug and snake hallucinations continued on the drive home, and Jack kept trying to jump out of the car, so Bill had to tie him down. The drive was "one of the most gruesome experiences I can ever remember...I was out of my mind, horrified by these hideous visions I kept seeing...It was really a miserable, miserable experience."

After he came down from the drug, Jack's eyes were damaged from the sun for weeks afterward—the pupils dilate in response to LSD, and he had not worn sunglasses.

He became socially isolated— he reported feeling like an outsider and discontent, unable to have a sense of belonging with his previous "subversive" companions, and described himself as more inclined to see the dark side of humanity.

"Now I didn't belong to anything. I'd stepped away from my family and lost a lot of friends. I went off into the abyss because I was disconnected, on the road to nowhere. I never took LSD again."

While the consequences of Jack's bad trip were temporary, he was impacted for a long time afterward.

Some people can be affected by a bad trip for long periods of time, developing substance-induced mental health problems. Others are lucky enough to come down and feel much the same as they did before they had a bad trip.

2

Mark Was Hospitalized

At age 17, Mark took 5000 micrograms of LSD with four friends. As the acid took effect, Mark felt alienated from his companions, although later he reflected that maybe the hostility was all in his head. Feeling increasing paranoia, he went off into town on his own.

As the intoxication effects intensified, it looked as if "the streets were melting and churning," and people looked like comic book characters. A field looked like a Van Gogh painting, "everything in my field of vision looked slabbed on, like one of his paintings."

In search of sanctuary, Mark stopped by the home of a family he knew and requested a shower, which he then felt unable to control. Mark's parents arrived, but his behavior felt out of control.

He ran out of the house, thinking he could fly, although he was briefly sobered by the experience of stubbing his toe. He returned to the house, but then "the whirlwind began again," and he began racing around the house being chased by their Saint Bernard dog.

In an effort to control Mark's behavior, his companions put him in a small room, which only antagonized him further. He threw a chair through the window and escaped.

On his way home, he felt an impulse to be free and unencumbered, so he stripped off his clothes. An ambulance was called, he was tied to a stretcher, and taken to a hospital, where he received an injection of an antipsychotic medication. He was kept under observation for 10 days and charged with indecent exposure.

Mark's experience was unusual in that his behavior was dramatic, and he was taken to the hospital. However, he did take a very high dose of the drug, many times as much as Jack in the previous story.

3

Wayne Anthony's Girlfriend Became Violent

Wayne Anthony described a horrific turn of events when he and his girlfriend dropped acid, and she had a bad trip from the start. This was also a bad trip for Wayne because he had to subdue her aggressive behavior and get her professional help, all while being under the influence himself.

As a musician, Wayne's girlfriend owned a lot of recording equipment, which she smashed to pieces while under the influence of LSD. Stripping naked, she proceeded to cut herself with a broken shard of plastic. She became violent towards Wayne and others when they attempted to dress and help her.

Wayne called an ambulance and he and the paramedic struggled to get her into the ambulance, as she was so physically aggressive. While in the hospital, she assaulted a nurse. After that, she was forcefully held down by several people and injected with a sedative. She was injected with the maximum dose.

After coming down from the LSD, she was horrified at what she had done—assaulting herself and others, and destroying her own equipment. Clearly, she was in a very altered state of mind from the drug.

Although most people do not become violent from taking acid, when they do, it can be completely unprovoked and irrational and very difficult to control.

4

Boy George Lost Control of His Bodily Functions

Culture Club frontman Boy George described a bad trip in his 1995 autobiography, "Take It Like a Man."

Although he had used other drugs in the past, including weed and heroin, this was his first time taking acid. Compared to these other drugs, which take effect within a few minutes, there was a long delay between taking LSD and the drug-taking effect. George got bored waiting after taking the first tab and took a second dose, so when the drug finally took effect, the trip was very intense.

It can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes to start feeling the effects of LSD. These effects can last up to 12 hours, depending on how much you've taken.

George and his friends headed to a club. After going through feelings of paranoia about the police presence outside the club, and upsetting another celebrity, George began to feel that he had lost control of his body. The visual hallucinations made it feel like "everything was breathing and coming at me. I started shrinking and feeling scared. We had to leave."

He upset most of his companions, who left him with his pal Marilyn. By then, George had lost control of his bodily functions. "I was tripping so badly I couldn't get myself to the toilet. Marilyn led me to the loo in hysterics and left me staring at the bowl. I caught my melting face in the mirror and started to freak. 'I can't go, I can't' [then] I pissed myself."

People don't usually lose control of their bodily functions when intoxicated on LSD. However, the process of using the toilet can feel quite complicated, due to the sensory distortions that can happen.

People can also find themselves questioning social norms, which can seem pointless and meaningless, hence the occasional removal of clothing described in other stories.

5

Dr. Frank Olson Took His Own Life

In a tragic government experiment, Dr. Frank Olson, a biochemist who headed the U.S. Army's Special Operations Division, unknowingly consumed a drink spiked with LSD. There is no firsthand account of what happened, but he is said to have suffered from psychosis as a result. Days later, he committed suicide by jumping from a New York hotel window.

We will never know what Dr. Olson actually experienced during or after this trip, but the subsequent investigation indicated he may have had a history of emotional instability. If this was the case, then unknowingly ingesting a drink spiked with a hallucinogenic drug likely brought on feelings of extreme confusion and agitation.

While the triggering of psychosis and deaths by suicide and accidents are relatively uncommon under the influence of LSD, it is a real risk. People who have a history of emotional or mental health problems are particularly strongly cautioned of this risk.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. 

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

A Word From Verywell

As these stories illustrate, tripping on acid can lead to frightening, sometimes dangerous experiences. Even after the initial effects of LSD wear off, it can cause psychotic episodes or "flashbacks" months or even years after you used it.

If you do find someone you care about experiencing a bad trip, there are ways to manage the situation. Don't hesitate to call 911 if the person is experiencing overdose symptoms, appears to be incoherent, or is threatening to harm themselves or others. Police officers are increasingly becoming educated about drug effects, and can help to keep the peace if someone is behaving in a highly disruptive manner.

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Article Sources
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Additional Reading
  • Schmid Y, Enzler F, Gasser P, et al. Acute effects of lysergic acid diethylamide in healthy subjects. Biol Psychiatry. 2015;78(8):544-53. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.11.015

  • Anthony W. Class of 88: The True Acid House Experience. London: Virgin Books. 1998.
  • Black D. Acid: The Secret History of LSD. London: Satin Publications. 1998.
  • Hayes C. (editor). Tripping: An Anthology of True-Life Psychedelic Adventures. New York: Penguin. 2000.
  • O'Dowd G. & Bright S. Take it Like a Man: The Autobiography of Boy George London: Pan McMillan. 1995.