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Saturday, September 25, 2021

First aid

Bad trips suck.

Sometimes they happen because you smoked a little too much, other times because you hadn’t eaten all day; or maybe because you weren’t used to smoking out of a bong and didn’t expect such a potent hit. Sometimes even something as trivial as the temperature or lighting might cause them.

Either way, bad trips ruin your high and put your body in an uncontrollable panic.

While weed usually helps calm your nerves, it can also put you in a state of increased sensitivity and hyper-awareness. This is cute and funny when it happens to the kids on “That ‘70s Show,” but it is actually extremely uncomfortable and scary.

During a bad trip, every single thought becomes urgent, and the feeling that something terrible is about to happen becomes impossible to ignore.

Sometimes people get extremely paranoid and they worry that the cops (or somebody’s parents) are going to show up out of nowhere and throw everybody in jail. Other times people get exaggeratedly worried about their health, and they get the feeling that they cannot breathe properly or that they are about to have a heart attack or brain aneurysm.

In their frantic state, people will catastrophize every little sensation or fear. Their minds become obsessed with negative thoughts that grow and spread through their entire being. They become anxious and fearful for no logical reason.

It might sound as if someone should be able to escape a bad trip simply by thinking happy thoughts, but while this is half-true, it is not that easy. The mind is extremely complicated and powerful. Sometimes it seems to develop a mind of its own and refuses to be tamed.

Trying to get out of a bad trip by telling yourself to think positive thoughts is like trying to fight fire with fire. It usually only makes things worse by adding to the million swarming ideas in your head that already have you incapacitated.

Instead, it is better to concern yourself with mundane, even boring matters. Do things that you can do automatically and that don’t require much thought.

Wash the dishes. Clean your room. Pick out your outfit for tomorrow. Organize your bookshelf or music library. Make your roommate a sandwich.

These tasks are not at all stressful, but they provide enough mental and physical stimulation to distract you from your irrational paranoia. Plus, they leave you feeling quite productive and accomplished.

Do something artistic or constructive. The same animated state of mind that is causing your paranoia can be converted into a creative, uninhibited point of view that can allow you to approach the world in a curious, beneficial, almost enlightened manner.

Draw, sketch or color in a coloring book. While a lifetime of honesty and civility might have left you inclined to always color inside the lines, in your altered state you might feel the urge to avoid this temptation. Go crazy.

You should embrace this newfound feeling of rebellion and question everything.

Work on some puzzles, solve some mysteries, pop in a song or movie and see if you notice things that you’d never noticed before.

Again, your paranoia stems from an increased awareness of yourself and of the world around you, and you should try to focus on something healthy and interesting. This way you are not simply carrying around an acute sensitivity that quickly over-exaggerates every single negative thought.

I am not saying you should ignore any serious signs that your health might be in danger. If you honestly feel as if you are suffocating or are having a heart attack, then you should definitely see a doctor.

But take the time to ask yourself if there’s a chance it might just be in your head. There are a number of emergency room visits by first-time smokers who freak out and think they are dying. But after being examined they are simply told to go home and rest so they can come down from their high.

If you can still talk in complete sentences, and if your face is still its natural color, and if you can still walk around on your own, then you’re most likely alright, and you should just enjoy your weed and watch some more episodes of “That ‘70s Show.”

LEO OCAMPO and his bong can be reached at gocampo@ucdavis.edu.

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