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  Harm Reduction for Your At-Home Psychedelic Retreat
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Harm Reduction for Your At-Home Psychedelic Retreat

Sara Gael of the Zendo Project offers up some harm reduction tips

Madonna Diaz-Refugia

Between admission fees and the logistics of travel planning, psychedelic retreats can be expensive and stressful. And, while a long weekend of self-love and psychedelic exploration at a concert or festival with friends can be fun, it can also sometimes make for an over-stimulating environment. Harm-reduction experts say sometimes the comforts of home may be better suited to encourage a positive experience with psychedelics.

“Home use has the benefit of being able to limit the amount of variables,” says Sara Gael, harm reduction officer at the Zendo Project. Sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), the Zendo Project provides professional harm reduction education to help inform and transform difficult psychedelic experiences into learning opportunities.

“At a festival, an event or a concert where there are a lot of variables—there’s music and strangers—there’s a lot of stimulation," Gael says. "And that can be really amplified and intensified on a psychedelic. In a home setting, there are less variables to navigate. You also have more control over those variables and those stimuli.”

So take a moment to unplug, unwind and consider these four pointers when creating an at-home psychedelic retreat.

Set a date with trusted friends

In the world of psychedelic harm reduction, it’s often advised to create a set and setting that are calming and relaxed. Consider preparing mentally ahead of time (maybe include integration practices both before and after the experience), and pick a date when you will not be disturbed. Set an out-of-office email and let your friends and family know you’ve prioritized that day for yourself.

But creating space doesn’t mean you have to take the journey solo. On the contrary, experts recommend journeying with trusted companions closeby.

“In general, I think that if you’re choosing to take psychedelics that it’s better to take them with people you trust,” Gael says. “It’s just a safer option than taking psychedelics alone—especially, if somebody is using a specific psychedelic for the first time or if they’re taking a substance in a dose that is higher than they have previously taken, then it is really important to have somebody there with you during your experience, [like] a friend or a member of your community.”

Before experiencing psychedelics with friends, harm reduction experts suggest taking some time to make safety agreements with one another. These agreements can be about the physical, emotional and psychological boundaries you would like to set, or how much time you’d like to spend alone versus with the group. 

Gael also recommends agreeing to not participate in any driving or traveling throughout the experience.

PRO-TIP: Prefer to spend your session in solitude? Have a safety buddy available on-call.

“If you don’t have someone with you at home, and you are alone, make sure you have a friend you can call who is  sober, if you find yourself in need of any emotional support,” Gael says. “Making sure that somebody you know is available and could come to your home is important.”

Test your psychedelics and get educated

Whether you’re at home or at a festival, it is important to test your substances before using them. DanceSafe is an organization that provides tests you can purchase and use to make sure your psychedelics are safe.  

New to psychedelics? It’s wise to read up on their potential effects ahead of time. 

“It can be really helpful to know what the effects are of a substance, especially if it’s your first time using something,” Gael says. 

TripSit is one resource for learning about the potential effects of different substances.

“Sometimes our experiences can bring things up and can be disorienting and confusing, so it’s good to at least have an understanding of the effects of psychedelics, so that when you have an experience, somewhere in your mind you are aware of what the typical effects are” Gael says.

PRO-TIP: Don’t mix psychedelics that you haven’t already experienced on their own.

Gael does not recommend mixing psilocybin and LSD, for example, the first time you’re experiencing either one of them in a home environment. TripSit also offers a drug combination table which lists known psychedelic interactions.  

Set your intentions

Before taking your psychedelics, Gael suggests inquiring within.

“Ask yourself questions like, ‘Why are you wanting to journey? What are you hoping to get? How are you hoping to benefit?’”

“Put a lot of thought and intention into what you want to take and your dosage,” she adds. “Take time at home to check in with yourself—with your emotions and mind. Take inventory of your emotions.” 

(Psst … you can read more about setting intentions here.

Understand that challenging and difficult experiences can be part of a psychedelic journey, she says. 

“This is a very normal part of the experience, she says. “[Psychedelics] bring the subconscious mind to the surface and make it conscious.”

If at any time you feel you’re in need of medical or mental support, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. The Zendo Project offers peer support services, or you can give Fireside Project a call if things become a bit much.

PRO-TIP: Delay the experience if you’re in a challenging head space.

“Your baseline state will influence the experience,” Gael says. She recommends, if you’re having a difficult time emotionally already, consider waiting until you are in a better headspace.

Get cozy

Before taking your dose, Gael recommends making your environment feel safe and comfortable. 

PRO-TIP: Declutter your space. 

Gael recommends you tidy up for your experience. Put away any mess and bring out the “snacks, tea, blankets and pillows [which] can help create a warm and inviting ambiance.” And don’t forget to play those tunes. Check out these playlists curated to help set the mood. 

The next time you’re thinking of diving deep into a psychedelic experience, consider that your dream destination might just be your very own living room or backyard. And, if you need to do a little more research, our ultimate guide to psychedelics is a good place to start. Remember to set those intentions and get ready so that you create an at-home journey that’s safe and satisfying.

Read More: What Is Psychedelic Integration and Why Is It Important?

Read More: How to Set Intentions for Microdosing

Read More: Zendo Project: Psychedelic Peer Support

Madonna Diaz-Refugia is a writer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Her work has been featured on Reductress, WFMU, and Elite Daily. Follow them on Twitter.

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