Defining Set and Setting

Set and setting typically refer to the mindset (set) and environment (setting) of the drug experience. It is believed that the set and setting of taking drugs can have an influence on the type of experience a person will have. It is thought that there can be some level of control on what a user will feel, think and verbalize.

Set and setting have been found to be particularly important when taking psychedelic or psychoactive drugs such as LSD, ecstasy, ketamine and hallucinogenic mushrooms. The term set and setting was used by Timothy Leary who was a pioneer in the field of psychedelic experiences with drugs. Advocates of psychedelic therapy believe that the set and setting are key in creating the best possible outcomes for the drug therapy session.

How the Set Matters

Emotions play an important role in determining how good a person feels, how they will react to stresses, changes in their life and alcohol or drugs. If a person consumes alcohol when they are feeling depressed or sad, the alcohol will magnify these feels and the person will spiral into a deeper sadness. Similarly, illicit drugs can contribute to the feelings a person has when they are taking them. If someone is angry or anxious, these feelings can’t be masked by drugs, but they can contribute to them.

Many people take drugs as a way to self medicate depression, anxiety or mood disorders. Marijuana is one drug that is commonly used by people who suffer from disorders as a way to alleviate some of the symptoms. People also use alcohol, cocaine and ecstasy as a social lubricant that helps them to socialize when they may have anxieties and fears. Many people drink or do drugs when they are angry as a way to calm themselves down but often, the reverse happens.

All About Setting

Where a person consumes drugs or alcohol definitely contributes to the reaction they will have. For some people, the setting adds a good dimension to their drug or alcohol experience. They may always take drugs in the same place or always go to the same bar to drink. Part of the addiction may stem from the setting and to overcome the addiction, they will need to stay away from that location.

Psychoactive drugs are particularly sensitive to the location they are taken in. For example, if a person takes them in a nightclub, they may become very wrapped up in the lights and sounds and feel as if the music is part of them. Or if the drugs are taken in an outside park, trees, flowers, birds and animals will influence what the person is feeling. If a person is in a place that they may feel threatened, scared or unsure of, they may begin to have a bad experience on the psychoactive drug. Being able to leave the setting can help to alleviate these issues. If a person feels that they have to stay in a certain place, that they may get in trouble if they begin to have a bad experience, this can make magnify the negative feelings and experience. Having a person who is an experienced person in psychoactive drugs available to help calm a person down can reduce the risk of an adverse reaction greatly.

Setting is a key feature of psychedelic therapy as it can influence the effectiveness of the treatment. Advocates for this therapy believe that a quiet, comfortable setting is important, one that is removed from worries and stresses. Telephones, computers and televisions should be turned off. Interruptions from people should be avoided as these can change the users feelings and experiences.

Good Trip, Bad Trip

Psychedelic drugs such as LSD and hallucinogenic mushrooms are taken by people to induce euphoria, hallucinations and take a person on a visual and aural trip. Many stories surrounding these kinds of drugs involve the negative effects, or adverse reactions to the drugs. Psychedelic drugs cause unique and intense experiences. Results are unpredictable and vary from person to person. Adverse reactions are often called bad trips and users may experience visualizations of monsters, being followed by people, they may feel scared, anxious or fear their life. They may see things that they do not like and do not wish to see. But other people have positive, awakening experiences. They feel happy, warm and content. They will feel close to other people, hear spiritual music and see angels.

When a person takes a psychedelic drug and they are in a place they are not familiar with or they are feeling angry, stressed or aggressive, it is believed that their trip or experience on the drug will be a bad one. Drugs can magnify the negative emotive states a person is feeling and make these feelings take over. If a person has issues they are afraid to face, if they have a personal problem or are having troubles at home, the hallucinations and visualizations may take on some of these issues. Some people have had terrifying experiences on drugs when they have been on a bad trip.

Alternatively, it is believed that if a person is in a positive, happy and caring mood, then they will feel the positive effects of the drugs. They will feel a kinship with others, laugh, smile and the hallucinations will reflect these feelings. People have talked of finding clarity in their life, of changes to themselves that have altered how they feel about themselves and others and overcoming chronic depression or crippling grief.

Trip Sitter

A trip sitter is the description for a person who guides a persons experience on a psychedelic or psychoactive drug. The sitter or guide’s purpose is to ensure the safety of the user and to help lead the person on a positive, awakening experience. Sitters can be present to alleviate fears and anxieties, to alter the environment by introducing changes such as turning lights on or off, moving to a new location or bringing new people into the space.

Trip sitters are important in psychedelic therapy as they are often experienced with the drug and can introduce difficult issues, problems that need to be overcome in a non-confrontational and safe manner. They can guide a person to confront their fears and help them to develop a deeper understanding of issues that stop them overcoming problems like addiction and aggression.