The 5 Levels of a Psychedelic Trip: From Microdose to Breakthrough

Here is a detailed breakdown of the different levels of a psychedelic trip, and what to expect from each one.

Without a doubt, psychedelics can be incredible tools to explore the deeper workings of your consciousness and facilitate healing and spiritual growth.

Although we’re currently undergoing a psychedelic renaissance, there’s still a lot of ambiguity surrounding the topic, especially regarding the deeper levels of a psychedelic trip.

Psychedelics have a wide range of applications. Commonly they’re taken recreationally in small doses, but there is a whole other side to them too. Psychedelics, within the theme of spirituality and mental health, are revered as powerful medicines and wise teachers. Beyond the recreational trip, people use psychedelics due to their consciousness-expanding effects, and as powerful tools to improve their lives.

Due to the therapeutic application of psychedelics in general, practices such as psychedelic-assisted therapy have become popular. There’s a constant stream of research pouring into the collective consciousness that’s supporting the responsible use of psychedelics, and showing that they are indeed helpful if used correctly.

For the more traditional route, people take psychedelics in shamanic ceremonies all over the world, which have been done for many thousands of years. However, these traditions are only now catching the spotlight.

With that said, let’s explore the depths of a psychedelic trip.

Down the psychedelic rabbit hole

The psychedelic mandala

Like most people, I first experimented with psychedelics due to curiosity but quickly realized their unparalleled benefits for personal growth and healing.

As I was a generally miserable teenager, I saw psychedelics as a road to explore my reality and bring about some serious changes within it.

During my youth, I took psychedelics hundreds of times to explore my suffering. I consistently went deeper into the experiences and had some pretty incredible revelations.

It was clear that I was making strides with my development, but that was dwarfed by one experience which permanently changed my life. Upon waking up from that experience, a deeper part of my consciousness was activated.

Years later I moved to South America where I worked at a shamanic healing center for the next six months. I assisted with the Ayahuasca and San Pedro ceremonies, and my depth of knowledge about these powerful medicines broadened even further.

Even though I’ve broken down a trip into levels here for easier digestion, the depth of a psychedelic experience is a spectrum. On one end you are completely sober, on the other, you don’t exist. There are certainly different levels to a psychedelic trip but look at it in a way where each level gradually blends into one another.

It’s important to note that all psychedelics are different, so the experience will vary. For example, LSD is a much more spacey experience compared to Psilocybin, which is Earthy and organic. Mescaline is light and euphoric, while DMT is completely alien. With that said, the psychedelic experience tends to converge at deeper levels with many overlapping themes. So likely, many of the points written here will apply, regardless of what you take.

Microdose

Level 0: Microdose

A microdose is a very light dose that is usually used to assist with cognitive processes and everyday functions. You may feel a very mild buzz on a microdose, but it’s not enough to cause an altered state of consciousness.

You can expect to experience:

  • Heightened awareness
  • Slight energetic buzz
  • Slight increase in creativity
  • Increase in productivity
  • More attention to detail
  • Higher focus
  • Easier ability to problem-solve
  • Sense of Wellness
  • Sese of composure

Microdoses are the lowest dose where you can feel the effects of the psychedelic. They’re intended to create a very subtle high that doesn’t disrupt your thinking process or behavioral patterns.

Since you can usually function perfectly fine on a microdose, they’re popular options to aid everyday activities such as working, studying, catching up with friends, and doing chores and activities such as cleaning the house or getting groceries.

People often take a microdose to assist them when they’re at work due to the subtle improvements in energy levels, creativity, and productivity they induce. This dose has been popularized to be taken as a daily routine, and many people vouch that it benefits their daily life, and generally makes them feel more wholesome.

Light stage of a psychedelic trip

Level 1: Light dose

A light dose is generally taken with a recreational intention, however, it can also be used to aid cognitive processes and boost creativity. A light dose has some therapeutic application.

You can expect to experience:

  • Minor changes in perception
  • Minor visual distortions such as moving patterns and textures
  • Brightening of colors and changes in the color spectrum
  • Auditory distortions, sounds appear to be drawn out
  • Heightened awareness of your senses
  • Higher bodily awareness
  • General feeling of being high, or not in your normal state of mind
  • A looser mind, characterized by abstract thinking and unusual ideas. You may make more connections, and feel more intelligent
  • A heavier focus on your internal reality over your external reality
  • Some enhancements with creativity and problem-solving
  • You start to become more receptive to emotions and energies

Level 1 of a trip is where you will start to recognize the psychedelic effects. Although mild, you will notice some changes in perception and thought patterns. Your mind will feel loose as you experience more abstract thoughts and gain new perspectives on your life situation.

On a light dose, you may get some visuals in the form of moving patterns, and changes in colors and color intensity. People commonly get a breathing effect on surfaces. There will also be some visual distortions and anomalies, such as things looking out of place, or not being able to recognize certain shapes and forms without closer inspection.

During this stage, you won’t feel quite right either. Even though your mind is still fully intact and you’re completely aware of what’s happening, you feel a little strange. Your emotions become more prominent, and you might start thinking about yourself and your reality a little differently. On a light dose, your body might feel a little heavy as you become more aware of its internal processes.

Relaxing into a level 1 trip can help you experience and process buried emotions. The trip might flush up certain stressors or worries about your life, and allow you to see them from a different perspective. Resisting the experience might make you feel a little uneasy, but usually won’t be enough to cause a bad trip.

As you’re still grounded during a level 1 trip, a light dose is safe for people who don’t have much experience with psychedelics. This is a good level to experience some of the psychedelic effects without risking a bad trip, however, the therapeutic gain is minimal.

Persons face with psychedelic patterns

Level 2: Moderate dose

A moderate dose is what people usually take for recreation. This dose provides a good balance by inducing a deep enough trip to have a proper experience, but not enough to make you unstable.

You can expect to experience:

  • Prominent two-dimensional closed and open-eye visuals
  • A loose mind which is characterized by abstract thoughts and a drifting mind
  • Deeper and more profound existential thoughts about oneself and the universe
  • Warped perception of the space around you
  • Distorted sense of time. Time appears to move slowly
  • Reflective thinking which leads to new outlooks and understanding of your life situation
  • Heavy body feelings, awareness of internal organs and functions
  • It may feel like the air is heavy or you’re in a bubble
  • Some difficulty constructing legible sentences
  • Difficulty articulating thoughts and ideas
  • Deepening of emotional intensity and reception
  • Thought loops
  • You might laugh a lot at external stimuli or your thought processes
  • Disassociation from sense of self

During a moderate dose, you will start feeling noticeable effects of the psychedelic. You will have changes in perception where reality (and your understanding of reality) changes. Your thought patterns become quite dislodged and abstract which can lead to realizations, insights, and new outlooks. At this level, it becomes harder to focus due to your drifting mind, which makes a moderate dose not ideal for productivity.

Your spatial recognition and depth perception may be warped, and you may experience some time dilation (time appears to move slower than normal). During a level 2 trip, people often get two-dimensional visuals including breathing effects, moving patterns, and brightened colors. Things will generally look a bit strange. Sound will appear deeper and more drawn out, which makes listening to music a very enjoyable experience.

During a level 2 trip, you will feel different. There’s no doubt about it that you’re not in your normal mind, but it can be hard to describe how you’re feeling. Often you just feel weird and realize that you’re not acting normal. You might feel confused and disoriented, but by relaxing into the trip you can feel euphoric and fulfilled. You may find yourself getting caught in thought loops where you juggle alternating thoughts that keep leading back to one another. A thought loop might go something like this:

Am I cold? I think so, so I should put on a jacket. But the jacket is downstairs, I’m comfortable here. But I’m feeling a little cold, oh that’s right, I should put on a jacket, but the jacket is downstairs and I have to get up to get my jacket. But I don’t want to get up, it’s a lot of effort. Maybe I should just enjoy this for a while, but I can’t enjoy it because I’m cold. So how do I fix this problem? Oh, that’s right, I can put on a jacket.

 That’s why it’s a good idea to prepare everything before your trip so you can focus on the experience itself. During a level 2 trip, you may experience some ego dissolution, meaning you start questioning who you are, and become more dislodged from your sense of identity. This feeling can be used as a trampoline for personal growth as you become dislodged from your normal patterns, and gain an alternate view of who you are, and why you’re living the life you are.

Psychedelic visuals level 3

Level 3: Heavy dose

A heavy dose is usually taken for the purposes of developing yourself, healing yourself, or for spiritual growth. Due to the intense nature of a level 3 experience, a heavy dose is usually overkill when used solely for recreation, unless you know what you’re doing, and you’re very comfortable with who you are.

You can expect to experience:

  • kaleidoscopic two-dimensional visuals, the presence of three-dimensional visuals overlapping
  • Sounds are much deeper and drawn out. You may begin hearing things that aren’t there
  • Your thoughts might start playing out like a slideshow. You’re not sure whether you’re seeing them or thinking about them
  • The presence of deep loops of thought, memories, or situations, like you’re replaying the same experience over and over
  • You have a strong high. You may be hyperaware of your own body and its internal functions
  • Lots of difficulty articulating thoughts and constructing legible sentences
  • Major distortions in time. Time feels much slower. You may think it has been an hour when it has only been ten minutes
  • Deep realizations and insights about your life, yourself, and the universe
  • You may experience mystical experiences such as telepathy, or think about someone and then get a message from them
  • Disassociation from self. You may start questioning who you are
  • You may perceive vague moving humanoid or nonhumanoid shapes that appear to be observing or interacting with you

Level 3 is usually the preferred depth of a psychedelic trip if you’re looking to do some heavy work on yourself. Whether it’s to figure things out in your life, address and heal trauma, or for your spiritual growth, this level can provide some pretty major changes in consciousness that can lead to all sorts of things under the correct application.

Usually, a heavy dose is not enjoyable to experience due to the intensity, making it an unpopular choice for recreation. Inexperienced people might panic and feel like they’re losing their minds on this intensity. There is a high potential for the experience to turn into a bad trip, so you should be cautious about going this deep. 

During a level 3 psychedelic trip, you experience major changes in perception and thought patterns. It may feel like your mind has become completely unglued, with little structure. This makes you a little irrational when under this intensity, which can lead to people freaking out or thinking they’re dying.

You will experience vivid kaleidoscopic visuals. But they won’t just be patterns anymore. Shapes will begin to shift. Your perception of space becomes warped. You might see things that aren’t physically there, and objects will look very strange. You may have the presence of three-dimensional visuals in the form of fractals which become especially apparent if you close your eyes and pay attention to them. There will be a tangible depth to these visions as if you’re peeping into another world.

You will have a heavy body high. You won’t know what’s going on with it at all. Of course, it’s yours, or maybe it’s just a figment of your consciousness. Thought loops will be rampant, and almost a little mystical, as if you’re playing out the future as it’s happening, which sorta makes sense.

Your emotions become very intense. Repressed memories tend to flush up. You may have intrusive thoughts, and mentally go places that you have no control over. Sitting with these feelings and allowing them to surface is usually why psychedelics are used as a therapy, as they allow you to replay and process repressed trauma.  You will also become very receptive to external and internal energies. Better hope that you’re not with someone who is feeling awkward or anxious, because it’s going to change the entire trajectory of your trip, and you’re not going to be in the right state of mind to handle it.

You will struggle to construct legible sentences at this stage. You might sound like a caveman. Your sentences will come out like ‘vision, big!‘, but it will make perfect sense in your mind.

Time feels like it’s moving extremely slowly.  You may experience profound realizations and insights about the universe, your life, or the nature of your consciousness. If you lean back into the experience and surrender to it, here you might have mystical phenomena too such as visions, astral projection, premonitions, or experience states of profound love and unity. Even though you’re deep in the experience, you still have some awareness of your body and probably know where you are and what you’re doing.

Stage 4 of a psychedelic trip

level 4: Heroic dose

A heroic dose is a very heavy dose that gets you to the furthest state that you can go before breaking through. This is called a hero’s dose because this level of intensity is certainly not for the common man.

You can expect to experience:

  • Vivid three-dimensional close-eye and open-eye visuals
  • Extreme alterations in sounds and hearing things that are not there
  • A deep disconnection from self. You may not know who you are, what’s happening, or where you are
  • Sense of connection with all things in existence. Almost no sense of self
  • Extreme emotional amplification that can lead to states of absolute love and bliss, or extreme states of panic
  • Extreme disorientation, existential crisis, and feelings of impending death
  • Rapid heart rate and uncontrollable breathing
  • Time loops and feelings of replaying the same situation repeatedly
  • Extreme distortion in space and time. Minutes can feel like hours
  • Profound realizations and insight. You might feel like you’re getting answers to some of the big mysteries of the universe
  • Only able to mutter words and syllables
  • May have difficulty moving your body
  • Almost no rational thinking
  • Spiritual phenomena such as kundalini awakenings, chakra activations, premonitions, and visions may occur
  • You may experience vivid orbs, sensations of other presences, shadows, faces, silhouettes (both stationary or moving) and other anomalies which you will have no doubt that they’re entities.  

Now we’re getting into the heavy-duty stuff. There’s a hard line here of don’t try this at home kids, because you’re probably going to call an ambulance. There’s a high potential for a bad trip if you take a heavy dose without being familiar with the headspace. People who are not experienced are very likely to become overwhelmed as their reality crumbles around them.

Once you get to this level of a psychedelic trip, there’s a fork in the road. It can either be really good or really bad with almost no mutual ground, depending on how well you manage it. If you surrender to the experience and let yourself go, you can have an absolutely blissful and deeply mystical experience that can change your life. If you resist the experience, it can lead to existential crisis, feelings of impending death, and extreme panic.

A heroic dose is the deepest level of a psychedelic trip until you completely break through. This means it’s the last point in which you retain your human awareness before completely evaporating into the interdimensional rip. During a level 4 trip, you’re here, but you’re not fully here. You might still have some sensory awareness and recognize that you’re in a safe place, perhaps that you took something, but memories… what are they anyway?

You’re likely to experience a complete deconstruction of reality and a near-complete loss of yourself and your identity. Due to this loss of self, a level 4 trip can be extremely disorientating. You may find it incredibly difficult to move or speak. There is still a tether connecting you to reality, and you probably recognize that you’re a human, but you won’t know much more than that.

People often experience intense fractal-like patterns and sacred geometry. They appear to experience other realms of existence such as five-dimensional space that is alien to our reality. On a level 4 trip, people often experience profound insights and understandings, and mystical phenomena such as visions of the future, telepathy with family and loved ones, experiencing memories of other people or animals, astral projection, and chakra activation. The universe might make complete sense, but you can’t articulate this knowledge as it’s way too vast.

Time almost appears nonexistent here. minutes can feel like hours, and you might feel like you’re stuck in limbo which can be an extremely frightening experience. Only by fully letting go, whether it’s out of love or because you can’t hold on anymore, that’s when you will break through and enter a level 5 trip.

Ego Death
Stage 5 of a psychedelic trip interidmensional travel

Level 5: Shamanic dose (Breakthrough)

A shamanic dose is used for the deepest levels of soul exploration, interdimensional travel, and contact with spirits. This is called a shamanic dose because you probably don’t want to get there without a shaman to guide you.

You can expect to experience:

  • Complete loss of oneself and absolutely no control over the experience
  • Complete disconnection from reality
  • No existence of memories, thoughts, or perceptions
  • No presence of space, time, or matter
  • Submergence into a realm beyond comprehension which is completely otherwordly and alien
  • Existence is infinity, fractals, and scored geometry 
  • Experience can feel like years
  • The experience of being a spec within an infinite sea of consciousness
  • Experiences of totality and cosmic consciousness
  • Fully blown encounters with spirits, entities, and deities
  • Infinite knowledge of all creation
  • Sense of familiarity, like you’re home

Now we’ve reached the bottom of the rabbit hole, level 5. A shamanic dose is taken for the deepest spiritual endeavors which induce a complete submergence into other planes of existence. Never attempt to go this deep by yourself because you can completely lose yourself. The only exception is in a shamanic ceremony with a facilitator who works with these energies and can guide you.

I’ve been here once in my life. This ego-death experience permanently changed my life, but it could have also been the end of it. I thought I had a heart attack and passed out on the living room floor. Long story short, I came back a new man maybe an hour later! Then I packed my bags and set off traveling the world for many years to find myself. True story.

But about the experience… During a level 5 experience, your consciousness completely leaves your body. If you don’t believe in life after death, believe me, you will. Your body becomes a lifeless vegetable with no signs of awareness. This is known as the breakthrough where you become a part of all energy without separation. There’s no driver in your body anymore, so you’re completely within another dimension of experience.

Essentially you’re a part of everything, so you have no control over the experience. You have no thoughts, no memories, no ties to reality. It’s like reality never existed in the first place, because now you’ve woken from the dream. During a level 5 experience, the entire experience is mystical. Totality, states of bliss, and experiences of being in heaven or hell are possible. Experiencing life as different life forms can happen. There are no rules here (well there probably are, but I certainly don’t know them).

I experienced crazy fractals and sacred geometry. Vision after vision after vision. I didn’t exist, but I was like an observer. The place was teeming with all sorts of entities, energies, and spirits. There was a divine order in this realm, and it seemed a million times more sophisticated than any sort of human civilization.

Upon awakening from this level, your life will never be the same. How could it be? You experienced something that felt so much more real than life in these monkey suits. But you will never forget that this dimension of experience does exist. That there are other realms of consciousness that we do have access to. And it might make you take shamanism a little more seriously, that shamans are actually dealing with different dimensions, so you might respect these plants a little more too.

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