Spiritual tourism and traveling to psychedelic retreats in Peru, Mexico or Jamaica has become the new habit for explorers, especially in this day and age. This is particularly common for people in need of a mental health reset.

Despite ongoing media coverage highlighting the revolutionary studies showcasing psilocybin’s ability to induce neuroplasticity, disrupt maladaptive behaviors, and address various psychiatric conditions, there is a notable lack of discussion regarding potentially destabilizing side effects that may manifest during the pinnacle of the psychedelic encounter. Facing complications can undeniably intensify and render one’s exploration of the subconscious more arduous and discomforting. Tetany represents one such adverse reaction.

What Is Tetany?

Tetany, alternatively referred to as involuntary cramps or muscle contractions, frequently occurs when peripheral nerves become excessively stimulated, often stemming from an imbalance in electrolytes and low levels of blood calcium.

What Does Tetany Feel Like?

An individual who has undergone tetany is likely to recount the sudden uncontrollable contraction and stiffening of their hands. This is like an external force is tightening their muscle with an unseen grip. The sensation of fingers involuntarily curling into an uncomfortable clench, resisting one’s commands, can be disconcerting. Muscles tense up, creating an irritating stiffness and twitching sensation.

These spasms escalate, leading to rapid and repetitive contractions that disrupt the natural flow of movement, momentarily freezing the hands in an unnatural position. To illustrate, it might resemble the hand deformity seen in Edwad Scissorhands, but with fingers instead of sharp blades.

This experience can be puzzling and occasionally painful, even without any external substance affecting brain receptors. However, heightened awareness of losing muscle control during a psychedelic encounter can still instill vulnerability and contribute to the common anxiety experienced during the initial phase. The loss of control can easily evolve into fear and resistance, particularly in the face of the ego-death experience, a pivotal aspect in the decision making process for individuals contemplating a psychedelic journey.

Common Symptoms of Tetany

The common symptoms of tetany include the following:

  • Numbness around the mouth
  • Muscle spasms
  • Paresthesia, which is a burning or tingling sensation in extremities.

In severe cases, the symptoms include the following:

  • Arrhythmia
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Painful, generalized muscle cramps.
  • Bronchospasms

How to Prevent Tetany During a Psychedelic Trip?

Preventing tetany during a psychedelic journey is a not a complex task, and a facilitator or trip sitter can readily anticipate potential complications if the individual they are assisting exhibits early symptoms.

While some psychonauts and Reddit users may choose to fast before a psychedelic experience to heighten its intensity, depleting one’s glucose stores just before ingesting a moderate or heroic dose of magic mushrooms may not be advisable. Glucose serves as the body’s primary energy source, and individuals intending to follow an intermittent fasting regimen on the day of a psychedelic experience should exercise caution without adequate preparation.

Our body and brain rely on essential nutrients and minerals for proper function. Hence, experienced keto dieters or intermittent fasters often hydrate well, incorporate zero-sugar electrolyte additives, and supplement their routine with significant amounts of magnesium and calcium.

Here are some tips to consider to prevent tetany symptoms:

  • Prior to embarking on a psychedelic journey, a health check is advisable. Blood tests can effectively identify calcium and magnesium deficiencies, allowing for proactive measures to address these insufficiencies and prevent potential complications.
  • Maintaining proper nutrition is crucial. Many retreats prioritize healthy meals, incorporating a well-balanced diet of nuts, seeds, dairy products, and leafy greens to ensure adequate levels of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D for optimal bodily functions.
  • For individuals diagnosed with deficiencies, adherence to prescribed supplements is essential.
  • Hydration plays a pivotal role in maintaining electrolyte balance. It’s widely agreed within the psychedelic community that avoiding caffeine or alcohol before a trip is advisable, as they can hinder the body’s absorption of minerals and vitamins. If coffee is a non-negotiable part of your routine, a general guideline is to drink at least two cups of water of every cup of coffee to balance bodily functions.
  • Addressing stress levels is integral to preparation. Many retreats incorporate yoga and massage therapy sessions before doing participants, recognizing the impact of stress on hormonal levels, and consequently, calcium storage. Pre-trip practices such as yoga, exercise, and meditation are recommended to reduce stress and anxiety levels.

If you start encountering signs of tetany during your trip, and mere water intake proves inadequate to alleviate symptoms, you should consider:

  • Promptly restoring your electrolytes: The quickest, albeit not the healthiest, solution involves consuming a bottle or two of Gatorade. Alternatively, if you’ve forgotten your electrolytes, consider ¼ tbsp of salt and 1-2 tbsp of honey to a cup of water, coconut water, or lemon juice.
  • Maintaining composure: Escalating anxiety only exacerbates symptoms. Engage in breathing exercises and consider changing your surroundings.
  • Engaging in massage and stretching for your extremities: This can enhance blood circulation.
  • Requesting your trip sitter to monitor your heart rate: Many psychedelic retreats have an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist) on standby who can assess the need for medical assistance. Often, it may not be necessary if you can successfully replenish your electrolyte levels.

Frequently, cliches hold a kernel of truth. “You are what you eat” – and perhaps drink – aptly illustrates this, emphasizing how the nutrients present in your system before and during a psychedelic trip can significantly influence the quality of your experience.

Psychedelic substances such as psilocybin, DMT, MDMA, and LSD have the potential to deplete the body’s nutrient reserves, particularly during challenging trips accompanied by intense emotions. If your body lacks essential vitamins and minerals, the likelihood of encountering anxious ego-dissolution, or in this instance, tetany, may increase.