Ketamine was discovered in the early 1960s as a derivative of another drug. It started being used as general anesthesia in the operating theatre in many parts of the world. It has the ability to change the way we think by enhancing the neuroplastic abilities of our brains.
Through the decades, the wonders of this psychedelic drug with the right amount of dose have scientists taken aback. The study on ketamine as an antidepressant started at Yale University in the year 2000. By 2012, researchers were confident it was the first effective solution to treatment-resistance mental health problems in three decades.
The popularity of ketamine therapy has echoed since then. It has been a leap for people battling severe depression, PTSD, suicidal thoughts, etc., for years and not finding a treatment method that works. In this blog post, we will walk you through everything you need to know about ketamine therapy.
What is ketamine therapy?
Ketamine was discovered in the early 1960s and started being used as an anesthetic in the operating theatre. It affects the brain receptors and can change one’s perception of reality.
Scientists have now found small-controlled dosages under the prescription and monitoring of medical experts to be able to treat a multitude of severe mental health stressors that failed to recover with other treatment methods.
Ketamine therapy uses a measured dosage of ketamine to change the course of our brain neurons to help treat mental health problems. It is done through intravenous infusion, and/or a ketamine tablet is kept under the recipient’s tongue for 7 minutes to dissolve in the mouth.
Benefits of ketamine therapy
While ketamine is still under research, so far, measured dosage and expert supervision have resulted in positive changes for mental health patients who couldn’t find closure in traditional methods of medication and therapy. Some benefits of ketamine therapy are:
Some depression cases fail to respond to antidepressants and other therapy modules. Based on a range of successful cases, doctors say ketamine came as an alternative to severe depression after nearly 30 years of failing to address severe depressive states. Among its usage, it is most commonly used to help depression patients change the course of their depressive thoughts and live a normal life. In a journal article about a ketamine trial for depression, a much more immediate effect similar to an antidepressant resulted within 2 hours of ketamine infusion therapy.
Chronic Pain Management
Interestingly, ketamine was popularized after being used for pain management for war veterans in the Vietnam War (1955-75). It is a strong anti-inflammatory agent that is used to treat neuropathic components of chronic pain, i.e., pain caused by the dysfunction of the nervous system. For extreme cases, ketamine infusion therapy requires fewer dosages for pain relief. Therefore, it can eliminate the dependency on opioids if one is physically able and eligible to use ketamine.
PTSD and Anxiety
Ketamine can treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) cases unresponsive to other treatment methods. It utilizes the neuroplastic ability of one’s brain, helping them re-design how they perceive, process, and adapt to something. Due to its ability to change the course of one’s thinking, it can change how one perceives a traumatic event. At the same time, ketamine therapy for anxiety is also beneficial in treating severe anxiety cases. The effects of the drug can replace one’s brain’s process of perceiving the unknown ‘fear’ that has been causing anxiety and help them overcome the anxious feelings.
Control Addiction and Substance Abuse
With strict dosage and expert supervision, ketamine can help one recover from addiction and substance abuse of other drugs. Because of the neuroplastic abilities of ketamine, it can change one’s experience with substances during addiction as well as help treat depressive thoughts that lead to addiction. The therapy is also associated with transforming the experience or feelings that trigger addictive behaviour.
What does ketamine therapy feel like?
A ketamine therapy session can last up to 40 minutes to an hour. The experience is different from patient to patient. Generally speaking, it dissociates you from reality and takes you to a calm and euphoric state of mind. Most patients feel peaceful, relieved, and happy. Some even feel disconnected from their bodies, as though they are floating or looking at themselves from a third-person point of view.
There are vivid illusions and hallucinations of familiar experiences and added psychedelic visualizations. For many, it is an out-of-reality experience that is pleasurable and confusing at the same time. At the core, it is intended to disorient one from the heavy feeling caused due to their mental health problem and help them feel and experience themselves and the world differently.
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Who can benefit from ketamine therapy?
If someone has been unresponsive to traditional treatment, ketamine therapy can be an alternative way. If you have tried many medications, antidepressants, or other forms of therapy, and the result has not made any difference, this can be a breakthrough for your mental health.
However, to fully benefit from it and prevent any side effects or further complications, the medical and mental health history of a patient planning to undergo the therapy must be kept in mind.
What to expect during a ketamine therapy session?
The first and most important aspect to understand is, like any other mental health therapy, the results do not instantly show after one session. On average, it takes around six dosages with an expert-recommended time gap between sessions to achieve an optimal outcome.
Along with that, ketamine therapy should be paired with other forms of psychotherapeutic methods to help the patient come back to reality and overcome their confusing or anxious feeling from the therapy itself. It takes a strategized expert therapy process unique to the patient’s health condition.
In most cases, one session is 40 minutes long and can fluctuate based on the patient’s condition. After the therapy session, one can still feel dizzy and out-of-it the rest of the day. Doctors recommend resting and not undergoing everyday tasks that require more attention and consciousness, like driving, taking care of children, cooking, etc.
How safe is ketamine therapy?
A ketamine infusion therapy session is known to be safe and makes notable differences when it is done under the prescription and supervision of a licensed, qualified, and experienced medical practitioner. At the same time, the medical centre that provides the therapy must be well-facilitated and equipped. When you are being treated by an expert who understands your condition, they will plan the therapy with adequate psychotherapies that the session must be followed by. Along with that, another important aspect is ensuring the patient’s past medical history doesn’t align with the side effects of ketamine.
When all safety measures are in place, and the standards are maintained by your medical practitioner, ketamine therapy is safe.
How to get a ketamine prescription?
Your regular psychiatrist can give you a ketamine prescription if they are familiar with your mental health history and believe it can help you. They will refer you to an expert medical practitioner who has experience in giving ketamine infusion therapy at a medical centre that facilitates and specializes in such services.
A medical practitioner providing ketamine therapy will undergo a thorough background check of your past medical and mental health conditions, your struggles that resulted in the suggestion of ketamine therapy, and any other important factors to address. If your condition is prone to side effects, the prescription may not be approved for your own benefit. But if your history aligns with the requirements, they shall approve the prescription and provide you with the therapy.
When to consider other treatments instead?
There are certain criteria for ketamine treatment for the best result and to prevent further health complications.
You must consider other treatments methods if:
- You have a history of mental health disorders like psychosis or schizophrenia.
- You are pregnant.
- Have a history of cardiovascular disease.
- Have a history of respiratory disease.
- Had negative experiences (allergic reactions) with other general anesthesia.
- Have a Bipolar I or II, or Cluster B diagnosis
- Have a history of addiction to ketamine’s recreational form.
- Had a negative experience/allergic reaction with past ketamine therapy.
How to find a ketamine therapy provider?
Finding a ketamine therapy provider you can trust can be tricky at first. You must look into multiple aspects to ensure it is the right and safe place for you to receive the therapy. Here are some tips that may be helpful when searching for a ketamine therapy provider:
Consult with your psychiatrist
Your psychiatrist knows your condition best. When they prescribe ketamine therapy for you, ask them for their suggestions when it comes to quality service providers. Often, they have experience with their past clients who also resorted to ketamine therapy and can suggest an adequate medical centre for you.
Look into the services of the medical centre
Make sure to thoroughly look into all of their services and identify whether they meet your needs or not. Do they have in-house mental health experts at service in case any sudden circumstance arises? Do they give combined services of ketamine incorporated with other forms of therapy? Are they equipped with everything needed for all possible scenarios? Doing your research beforehand and looking into the medical centre will help you recognize which would be best for you.
Talk to their past clients
Try connecting to past clients of the therapy provider to know their experience with the services and the therapy as a whole. Having someone you can ask your small queries to can reassure you and boost your confidence with the therapy.
Do they have pre- and post-care?
Undergoing this type of therapy means you are opening yourself to being in a vulnerable state. The medical centre must meet your needs. Ask them if they also provide the care needed for pre- and post-therapy care.
Do they specialize in Ketamine Therapy?
There is a difference between providing ketamine therapy as one of many services and specializing in the therapy. While we cannot generalize which one is better because it entirely depends on the service provider themself. Try finding a specialized ketamine service provider. It is more likely that they are equipped with the human resource and the equipments for most cases scenario and have a broader experience with giving such therapy.
With everything said, ketamine therapy is no quick fix for your mental health problems. You need to be invested and give the process some time. It should not be your last resort to skip other forms of therapy. Instead, it is designated for individuals who showed no improvements with other treatment methods and can devote their time and patients to it. Ketamine therapy has much to do with ‘changing the way you think and perceive’. It demands proper planning, emotional stability, background checks, and multiple follow-up counselling sessions to be successful.
Ketamine Therapy FAQs
How much does ketamine therapy cost?
The cost of one ketamine intravenous infusion therapy session can be from around $400 to $800. A cycle of therapy normally involves six dosages. For ketamine tablets, the costs start from $80 to $100.
How long does ketamine therapy take to work?
During the first cycle, generally, there is a combination of six ketamine dosages that are given over the course of several weeks. The sessions are deducted or extended based on the patient’s condition and how well the therapy results show.
Is ketamine therapy safe for all patients?
There is a restriction for people with certain medical and mental health histories like cardiovascular conditions, severe respiratory problems, psychosis, schizophrenia, etc., from undergoing ketamine therapy as they are prone to more risk and side effects. You must consult with the medical practitioner about your medical history to determine whether you are eligible to undergo the therapy.
How many ketamine therapy sessions are needed?
In general, it takes six infusions in the initial cycle of ketamine infusion therapy. However, this may vary from patient to patient as all cases differ.
Are there any side effects of Ketamine Therapy?
Yes, there are side effects of ketamine therapy that may be more prone in patients with a certain medical or mental health history. At the same time, the side effects show when a proper and supervised dosage of ketamine is not maintained.
Some side effects of ketamine therapy are:
- Euphoric or dysphoric state of mind
- Allergic reaction
- Weaker mind and body coordination
- Muscle stiffness
- Dissociation and anxiety
Carson Kivari is the Founder and Clinic Director of Thrive Downtown, with years of experience helping individuals and couples overcome anxiety, depression, and burnout. He guides clients on a journey of self-exploration and trauma release to find purpose, connection, and safety. Take the first step towards healing and contact Carson today to schedule a session.