What is Ketamine Therapy
By Hudson Mind
A new era of psychedelic possibility has arrived.
The power of psychedelics have long been recognized by researchers, but only recently have their potential for transformative mental health care been legitimized. Ketamine was cleared as a safe anesthetic by the FDA in 1970. But in the decades that followed, its recreational reputation overshadowed its medicinal purpose. Because perception is everything, ketamine has had to walk a long road to shed its party persona.
But a new dawn for ketamine has finally arrived. Today, interest in the psychedelic as an antidote for depression, anxiety, and even PTSD has sparked a burgeoning industry, and more importantly, new hope for people living under a constant cloud of depression and anxiety symptoms.
What is Psychedelic Medicine?
Medicinal psychedelics are not a new phenomenon. Indigenous cultures have relied on psychedelic substances for thousands of years. But it took modern medicine, and the public at large, a bit more time to catch up to the physical and mental benefits. Psychedelics, including ketamine, psilocybin, and MDMA, are known for their ability to influence consciousness through altered thoughts and sensory perceptions. While each drug within this psychedelic class can induce slightly different effects, they share common ground in their ability to open the mind to a new conscious experience.
In the second half of the 20th century, psychedelics became nearly synonymous with tripping. People who dabbled in psychedelics reported the mental (and in many cases, spiritual) journeys—both good and bad—that they experienced as their brains and bodies responded to the drug. And while psychedelics do activate dreamlike responses, their transformational power extends beyond a temporary trip.
The FDA is currently reviewing studies citing the psychotherapeutic benefits of psilocybin and MDMA. Though not currently under review by the FDA, more psychedelics, including LSD and Ayahuasca, are gaining momentum across the mental health landscape through promising clinical trials.
While there is no given timeline as to when more psychedelics might receive FDA clearance, it is apparent that we are on the brink of psychedelics being widely accepted as effective antidotes to mental health conditions.
This is Your Brain on Ketamine
Ketamine operates on two levels: the physiological and the experiential.
The brain is not a fixed organ–it’s changeable, or plastic, and ketamine taps into this plasticity.
A depressed brain develops some deficiencies over time, including changes in synapses, which can hurt the interconnectedness of the brain’s neurocircuitry and make it more difficult for regions of the brain to communicate with one another. This decrease in synaptic proficiency can especially impact the prefrontal cortex, which is a region of the brain that helps to regulate mood. But ketamine has the power to strengthen what depression has weakened.
The ability to form new neural connections is integral to fighting–and overcoming–symptoms of depression. When our brain forms new connections it creates new opportunities for changes in thought and behavior patterns. When administered in low doses, ketamine triggers the production of Glutamate, a neurotransmitter that sparks increased production of BDNF, a protein that promotes the brain’s neuroplasticity.
While ketamine influences the structures of your brain at the cellular level, it also opens your mind. The substance sparks a dissociation from recurring thought patterns—granting you respite and the chance to experience your life in a new (and, sometimes, more colorful) light.
During a ketamine treatment, patients often note how they feel disconnected from their bodies, life experiences, and typical thought patterns. Essentially, they are able to experience themselves from a slight distance, and it is this different vantage point that can open the door to new insights.
New insights, supported by an increase in neural connectivity, can influence lasting cognitive changes and freedom from the weight of depressive and anxious thoughts.
Who Can Benefit from Ketamine?
Ketamine is an especially effective solution for anyone who has what is known as treatment-resistant depression—or have not felt improvements after trying chemical medication or talk therapy.
It’s also a great option for people who don’t want to tether themselves to common side effects of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) medication. Some of these side effects include: insomnia, weight gain, nausea.
Ketamine may be a good option if you are looking for faster relief. There are many benefits to talk therapy (and we encourage patients to continue talk therapy after beginning ketamine treatment) but it can take a long time for relief from talk therapy or changes from cognitive behavioral therapy to kick in. Ketamine therapy can initiate fast responses like reducing suicidal thoughts as quickly as two hours after a single-dose infusion.
What Happens on a Ketamine Trip?
The beauty of ketamine is that the journey is completely unique to you. Some people’s experiences are more driven by auditory sensations while others have visual experiences.
You’ll still be awake, but will see and feel on a new plane of consciousness.It’s common to feel completely detached from your usual perspectives and thoughts, which may give you the space to see your life differently. You might feel as though you are moving through a dream or you might find yourself replaying memories that have been buried in your consciousness.
What Can I Expect During Ketamine Treatment?
Before scheduling any treatment, we will first have you fill out a clinical intake questionnaire which will ask you for information such as your symptoms, medical history and past/current medications. A provider will review this with you in your TeleHealth evaluation, which will be the first step as a new Hudson Mind patient.
Once cleared for treatment, you are ready to schedule! A member of our front desk team will be reaching out to schedule you for your infusion(s). They will also provide some information for you to review ahead of time so you know what to expect/how to prepare for your first infusion.
During the Journey
When you arrive at the office, you will meet with a provider to discuss your ketamine dosage.
Our team will then set you up with the IV infusion and you can start your journey. You will be by yourself in a private and comfortable room. Medical staff will be checking in on you frequently, and there is also a call button you can use if you need any assistance or support during your treatment session.
If you ever need to take a break, you can simply remove your eye mask and headphones.
After the Journey
We give you as much time as you need to relax and reacclimate in our serene recovery lounge. During this time you can enjoy tea and light snacks, and also journal any thoughts you may have had during the experience.
We encourage you to take the rest of the day to unwind and reflect on the experience. If you are working with a therapist, we recommend scheduling a session within 48 hours. This ensures that any insights you may have had are still fresh for the two of you to explore.
How Can I Make the Most Out of Treatment?
We want you to sit back and relax during your treatment, but there are some things you can bring and do beforehand to maximize your own comfort:
- Have a favorite eye mask? Bring it! If not, we’ve got you covered (literally). Wearing an eye mask will block out light and help you focus on your journey.
- Try not to eat or drink for four hours before your journey, as an empty stomach will reduce nausea.
- Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes so that you feel as relaxed as possible. Non-restrictive clothing will also help with IV accessibility.
- Set your intentions beforehand. Carve out some time to think about what you are hoping to get out of treatment and the changes you want to prompt in your life.
- Avoid violent media. Watching TV shows and movies with excessive amounts of violence can have a negative impact on your ketamine experience
- Avoid alcohol, marijuana, and other mind-altering substances or stimulants as they can influence your experience.
For information on pricing, please contact our Patient Services Representative team at: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you think you may be eligible for financing options or assistance because you have documented financial hardship, please fill out the eligibility form and a member of our Patient Services Representative team will contact you shortly.
Unfortunately, insurance does not cover low-dose ketamine infusions for depression, because it is still considered an off-label medication.
Bad trips are rare, but it is always possible that your journey may not feel pleasant. For some people, bad trips can feel like being trapped in a dark space, while others relive their past traumas. If you feel at all anxious about your journey, rest assured that you will not be left alone. We regularly check in during your infusion and there is a call button available if you need assistance. Stopping or slowing the infusion is also always an option.
Traces of ketamine may be detected in your urine sample for about two weeks, in your blood for four days, and in your hair follicles for up to 90 days. It’s important to note that a chemical trace is not the same as chemical activity. The dissociative feelings induced by the treatment will wear off after about two hours.
Our team prefers to receive referrals before beginning treatment, but they are not required. We find that we are able to help people achieve the best results when we are able to work with a mental health provider to better understand your history and develop a post-treatment plan. If you are not currently seeing a psychotherapist or psychiatrist, our physicians will perform a comprehensive screening. We work with hundreds of ketamine-assisted-psychotherapists and are happy to refer you.
There are very few contraindications to ketamine, however patients with a recent history of Traumatic Brain Injury, History of Psychosis, and ketamine allergy should NOT receive ketamine.
Antidepressants challenge chemical imbalance in the brain by replacing neurotransmitters that have broken down. While this can be effective, antidepressants also come with side effects.
Ketamine challenges the breakdown in the brain’s information synthesis capability by resetting brain structures and creating new neural connections.
Ketamine challenges the breakdown in the brain’s information synthesis capability by resetting brain structures and creating new neural connections.
We always recommend discussing dosage changes or continuation with your psychiatrist. But it is safe to continue taking antidepressants once you’ve begun ketamine treatment, as ketamine does not interact with the majority of antidepressant medications. Although it is safe to continue, many people actually are able to lower their antidepressant dosage following ketamine therapy.
Everyone’s experience is different. But you’ll likely feel calm and uplifted following a treatment. You might feel the dissociative effects of the ketamine for up to two hours after the infusion. Some people report feeling a bit light-headed and nauseous—especially when they are new to ketamine. Feel free to take as much time as you need to readjust and re-acclimate in our recovery lounge.
We recommend bringing along a friend if this is your first time receiving ketamine treatment. It’s not a requirement, but sometimes knowing that a familiar face is waiting can put you at ease.
Our ketamine treatments are administered by physicians and ICU-trained physician assistants who are supervised by board-certified anesthesiology physicians.
The infusion portion of your ketamine treatment may last anywhere from 45 minutes to one hour. You may continue to feel dissociative effects for 30 minutes following the infusion—some people even report lingering effects for a few hours. We give you as much time as you need to relax and readjust in the room.
Research shows that significant healing breakthroughs typically occur around the fourth or fifth ketamine treatment. We recommend completing six sessions over the course of three to four weeks.
We offer two types of ketamine treatments The first is an infusion drip administered intravenously. The second is an injection, administered intramuscularly. We recommend new patients begin with infusions as this mode of administration gives our team more control over the speed at which the ketamine is delivered to your system, ultimately delivering a more gradual journey.
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