Ketamine is a drug that has been used for decades as an anesthetic, a painkiller, and a recreational substance. But in recent years, it has also emerged as a promising treatment for various mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and OCD. In this blog post, we will explore how ketamine works, what its benefits are, and what to expect from a ketamine therapy session.
How does ketamine work?
Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic, which means it creates a sense of detachment from one’s body and surroundings. It also affects several neurotransmitters in the brain, such as glutamate, dopamine, serotonin, and opioid receptors. These neurotransmitters are involved in mood regulation, pain perception, memory formation, and learning.
Glutamate is the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain, which means it stimulates neuronal activity and communication. Ketamine blocks the action of glutamate on a specific receptor called NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate). This reduces the overactivity of glutamate that is associated with depression and chronic pain. It also enhances the production of another receptor called AMPA (alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid), which increases the brain’s neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change and adapt in response to new experiences and challenges. By boosting neuroplasticity, ketamine may help create new neural pathways and connections that can improve mood, cognition, and behavior.
Dopamine and serotonin are two neurotransmitters that are involved in reward, motivation, pleasure, and emotion. Ketamine increases the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, which may help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Ketamine also activates opioid receptors, which are responsible for pain relief and euphoria. By activating these receptors, ketamine may help reduce physical and emotional pain.
What are the benefits of ketamine therapy?
Ketamine therapy is a form of treatment that involves administering low doses of ketamine intravenously (through a vein) or intranasally (through the nose) under the supervision of a medical professional. The dose and frequency of ketamine therapy vary depending on the condition being treated and the individual’s response.
Ketamine therapy has been shown to have several benefits for people who suffer from mental health conditions that are resistant to conventional treatments, such as antidepressants or psychotherapy. Some of these benefits include:
– Rapid and lasting improvement in mood. Ketamine therapy can produce significant improvement in depressive symptoms within hours or days of treatment, compared to weeks or months for antidepressants. Moreover, some studies have found that ketamine therapy can have lasting effects for up to six months after a single infusion.
– Reduction in suicidal thoughts. Ketamine therapy can quickly reduce suicidal ideation and behavior in people who are at high risk of harming themselves. This is especially important because suicide is one of the leading causes of death among people with depression.
– Enhancement of psychotherapy. Ketamine therapy can enhance the effectiveness of psychotherapy by creating a window of opportunity for positive change. By inducing a dissociative state, ketamine may help people access and process traumatic memories, emotions, and beliefs that are otherwise difficult to access or change. Ketamine may also facilitate insight, empathy, creativity, and openness to new perspectives.
– Improvement in quality of life. Ketamine therapy can improve various aspects of quality of life for people who struggle with mental health issues, such as social functioning, self-esteem, work performance, and physical health.
What to expect from a ketamine therapy session?
A ketamine therapy session typically lasts between 40 to 60 minutes, depending on the dose and route of administration. Before the session, the patient will undergo a medical evaluation to assess their suitability for ketamine therapy and to rule out any contraindications or potential complications. The patient will also be informed about the possible risks and benefits of ketamine therapy and will be asked to sign a consent form.
During the session, the patient will be monitored by a trained clinician who will administer the ketamine infusion or spray and check their vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation) throughout the process. The patient will be asked to lie down on a comfortable couch or bed in a quiet and dimly lit room. They may also be offered headphones with relaxing music or guided meditation to enhance their experience.
The effects of ketamine usually begin within 10 to 15 minutes of administration and peak around 30 minutes. The patient may experience various sensations during this time, such as:
– A feeling of floating or flying
– A sense of detachment from one’s body or surroundings
– A distortion of time and space
– Vivid imagery or hallucinations
– Enhanced emotions or memories
– A state of calmness or bliss
The patient may also experience some side effects, such as:
– Nausea or vomiting
– Dizziness or lightheadedness
– Blurred vision or eye movements
– Increased blood pressure or heart rate
– Anxiety or confusion
These effects usually subside within an hour after the session and are generally mild and manageable. The patient will be asked to stay in the clinic for another hour or so to recover and to debrief with the clinician. The patient will also be advised not to drive or operate heavy machinery for at least 24 hours after the session and to avoid alcohol or other drugs.
Ketamine therapy is not a magic bullet or a cure-all for mental health issues. It is a tool that can help people who are suffering from severe and chronic conditions that have not responded to other treatments. Ketamine therapy should be used in conjunction with other forms of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness, or interpersonal therapy, to address the underlying causes and triggers of the symptoms. Ketamine therapy should also be done under the guidance and supervision of a qualified and experienced professional who can ensure the safety and efficacy of the treatment.