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In this article I will break down the most asked questions about ketamine infusion therapy, giving you a better picture on what to expect. Get more comfortable around the topic and then reach out to a professional therapist for the next step in your mental health journey.
The world of mental health is a scary and confusing place. If you or a loved one has an advanced mental health disorder, where do you turn if the conventional therapies and medications aren’t helping anymore?
What if they never have?
How long should you stand by, waiting for something to work?
How soon can you move on, continuing your search for a solution?
Your current standard treatment may ease your symptoms for a little while until you feel like you’re back to square one. But that’s the thing about difficult-to-treat conditions – standard treatments aren’t enough.
If you’re curious about whether there are alternatives that can help you or a loved one get back to living life again, there are! And while we’re not doctors or therapists, you’ve nevertheless come to the right place to learn about one such alternative: ketamine.
If you suffer from major depressive disorder, severe anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder, you may have heard about ketamine infusion therapy. Ketamine infusion therapy can help ease symptoms for those who don’t respond well to traditional treatments like SSRIs or talk therapy alone.
Ketamine infusion therapy can be very helpful for those suffering from these debilitating mental health issues because it works quickly and effectively – often reducing symptoms within hours.
But what is ketamine infusion therapy exactly?
Is ketamine a safe drug?
And what about the risks associated with it?
Because they provide a new approach to treating mental health disorders with few side effects, ketamine therapies are gaining popularity. But there’s a lot of misinformation about ketamine and its use in treating depression, so it’s critical to get the facts straight before making any decisions.
In this blog post, we want to answer the question of what is ketamine therapy – including what ketamine is used for, who it can help, why people seek treatment from it, and more! This blog post will explain all you need to know about this innovative treatment.
What Is Ketamine Infusion Therapy?
Ketamine infusion therapy is a treatment where low doses of ketamine are administered through an intravenous (IV) drip to help treat severe cases of PTSD, depression, and anxiety – even chronic pain.
IV ketamine infusion therapy is not the standard, first-line treatment for these conditions. Rather, it can be an effective option for those with treatment-resistant or hard-to-treat conditions.
Ketamine acts on the NMDA receptors in your brain to stimulate glutamate activity and interrupt the cycle of negative thoughts and emotions that often characterize depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
Glutamate is a neurotransmitter involved in a complex process called synaptogenesis which affects mood, thought patterns, and cognition.
Inflammation is linked to various chronic pain and mental health conditions. It appears that ketamine reduces signals that trigger inflammation and facilitates communication across specific areas of the brain.
What Is Ketamine?
If you’ve heard of ketamine before, but not in a therapeutic context, a few words may come to mind, like “Special K” drug, club drug, and even horse tranquilizer. And there are reasons these may all come to mind.
First off, ketamine is a medication that has been used for decades as an FDA-approved anesthetic in human and veterinary medicine. Not only does it help ease the pain of patients in the operating room, but it can also minimize the need for as many addictive painkillers post-surgery, like morphine.
Outside of its mental health care and surgical uses, ketamine also has a history of being used more carelessly – and its nickname “Special K” refers to its misuse as a street drug that can cause someone to feel out of touch with their environment.
When abused and taken recreationally at higher doses, ketamine’s hallucinogenic and tranquilizing effects can alter one’s perception of sight or sound, sometimes making it hard for them to speak or move. Falling into a “k-hole” is how ketamine users describe this profoundly impaired state after taking a high enough dose of the drug and being unable to interact with the world.
And while we’re referring to the same drug when we talk about ketamine infusion therapy, taking ketamine in a safe and controlled environment to treat certain mental health conditions isn’t nearly the same as taking ketamine recreationally.
During infusion therapy, ketamine is administered at sub-anesthetic doses to provide the beneficial effects of ketamine without the anesthetic qualities necessary for surgery.
The recreational use of ketamine is risky and can produce harmful effects. But when administered under the care of medical professionals at appropriate doses, it can effectively treat various mental health and chronic pain issues.
What Is Ketamine Used For?
Ketamine infusion therapy has been studied extensively and approved by the FDA to treat depression in recent years. It is currently being used as an off-label treatment for many mental health conditions, including anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and OCD.
Ketamine is most commonly administered to help provide fast and lasting relief for:
- Major depression; Treatment-resistant depression (TRD)
- Persistent post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Debilitating anxiety
- Chronic pain
Again, it’s important to note that ketamine infusion therapy is intended for those who do not find relief from conventional antidepressants (SSRIs) and therapy.
Approximately two in three people with major depression will find lasting symptom remission with these traditional routes. Still, for the remaining one in three who do not, ketamine is a treatment worth exploring.
Between 60-70% of people with treatment-resistant depression and major depression respond to ketamine. And if a person responds to it, it can rapidly eliminate suicidal thoughts.
Doctors have used ketamine to treat bipolar disorder; however, they do not prescribe it for those experiencing mania or active psychosis.
1. Ketamine for pain
Ketamine infusion therapy is a promising treatment and effective management option for chronic and debilitating pain.
Ketamine helps provide relief for chronic pain disorders like complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), fibromyalgia, reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSD), and neuropathic pain caused by spinal cord injuries or diabetes. Research shows that patients report relief from their symptoms after a single infusion.
2. Ketamine for anxiety
In cases of debilitating anxiety or anxiety that hasn’t responded to conventional therapies or medications, ketamine infusion therapy can provide significant relief.
Studies show ketamine as effective with several anxiety disorders, including general anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), situational anxiety and PTSD. They are still working to determine the effectiveness of ketamine in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
3. Ketamine for depression
Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders, but it is also one of the most difficult to treat with conventional therapies or medications.
Ketamine infusion therapy has proven effective in alleviating depression symptoms for patients who have not found relief from antidepressants alone. Ketamine may provide rapid results – depressive symptoms often begin to fade within hours after an intravenous infusion.
4. Ketamine for migraines
Ketamine infusion therapy is effective in treating debilitating migraines – and for some patients, it can be a preventive measure against future migraine attacks.
By administering ketamine intravenously to the patient over several treatments, doctors can reduce or eliminate pain signals that travel from one side of the brain to another via nerve pathways. What’s more, ketamine infusion therapy can also help reduce the frequency of migraine attacks.
What Is IV Infusion Therapy?
A ketamine infusion is also referred to as a “ketamine drip.”
IV infusions are administered throughout 45-minute sessions using an intravenous catheter inserted into a vein in the patient’s arm. The ketamine infusion is given slowly and continuously throughout the session to ensure the patient feels its effects.
While experts continue to explore other ketamine therapies and ways to administer them, the upside of IV infusion therapies is that your healthcare provider can control the rate it goes into your system and ensure you get 100% of your dosage.
This infusion dosage will vary from person to person, and proper patient assessment and dosage for IV infusion therapy are best left to a psychiatrist.
While doctors and anesthesiologists are highly knowledgeable in medications like ketamine, psychiatrists specialize in mental disorders. Their grasp on how the brain works make them better suited to curate the most effective and safest treatment.
A psychiatrist can manage a patient’s physiological responses to ketamine and their psychiatric ones, including their expectations and fears. This is important considering a patient’s state of mind can shift throughout an infusion treatment.
What You Should Know About Ketamine Infusion Therapy
Here is a general idea of what you can expect when you go to your ketamine infusion therapy. Each professional therapist has their own way of doing things so please follow their lead once you connect with them.
Prior to ketamine treatments
Before your ketamine infusion therapy, you will have a chance to talk in detail about your expectations for intravenous therapy.
Your physical health will be evaluated, and a thorough review of your medical history will be conducted – including any previous treatments you’ve undergone for your condition. All this information will help your treatment provider calculate the proper dose for your infusion therapy.
At your ketamine infusion
Ketamine infusions are administered in quiet, pleasant environments.
A technician will insert the IV into your vein to initiate the infusion. You will feel a prick during the IV placement, but other than that, the infusion is painless.
You don’t have to do anything except lie back and close your eyes as the ketamine enters your body.
As mentioned, you’ll be receiving an appropriate and monitored dose, so you won’t experience a “high” like you would with other drugs or opioids. The ketamine may slightly sedate you, mellowing you out and relaxing you throughout the infusion, though you will be awake.
Expect to stay at least 30 minutes following treatment so your provider can check your reaction to the ketamine along with your vitals.
Following your ketamine IV infusion therapy
It’s a good idea to have someone drive you home after your ketamine therapy because it might make you a little drowsy. That said, you can expect to feel energized when you awake the next morning!
For the best results, a series of treatments may be scheduled, as continued sessions help prolong the positive effect and sustain the benefits of your initial treatment(s).
What does the ketamine infusion feel like?
The ketamine infusion experience is often described as dream-like, where they may experience new or “floating” sensations. Many people describe this as a sense of detachment from their body and the environment, along with feelings of euphoria and calmness. However, this dream-like state lasts only moments after the injection, and you can eventually expect to return to reality with all senses intact.
Overall, the experience tends to be pleasant and relaxing. However, it is important to note that not everyone will react to ketamine infusion therapy the same. You are encouraged to talk with your doctor or psychiatrist about what you can expect from your session.
How Long Does Ketamine Last?
Although this groundbreaking treatment can be quick and effective, ketamine doesn’t “cure” depression after a single session. At the same time, a person doesn’t have to take ketamine daily or receive infusions for the rest of their lives, unlike conventional antidepressants.
The average patient will achieve relief after a series of six ketamine infusions. These infusions are generally spaced out over two to three weeks and are referred to as the acute phase or initial treatment.
This phase is followed by a long-term maintenance plan that may include booster infusions as needed. Although, after the initial phase, a patient and doctor will decide how best to continue based on how the patient feels, which can also mean stopping treatments or tapering off.
Ketamine Side Effects
Despite the major benefits that ketamine offers, there can be some side effects, as with any treatment. With ketamine infusion therapy, its drawbacks relate mostly to its dissociative effects.
Some patients experience temporary side effects, including dizziness, blurred or fuzzy vision, floating sensations, and mild hallucinations.
A few other potential side effects of ketamine infusion therapy include:
- dream-like feeling and drowsiness
- twitching or jerking of muscles
- nausea or vomiting
- loss of appetite
- sleep disturbances or insomnia
More serious potential risks include elevated blood pressure and heart rate, so you must disclose any history of cardiovascular problems to your doctor before starting treatment.
Ketamine infusion therapy is a groundbreaking treatment for depression and other mental health conditions that offers rapid relief. Although it’s not a first-line or cure-all treatment, ketamine infusion therapy can provide lasting symptom remission for people with severe mental health conditions and chronic pain.
If you are one of the many people who have not found relief from traditional antidepressants, ketamine infusion therapy may be worth exploring. With proper care and guidance, you can expect to find fast and lasting relief from your symptoms with this cutting-edge treatment.