QUESTIONS ABOUT KETAMINE TREATMENT
What is ketamine?
Introduced in the 1960s, ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic. Approved by the FDA for use as an anesthetic and analgesic medication, the World Health Organization lists ketamine on its list of essential medicines. Ketamine has a variety of medical uses, from anesthesia and acute pain management in emergency situations to chronic pain management, depression treatment, and more. Like many other important medications, ketamine can be abused recreationally in the wrong hands.
What psychiatric disorders does ketamine treat?
Ketamine infusions, administered at a low dose via IV, are proven to treat severe depression, treatment-resistant depression, suicidality, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and PTSD in up to 70% of patients. Ketamine is effective in patients who have suffered for years but have not found a treatment that works for them. These patients oftentimes discover that ketamine infusions are the only treatment that yields positive results for the treatment of their psychiatric condition or mood disorder.
Ketamine is not only effective, but it is also fast-acting. Many patients experience significant reduction in their depressive symptoms after only 1-2 ketamine infusions.
What chronic pain conditions does ketamine treat?
Ketamine infusions are highly effective for the treatment of chronic pain. Common pain conditions that can be alleviated with ketamine treatments include CRPS, fibromyalgia, and migraine headaches. Nerve pain associated with diabetes, or the pain associated with Multiple Sclerosis or Rheumatoid Arthritis, can also be effectively treated with ketamine infusions.
How long do the results last?
No two patients will experience the same relief from their depressive or pain symptoms. However, after one infusion, most patients experience several days of relief from their depressive symptoms. After a series of infusions—about 4-6 infusions administered over the course of 2-3 weeks—patients experience longer-lasting relief, returning as needed for “maintenance” infusions.
The beauty of ketamine infusions goes deeper than symptomatic relief, though. When patients are relieved of sadness, anxiety, mood swings, lethargy, etc., they are then able to engage in other activities that can further treat their psychiatric condition. Patients are able to return to work, start an exercise regimen, engage in talk therapy, and increase socialization with friends and family. Patients stop feeling bad about themselves and begin to return to a life of normalcy—a life that feels rich and fulfilling.
Ketamine rarely impacts patients like a thunderbolt of happiness and relief. Rather, it lifts the fog of depression enough so that a patient can begin to heal—from the inside, out. The amount of work that a patient puts into his or her own recovery—after the ketamine infusions have been administered—will significantly impact the length of relief he or she reaps from ketamine infusion therapy.
When ketamine is used to treat chronic pain, infusions are longer and relief can last up to six months.
Is ketamine safe?
In the hands of a highly trained clinician, ketamine is a very safe medication. As an anesthetic, ketamine does not suppress the body’s cardiovascular or respiratory systems. During your ketamine infusion, your vitals will be closely monitored by a physician, ensuring your comfort and safety every step of the way. Side effects are minimal and short-lived, and include lightheadedness and non-threatening hallucinations.
Outside of a ketamine clinic or medical setting, ketamine should be avoided, as the dosage is not approved or administered by a medical professional and therefore can be dangerous. In addition, street ketamine could be laced with any number of illegal substances.
What does an infusion feel like?
During your infusion, a clinician will administer ketamine in a very precise and calculated way. The reason why ketamine is administered intravenously is that 100% of the medication reaches your bloodstream and makes its way to your brain. The bioavailability of ketamine via other routes of administration—such as oral, sublingual, intramuscularly, and intranasally—is less predictable, resulting in less consistent relief of symptoms.
During your ketamine treatment, you may experience some dissociative or mildly hallucinogenic side effects. Patients typically describe the experience as pleasant—a light, floating feeling. Side effects generally fade within 2-hours of your ketamine infusion.
Is ketamine abused as a recreational drug?
Outside of a clinical setting, ketamine is sometimes abused as a recreational drug. When administered at a ketamine clinic for the purpose of treating depression or pain, the dosage is much lower than the amount people ingest recreationally. In the right hands, and used safely as an anesthetic and analgesic drug, ketamine is both legal and safe.
Ketamine infusions are administered in a clinical setting, and patients are not sent home with a prescription for ketamine. This eliminates the opportunity for abuse.
Contrary to popular belief, ketamine is not physically addictive. When used recreationally, ketamine can be psychologically addicting.
How should I prepare for my first ketamine infusion? What should I expect during the appointment?
Before we schedule your first infusion, we ask that all patients speak or meet with a member of our clinical team for a complimentary consultation. During this consultation, we’ll determine whether you’re a good candidate for ketamine infusions. If we believe that ketamine could help you with your depressive symptoms or chronic pain condition, we will schedule your first infusion.
On the day of your infusion, please do not eat solid foods, milk, pulp-filled juices or soup for at least six hours prior to your appointment. You may enjoy water and other clear liquids, Gatorade, apple juice, black coffee, or tea up to two hours prior to your appointment.
If you are receiving a ketamine infusion for depression, the infusion itself lasts for 45-minutes to 1-hour. Plan on being at our ketamine clinic for about 2-hours, as we will monitor you for about an hour post-infusion.
For ketamine infusions for chronic pain, the length of your infusion will vary based on your diagnosis and symptoms.
For the infusion process, we will place an IV, apply monitors for your heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure, and oxygen levels, and then begin the infusion. Sometimes, people experience mild side effects: nausea, non-threatening hallucinations, or dizziness. We are equipped to supplement your infusion with an anti-nausea medication as needed. While you will be awake and alert during the duration of your infusion, most patients prefer to relax and listen to music rather than interact with friends, family, or staff.
The effects of your ketamine infusion will wear off quickly—generally within 2-hours of your infusion—though we ask you to refrain from driving for 24-hours. After your infusion, you will be released into the care of a friend or family member who can drive you home.
How many ketamine infusions will I need?
If you are receiving ketamine infusions for depression or another psychiatric condition, we recommend between four and six 40-minute to 1-hour sessions over the course of two weeks. Most patients know whether ketamine will work for them after the first two infusions, and can decide whether or not to proceed with the treatments at that point. However, we recommend each patient completes their initial four to six infusions, which will allow the ketamine to repair as much neural damage in the brain as possible.
After the initial four to six infusions, we will create a maintenance plan. Some patients need maintenance infusions bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly, or even bi-annually. Others find that their symptoms become manageable with talk therapy, antidepressant medications, and/or holistic depression treatments.
For chronic pain, patients receive longer ketamine infusions—up to 4-hours each. We recommend four to six infusions over the course of two weeks. Chronic pain patients should receive all infusions to maximize pain relief.
Pain symptoms can subside for up to six months, though each patient will require maintenance infusions at a pace unique to their condition and symptoms.