Ketamine is a well-researched dissociative anesthetic which received FDA approval as a field anesthetic for soldiers during the Vietnam war. Since then, the medicine has been used extensively worldwide. In fact, the World Health Organization lists ketamine as one of the world’s most essential medications due to its therapeutic effects and wide margin of safety.
Research in the last two decades by institutions like Yale University, Harvard University, and the National Institutes of Health has identified additional benefits of ketamine in treating mental health conditions and chronic pain symptoms
On a basic neurochemical basis, it is an N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor inhibitor. Blocking the NMDA receptor allows for modulation of glutamate (an excitatory neurotransmitter) and ultimately increases levels of Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and mammalian target of rapamycin (m-TOR), which create protein synthesis in neurons.
Experts in ketamine treatment often refer to this process as a “reset” for the brain, similar to rebooting a computer. Ketamine effectively switches off the unhealthy neuronal pathways that remain constantly active in the brain, providing a temporary respite. These pathways can be considered as the source of unhealthy thoughts like automatic negative thoughts, obsessive thoughts, anxious thoughts, and persistent pain. When the brain comes back “online,” it gains access to healthier pathways and loops.
In simple terms, ketamine works by suppressing overactive neurons while promoting the healthy functioning of existing neurons. Furthermore, ketamine enhances neural connectivity in the brain, which in turn supports daily, healthy brain function. It enables patients to regain executive control over their thoughts and emotions.
Please make sure to bring a detailed and accurate list of your medications and allergies, along with diagnostic and treatment information from previous doctors. It’s a good idea to have a family member or trusted friend with you to help understand if ketamine is right for you.
Infusion Day & Inner Healing
Our providers are dedicated to ensuring your privacy and delivering personalized attention of the highest quality. You will have the privilege of your own private room, furnished with a luxurious recliner chair. Additionally, you will be provided with eyeshades and music to promote a state of unparalleled relaxation. We recommend comfortable attire and a soft, cozy blanket to enhance your overall comfort. You are welcome to bring a companion to accompany you during the infusion, if you desire.
For mental health disorders, ketamine is administered over a duration of 55 minutes, while chronic pain disorders require a four-hour infusion. During the infusion, some patients may experience a mild dissociative state, with heightened sensitivity to sound, light, and a shift in their perception of color and time. However, these sensations are generally well-tolerated and even enjoyable for most individuals. In the rare instances where these side effects become uncomfortable, our team is capable of promptly administering fast-acting medications to alleviate or completely eliminate any discomfort.
Once the infusion is complete, the dissociative effects dissipate quickly and are usually fully resolved within 20-30 minutes. There are no delayed occurrences of “flashbacks”. Regarding mental health disorders, patients typically leave our clinic within 30 minutes after the infusion, while patients with chronic pain disorders usually depart after approximately two hours. In general, patients leave the clinic feeling much like themselves, except for mild fatigue.
Prior to your initial infusion, your healthcare provider will engage in comprehensive discussions with you to ensure that all potential side effects are thoroughly addressed and clearly understood. The potential side effects of ketamine therapy are generally mild and may include, but are not limited to, headaches, nausea, confusion, increased heart rate, mild hallucinations, blurred vision, and/or a floating or dissociative sensation. These effects typically subside within 15 to 20 minutes after the completion of the infusion. We are able to offer pre- and post-medications to address any concerns that may arise. As an additional safety precaution, we kindly request that you arrange for a trusted friend or family member to provide transportation home.
Furthermore, as with any treatment involving intravenous administration, there is a slight risk of infection. Although unlikely, improper administration or the use of non-sterile equipment can introduce bacteria into your bloodstream, potentially leading to infection. It is also important to consider the risk of blood clots or inflammation in the veins, which can be promptly addressed and managed.
Please rest assured that all patients receive continuous monitoring by a provider and a registered nurse throughout their infusion to promptly address any potential side effects. Safety remains our utmost priority.
Unlike traditional antidepressants, which may take months to show effects, ketamine offers a distinct advantage– It doesn’t require time to accumulate in your system; instead, studies have demonstrated that ketamine can rapidly alleviate symptoms. Typically, individuals undergoing ketamine therapy report starting to feel better within hours of their first session. However, for some, significant improvement may not occur until after three or more sessions. Therefore, the accepted protocol nationwide recommends a series of eight ketamine infusion sessions over four weeks, with two infusions per week. After completing this series, most patients will benefit from occasional maintenance or “booster” sessions to sustain the positive effects they have achieved. The average interval between these sessions is 4-6 weeks, although some individuals may go several months without needing a booster. It is worth noting that research indicates that the majority of individuals undergo ketamine therapy for a duration of around one to two years. The most successful patients in achieving complete remission combine therapy and lifestyle changes during their ketamine journey. For chronic pain conditions, significant relief is uncommon after just one or two infusions. Generally, a full series of 3-5 infusions is needed before patients experience meaningful and lasting relief. Successful treatments often result in patients returning for occasional “booster” infusions on a monthly to quarterly basis.
Ketamine has the potential to elicit substantial changes in brain function and mood, although the outcomes may differ among individuals.
Ketamine is an FDA-approved drug used for anesthesia and surgical sedation. However, it’s important to note that ketamine therapy is not FDA-approved for psychiatric disorders or chronic pain, and is therefore considered an off-label treatment. Off-label prescribing refers to when a healthcare provider prescribes a drug that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved for a different condition than the one being treated. This practice is legal and fairly common, with one in five prescriptions being written for off-label use.
Several reputable organizations, including the American Society of Ketamine Physicians, Psychotherapists & Practitioners, the Integrative Psychiatry Institute, and the American Psychiatric Association Council of Research, have recognized the compelling evidence supporting ketamine’s effectiveness in managing various psychiatric disorders. Similarly, the American Academy of Pain Medicine, the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine, and the American Society of Anesthesiologists have acknowledged the collective evidence supporting ketamine’s role in managing pain for specific pain disorders.