Imagine a world where depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addiction, PTSD, and chronic pain can be treated quickly and effectively, without the need for weeks or months of waiting for traditional antidepressants to take effect. This world is not science fiction, it’s reality — and it’s all thanks to a medication that’s been around for decades: ketamine.
You might know ketamine as a medication that’s been used for decades as a powerful anesthetic during surgeries, but did you know it’s also being explored as a treatment for mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, PTSD and pain management? This type of treatment is often called “ketamine-assisted therapy” or “ketamine-assisted psychotherapy” and it’s gaining a lot of attention in the medical community.
But how does it actually work? Well, the exact mechanism of action of ketamine is not fully understood, but it is thought to work by inhibiting a neurotransmitter called glutamate and its NDMA receptor in the brain. Basically, these are these chemical messengers or “gears” in our brains involved in learning, the formation of memories, regulating emotions and feelings, and our perception of pain. They help our brains process information, and to learn and make new connections.
What research has found is that by blocking these receptors when they are in dysfunction with Ketamine a cascade of changes in the brain occur that can result in rapid and sustained improvement in mood and symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and pain. One of the unique aspects of ketamine for depression or treatment-resistant depression is that it can work very quickly, often producing significant improvement in symptoms within just a few hours or days. This is in contrast to traditional antidepressants, which can take several weeks to work.
And what about pain management and chronic pain conditions? Ketamine works as a treatment for chronic pain by blocking the NMDA receptors in the spinal cord and brain. This leads to a reduction in the transmission of pain signals and an increase in the release of endorphins, which are natural pain-relieving chemicals in the body. Additionally, ketamine has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect. So, it basically changes the way the brain processes pain. Some studies have found that ketamine can be effective in treating chronic pain conditions such as neuropathic pain, complex regional pain syndrome, and fibromyalgia. All of that being said, more research is still needed to fully understand the long-term effects and optimal use of ketamine as a pain management treatment.
But what does an actual ketamine-assisted therapy session involve? Ketamine therapy sessions can either be administered by a medical professional, like a physician or nurse practitioner, or a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, in a controlled clinical setting. During the session, you are either given a low dose intravenously (through a vein) as a ketamine infusion or a higher “psychedelic” dose intramuscularly (typically in your arm) as an injection.
For the psychedelic dose of intramuscular ketamine, the first step is a medical assessment with a licensed physician or nurse practitioner where a comprehensive medical and psychological evaluation is performed. From there a customized treatment plan can be created for you that includes one preparation session with a therapist before starting the Ketamine medicine. Then you will receive the medicine via an injection in your arm followed by an integration session after each ketamine treatment.
During the treatment, you will be closely monitored by a physician, nurse, medical professional, or other mental health professional, which typically lasts about an hour. In some instances, you could experience side effects of dizziness, hallucinations, or dissociation (feeling detached from reality), but these effects are usually mild and resolve quickly.
After the ketamine injection you are typically located in a quiet, relaxing environment, such as a reclining chair, couch, or a bed, to allow the medication to take effect. The physician or mental health professional will then guide you through a “talk therapy” and somatic-based integration to help you process and anchor any experiences or insights that may have arisen during the ketamine session.
Sounds pretty amazing so far right!? It is true that ketamine-assisted therapy has been gaining a lot of attention in the medical community as a potential treatment option for certain mental health conditions and chronic pain; But how effective is it really?
Research studies have shown promising results in the effectiveness of ketamine-assisted therapy. A systematic review of randomized controlled trials found that ketamine was associated with significant improvement in depressive symptoms compared to placebo, with an effect size of 0.96 (Zarate et al., 2006). Another study published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2017, found that a single dose of ketamine led to rapid and significant reductions in symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts in individuals with treatment-resistant depression.
Moreover, ketamine has been found to be effective for pain management and chronic pain conditions as well. Landing it as an emerging treatment option in pain management clinics. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials published in the Journal of Pain Research in 2019, found that ketamine had significant pain-relieving effects in individuals with neuropathic pain, complex regional pain syndrome, and fibromyalgia.
With its advantages at being a very fast-acting treatment option, ketamine-assisted therapy, is being sought out by those who feel they have run out of option in our traditional medical system. And it makes sense, clients are reporting significant improvements in symptoms within hours, or days which is in stark contrast to traditional antidepressants that can take several weeks or months to work.
If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD or chronic pain, and have not found relief through traditional treatments, ketamine therapy may be the solution you’ve been searching for. As pioneers in the safe implementation of psychedelics as tools for healing, we understand the power of ketamine therapy to transform lives. With the guidance of our licensed physician, Dr. Remi Drozd, and trained therapists, we’ll work together to create a personalized treatment plan that empowers you on your journey towards thriving. Don’t let mental health conditions, treatment-resistant depression, or chronic pain control your life any longer. Contact us today at (805) 365–4095 and let us be a part of healing journey
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- “The rapid antidepressant effect of ketamine: new mechanistic insights and clinical implications” by R.C. Duman, D.A. Aghajanian in Biological Psychiatry (2012)
- “Ketamine as a novel treatment for depression and anxiety” by D. Finnell in Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research (2015)
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- Murrough et al. (2013) Rapid and longer-term antidepressant effects of repeated ketamine infusions in treatment-resistant major