Frequently Asked Questions
Ketamine is a medication mainly used for starting and maintaining anesthesia for surgical procedures and treating pain. In small, sub-anesthetic doses, it is being used to treat depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicidal thoughts, OCD, migraine headaches, and chronic pain. It is currently not FDA-approved in treating mental health conditions, but is being used as an “off-label” treatment. “Off-label” use means that it is being administered as a treatment that the FDA did not originally approve it for, but due to clinical experience a broader use of medications develops over time. There are currently several studies being conducted and a push to get approval for it’s use for depressive disorders and mood-related illnesses.
Ketamine has been shown to stimulate neuron growth in the brain in as quickly as one hour. Many scientists studying ketamine are focusing on the neurotransmitter glutamate, which plays an important role in neural activation.
It’s real. Ketamine treatment is an intravenous infusion procedure performed in a specially-equipped medical office by a member of our team.
It’s not hype. The National Institutes of Health has been studying ketamine’s effect on depression for more than ten years. There is serious scholarly research behind this treatment, which means controlled, double-blind, peer-reviewed studies at major institutions. Researchers at Yale pioneered this research nearly 20 years ago and published the first major study in 2000. Since then, dozens more ketamine studies have been conducted at Yale and other major institutions including NIH, The VA, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Mt. Sinai Medical School, Oxford University, and many more around the world.
About 70% of patients with treatment-resistant depression (including bipolar patients) experience rapid relief after a low-dose ketamine infusion. Similar success rates have been seen in returning combat veterans suffering from PTSD. These patients’ cases are the worst of the worst, lasting years or even decades, which have not responded to any other treatments.
Many have hovered on the verge of suicide for years, many have actually attempted suicide, and all have endured a very poor quality of life. Before ketamine therapy, there was virtually no way to substantially improve the condition of patients like these. The fact that ketamine works rapidly on 70% of them is astonishing, and its discovery has profoundly changed depression research, and our understanding of the very nature of depression.
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that the degree of relief can vary among patients. Some sufferers get only partial relief, some do not get relief until a second or third infusion, and some do not respond to ketamine at all. Some patients have additional medical conditions in addition to depression that can reduce its effectiveness.
While symptoms improving are highly individualistic and occur on a spectrum depending on a person’s unique makeup and situation. Some feel better after the very first infusion, while a select few do not notice any positive differences until after their last infusion in the series.
On average, people will notice something occurring around the 4th infusion which is why it’s so important to commit to the entire series. They didn’t get to where they’re at overnight, so it would be misleading to say that they should expect to have a miraculous improvement after just a single infusion.
Also, positive changes typically occur subtly and stack over time. I don’t know if all that is what we need to include in the FAQ, but something other than “you’ll feel better after your first treatment” kind of thing.
You will be awake. The ketamine Infusion dosage is not high enough to cause you to fall asleep, but you may feel a bit drowsy during and shortly after the treatment.
Length of treatment is individual to each patient and can vary a great deal between patients. Most patients who respond to ketamine find that a single infusion may provide at least several days of symptomatic relief. This means relief of the physical symptoms that make depression/bipolar/PTSD so unbearable: anxiety, anhedonia, physical fatigue, dysphoria, cognitive impairment, insomnia, etc. Patients who get a series of multiple infusions over several days often get symptomatic relief that lasts weeks.
This treatment is NOT a cure for mood disorders, but is thus far the most effective medical treatment available. Most people will need to commit to periodic maintenance infusions that they can slowly space out as they are able to incorporate other non-medicinal tools to help people process emotions and events.
Ketamine is typically well-tolerated and we are not aware of any significant adverse reactions at the low dose used for this treatment. At the higher doses used in operating rooms, ketamine has been known to cause hallucinations, as well as other cognitive distortions. Use of ketamine by people with conditions such as unstable heart disease risk aggravating these conditions. It is of utmost importance that you fill out the medical questionnaire fully and truthfully, so we can properly evaluate whether you are medically appropriate for the treatment.
When ketamine is administered in a controlled medical setting by a properly trained provider using established methods, it is very safe. Ketamine is the only anesthetic that does not suppress the body’s cardiovascular and respiratory systems. It does have the potential to elevate heart rate and blood pressure, so the patient’s vitals must be monitored during treatment.
Using illegally-obtained ketamine on your own, without a doctor’s supervision, is a different matter. There’s no assurance the substance you’re taking is actually ketamine at all, or that it hasn’t been mixed with other substances. And since ketamine is an anesthetic capable of sedating patients during major surgery, you can seriously injure yourself while under its influence if you are not in a controlled medical setting. If you are contemplating taking “street” ketamine in hopes of relieving your depression, keep in mind that the antidepressant effect depends on it being administered in a very precise, controlled way that you cannot achieve in a recreational setting.
FREE consultation: 30 minute consultation with our ketamine specialists to explain the benefits of ketamine and answer any questions regarding ketamine infusion therapy. Please bring your most recent medical records and labs with you to your appointment.
At this time, ketamine infusion therapy is not reimbursed by insurance companies. It is being fast-tracked by the FDA as a form of treatment for depression, so we hope insurance companies will cover this therapy within the next couple of years.