Frequently Asked Questions about Ketamine Therapy
As we’ve written on the blog before, ketamine therapy is a type of mental health treatment that uses ketamine (a psychadelic drug) to help relieve emotional pain. Ketamine therapy is used for chronic pain as well. Research shows that ketamine can dramatically improve the symptoms of depression for people who have been resistant to treatment in the past. Not only does ketamine therapy work really well, but it also works quickly, meaning fewer sessions and faster relief. Some folks don’t respond to the traditional treatments for depression like talk therapy or antidepressants, but research shows that ketamine therapy can be effective for up to 70% of patients, whereas antidepressants are only effective for around 20% of patients.
Since ketamine therapy is still a relatively new option in the mental health world, it makes sense that people have questions about it. After all, if you’ve heard of ketamine before it’s probably as a surgical anesthetic or as a street drug which might be confusing. There is still a lot of research to come on ketamine treatment for mental illness, but what we know so far is very promising. If you are still not sure exactly how it works or have questions about the process, here are some frequently asked questions about ketamine therapy:
How does ketamine work?
While scientists are still trying to work this out exactly, the research so far shows that ketamine works by changing the way our brain cells communicate. Ketamine also blocks a receptor in our brains called NDMA that is thought to play a role in depression. Overall ketamine is thought to create neuroplastic changes in the brain which facilitates the growth of new neuropathways. Which is a fancy way of saying that it basically re-wires your brain. Some experts compare ketamine’s effect on the brain to a hardware fix on a computer versus a software fix (which is compared to antidepressants).
Will insurance cover this?
Using ketamine to treat mood disorders is considered an off label use of the drug, since ketamine is not approved to treat depression by the FDA. Since it’s not approved by the FDA for this particular use, it will not be covered by insurance. Off label use of medications is common – around 30% of all medications are prescribed for off label use. The only reason it’s not FDA approved for this purpose is because it would take several large, expensive clinical trials, and this research has not been funded yet.
What’s the minimum age of treatment?
There are no set age limitations for the use of ketamine therapy but in our clinic we will only evaluate clients 18yo+.
What disorders does it treat?
Ketamine therapy can be used to treat a variety of disorders, such as:
- Depression (especially treatment-resistant depression)
- Bipolar disorder
- Suicidal ideation
- chronic pain
How will I know it worked?
Your provider will go assess you before your treatment and after so you can compare the results. Some patients report feeling better right after their first dose, and some report an immediate decrease in thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation. Everyone is different, so talk to your provider first about how you will determine if it’s working for you.
How long does it last? How often should I get treatment?
One of the best things about ketamine treatment is that it can have very long lasting effects on mood disorders, even though the infustion process itself doesn’t take a very long time and the drug doesn’t stay in your body for very long. Some people can see an improvement as little as an hour after treatment, but for some folks it takes a few more sessions to feel a difference. Many folks come in for maintenance treatments after their initial treatment of 6 infusions over the course of 2 or 3 weeks. Additional treatment maintenance might occur once a month, or as needed.
Is Ketamine addictive?
You may have heard of ketamine before as a street or club drug – because it has dissociative properties, some people take it in high doses recreationally to create a sort of “out-of-body” experience. However, the dose given in ketamine treatment is much much smaller than the doses that are taken recreationally. There is no research showing that ketamine is addictive.
How will I feel during the infusion?
Since this is a very low dose of ketamine compared to what is used for anesthesia, you will be awake during the infusion. Physically, you will probably feel fairly sedated. You may experience a feeling of being disconnected from your body. You might notice that you no longer feel any aches and pains you came in with (ketamine is a pain reliever). Since ketamine is a psychedelic drug, you may perceive your surroundings differently than you normally do. Other things patients report during ketamine treatment are mild visual hallucinations, interesting thoughts and ideas, changes in perspective, light and sound sensitivity, and dissociation.
How does it compare to other treatments?
The nice thing about ketamine treatment is that it works quickly. Whereas traditional methods of treatment, like talk therapy or antidepressants, can take weeks to work. Not to mention, not everyone responds to antidepressants in the same way, which usually means some trial and error as to what type to try and what dose to take. Ketamine therapy takes away that guesswork, and some research shows that it can be effective for up to 70% of people, which is far higher than the 20% of people who are helped by antidepressants.
All in all, ketamine is an effective way to treat many mood disorders safely and quickly. If you have questions about whether ketamine therapy is right for you, give our office a call.