Ketamine and the related compound esketamine (Spravato) is an innovative treatment that won FDA approval for the rapid treatment of treatment resistant depression in 2019.
What is Ketamine?
Ketamine is a drug that blocks pain — an anesthetic — that was first developed in the 1960s for use in surgeries. In 2000, researchers began studying other effects of Ketamine and found that it was also effective for the treatment of depression, even when other treatments had failed.
Ketamine therapy has been hailed in Science magazine as the “biggest breakthrough in depression research in a half century” and has provided much-needed relief to those with chronic, treatment-resistant mental health conditions and suicidal thoughts.
How is Ketamine given?
You will meet with the psychiatrists with whom I work closely. They will determine if Ketamine is appropriate for you. In our KAT sessions, you will administer the Ketamine by placing it under your tongue, sublingual.
How does Ketamine work?
Ketamine is known to block NMDA receptors in the brain, a type of neurotransmitter that is thought to be involved in depression. However, the precise mechanism is not fully understood, as it is also known that ketamine interacts with other receptors including opioid receptors. Research has shown that, unlike the antidepressant medications which typically take several weeks to achieve benefit, Ketamine may be rapidly effective and can have long lasting effects, although most people require multiple treatments over a longer period of time to achieve lasting improvement. Ketamine creates a more open state of mind and stimulates the formation of new synapses, decreasing symptoms in as quickly as a few days or even hours. It is proving to be a remarkably safe and effective tool in relieving those who have suffered for many years with depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts.
While the antidepressant effects of Ketamine tend to be temporary after a single treatment, multiple treatments have proven to have a cumulative effect, successfully alleviating symptoms in approximately 30 - 60% of individuals with treatment-resistant depression.
Ketamine may also help people with severe alcohol use disorder. Recent research (January, 2022) from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom found that low doses of Ketamine, combined with psychological therapy, can help people with severe alcohol use disorder (AUD) stay sober longer, and is effective in preventing relapse when used with psychological therapy.
Are there any side effects to Ketamine?
Ketamine has been in use as an anesthetic for many years and is known to be safe and well tolerated. Ketamine can cause a “dissociative” state, in which people may transiently experience a sense of unreality, blurred vision or other sensory changes. This may last for a few hours and wear off. Other transient side effects such as dry mouth, headache, nausea, or impaired coordination may be possible to avoid by pretreating with appropriate medications. Ketamine can also cause short term increase in blood pressure and heart rate, thus patients require basic medical screening prior to starting the treatment.
WHAT IS KETAMINE ASSISTED THERAPY (KAT)?
KAT involves the use of Ketamine to enhance and deepen the therapeutic process of psychotherapy.
In low doses, Ketamine serves as a supportive adjunct to psychotherapy, because it provides an opportunity for the temporary softening of the psychological defenses, allowing for deeper self reflection and psychotherapeutic processing.
In moderate doses, Ketamine has psychedelic effects, which have been shown to facilitate profound transpersonal experiences. These types of experiences can help people in a variety of ways, offering important clarity and insight into one’s struggles, adding a spiritual dimension to ongoing therapeutic work, and facilitating a sense of meaning and interconnectedness.
Much of the transformative potential experiences of KAT depends on the ability to integrate your insights into your life. We will work together to prepare for and integrate the results of your Ketamine treatment, based on your specific needs and intentions.