Can I Get Ketamine Assistance Virtually? Things You Should Know
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, those relying on ketamine assistance at a ketamine clinic may fear that they can not get treatment. Some clinics have closed to avoid transmission of the virus. Others have reduced their hours, making it more difficult to get an appointment.
As brutal as the effects of the pandemic have been, they have spurred some meaningful innovations in healthcare. Among the most promising has been the rapid increase of options in telemedicine. Medical institutions of all sorts have turned to virtual appointments to address non-emergency needs, from psychiatric care to regularly scheduled checkups.
Also Read: Can ketamine help treat depression?
Perhaps most notably, the Department of Human and Health Services are relaxing regulations during the pandemic surrounding the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This has allowed healthcare providers to schedule appointments through a wide variety of video chat platforms, including FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Skype, and Zoom.
Previously, the legislation would mandate that such chats only be conducted through expensive proprietary programs that clinics would have to purchase. Some states are now allowing practitioners to see patients from other states via webcam as well. This would have been illegal in many cases prior to the adjustment of the regulations.
Getting Ketamine Assistance Online
Some patients may be able to obtain prescriptions for ketamine lozenges or nasal sprays that can be used at home. These are options to few, either in isolation or as part of a regimen that also includes infusions. However, because these preparations are not as strong or as bioavailable as infusions, results may be less noticeable.
However, patients pursuing ketamine-assisted psychotherapy (KAP) may possibly replicate in-clinic treatment via telemedicine. KAP typically involves the administration of ketamine followed by a session with a therapist. Telemedicine now allows patients to administer lozenges or sprays themselves and follow up with a therapy session once the effects kick in. Nurses or other monitors may watch the patient when the therapist is not on the call. An increasing number of clinics have begun to offer these services.
Some may even allow patients to initiate treatment by webcam, including intake evaluations. Also due to the pandemic, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) now allows providers to prescribe controlled substances over video without an in-person appointment.
What Are Some Benefits of Virtual Treatments?
With regulations relaxed on interstate medical care, patients can more easily find the best ketamine clinics that address their medical and financial needs. Further, most ketamine clinics are in large or medium-sized cities. That makes it difficult for those in remote areas — which makes treatment from homes more critical. Other people who have problems with mobility, or suffer from other issues, may find this option appealing as well.
Even patients who do live near ketamine clinics may find that video visits make therapy more accessible. Driving after ketamine assistance is typically prohibited, so patients must find alternatives. Instead of worrying about how to get home, patients can remain in place during video chats. This allows them to process the side effects of ketamine treatment safely.
Virtual KAP sessions may be more affordable, too. There is lower overhead for the clinic: more efficient use of time, fewer maintenance and cleaning costs. These savings also positively impact the consumer. One provider even offers group sessions, further reducing the cost. Remember to always coordinate with medical professionals, as self-medicating psychedelics brings risks.
Communication With Clinics Remain Strong
Some clinics now offer a guide for meditations as part of at-home ketamine assistance. It is possible that virtual reality (VR) assistance may soon become available at home. Some clinics already offer it onsite. VR channels the sometimes disorienting side effects of ketamine by walking the user through a virtual landscape. Of course, that development will be contingent on the patient having their own VR equipment, which is costly and likely not often accessible.
Most programs encourage the patient to journal their experiences after a session has ended. This can help the patient more fully integrate their experiences and chronicle their progress over time. Some clinics also require patients to record how medications make them feel, which is useful in adjusting dosages.
Potential Risks of Ketamine Therapy
Since ketamine has a high potential for abuse, in-clinic administration has been the standard. Only licensed professionals can monitor dosing. Further, patients can only receive a limited number of infusions, lozenges, or nasally administered doses in a given amount of time.
During the pandemic, immune-compromised and elderly patients should benefit from at-home dosing. Risks of exposure to COVID are limited. Treatment is provided in the comfort of a household. It cuts out steps in the process of going to a clinic.
However, patients with a history of substance abuse or addiction problems will want to have a serious conversation with their prescribing physician about whether or not taking ketamine at home is right for them.
While ketamine lozenges and nasal sprays have proven to be largely safe, it is worth emphasizing that medical staff will not be immediately available should problems arise. Those who self-administer at home without a web link to staff who can monitor them should try to arrange for a companion to keep an eye on them. If the patient lives alone, he or she should be sure to keep a phone within reach and place clearly marked emergency contact information nearby should paramedics be needed.