The Pros And Cons Of Ketamine For Anxiety: Here’s What We Know
Using ketamine for anxiety and depression is gaining popularity around the globe. Those familiar with ketamine treatments know them as new and alternative tools to help deal with several mental health issues. As acceptance grows each day, it’s important to note the pros and cons.
Ketamine clinics all over the world offer four primary treatment options for administering ketamine for anxiety. They are an FDA-approved nasal spray, intravenous infusions, intramuscular injections and lozenges. Each differs in dosage, down time, recovery, treatment sessions and regulation.
The nasal spray, Spravato, is a form of ketamine (esketamine) that the FDA previously approved. According to their directives, it can “only be available through a restricted distribution system and it must be administered in a certified medical office where the health care provider can monitor the patient.”
On the other hand, ketamine infusions aren’t approved nor regulated by the FDA. However, ketamine clinics are administering them, as most practitioners swear by the higher efficacy and success.
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Anxiety shows up as an uneasy feeling of worry, doubt, and rational and irrational fear that overpowers a person’s thoughts and emotions, interfering with their daily life and routines. Although anxiety is different for each individual, it falls into a few groups:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Phobia-related disorders
People with generalized anxiety disorder experience uncontrolled and excessive worry and fear about day to day circumstances. The topic may be work or health-related, personal, social, or any other aspect of their daily routine. This can create serious problems in said areas as it can make them irritable, restless, nervous, easily fatigued, as well as lower their immunity and impair their sleep.
Understanding Different Types Of Anxiety
Panic disorders often include recurrent panic attacks. These may often resemble a heart attack with heart palpitations, shortness of breath, choking, sweating, and feelings of losing control. Those suffering from panic attacks develop an additional anxiety disorder as they’re afraid of when they’ll happen again and how to prevent them. Usually, people tend to avoid places, people, or other situations they know may trigger an attack. In many cases, this leads to avoiding any social contact or event whatsoever.
Phobia-related disorders are always related to a specific object or situation that may not seem realistic to others. Those suffering from these types of anxiety disorders tend to over exaggerate both fear and danger in situations. This may cause them to avoid places and events where they know these phobias might occur. Additionally, they may lose focus or control over a situation if the object of fear shows up unexpectedly.
Most common phobias include heights, insects, flying, and blood, and these aren’t that hard to navigate. It’s when it causes a person to avoid certain normal social and other day-to-day life situations when the phobia gets more serious. These include phobias of open spaces (agoraphobia), hands (chirophobia), opening your eyes (optophobia) and alike, which make it hard, if not impossible, to function in any aspect of a person’s life.
According to Erin Carpenter, LCSW and owner of PsychedelicGrowth.net in Boulder, Colorado, “I have had clients experience major shifts in anxiety around particular issues (such as health anxiety). It’s also effective for generalized anxiety.”
RELATED: What Does Ketamine Feel Like?
Treatment for Anxiety
Current treatment for those suffering from anxiety disorders includes some kind of a combination of antidepressant medication and psychotherapy.
Pros of Ketamine for Anxiety
When taking the alternative route, one might check out numerous ketamine clinics and try a few sessions to see if that will help. The potential benefits of ketamine for anxiety include the following.
Quick and Painless
Ketamine treatments are completely painless (minus the infusion insertion during the IV setup) and create a fast response. Whether taking the nasal spray or the IV, patients report some relief after the first session. And after trying out a plethora of antidepressants that didn’t work, this gives them hope to continue with the treatment.
Chris Cohn, Founder and CEO of Daytryp Health Psychedelic Wellness Centers, states, “Ketamine treatment affects a neurotransmitter called glutamate, as well as a receptor called the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor. Both play an important role in the management of mental disorders, like anxiety. Ongoing stress and anxiety can lead to negative changes in specific parts of the brain, including the amygdala, which is responsible for processing anxiety, as well as fear. Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter that can help encourage synaptic plasticity, as well as increase synaptic connections. Ketamine increases the activity of glutamate in the brain to provide relief from anxiety symptoms. Ketamine Therapy acts directly on glutamate which often leads to immediate results! Ketamine has shown promise in treating conditions when other prescription medications have failed. Ketamine Therapy also impacts the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, which plays a part in many mental disorders. Ketamine is an NMDA receptor antagonist, which means it inhibits the receptor, thereby producing anti-anxiety effects and relief from depression and PTSD symptoms.”
Chris goes on to say, “One of the most remarkable aspects of ketamine therapy are the benefits that an individual can experience during, after, and between each dosing session. This is called the “durability” of the experience. After a single session, it would be reasonable to expect a general improvement in mood/outlook, and increased mental flexibility and openness lasting for about seven days. This can vary from person to person. Some effects are noticeable immediately after the session. Some experience months or even a year of relief after doing a round of 6-8 Ketamine treatments.”
Looking for ketamine therapy? Click here to find top rated ketamine clinics near you
Using Ketamine For Anxiety Is Easily Accessible
More ketamine clinics continue to be built, so there are plenty of locations to consider. Explore a few different clinics, or sessions with multiple doctors to find one you’re comfortable with. Like anything, a lot depends on the person administering ketamine, so make sure you feel safe and secure to ease anxiety.
Little to No Down Time or Side Effects
While in session, a medical professional monitors the patient. This is because ketamine is a known dissociative anesthesia, giving it psychedelic characteristics. A person can develop some auditory and sensory distortions. They may also hallucinate or feel drowsy. This is why, if you’re taking a ketamine infusion via IV, someone must be present to drive you home.
Still, those are, most likely, the only side effects a person is going to experience. Once they go away, you’re back to your normal self, able to do your daily functions. When on antidepressants, in many cases, they drag on side effects. These may persist throughout the day, and, sometimes, even impair daily life.
Cons of Ketamine for Anxiety
Even though the pros are looking amazing, there’s still some cons to consider. These include the below.
Lack Of Research
Unfortunately, this presents a problem for all psychedelics nowadays as most available research is still very recent. Ketamine has been around since the 1950s — becoming well-known in the veterinary and medical field for years. Ketamine’s journey as a psychedelic got its start in the 1970s. It was abruptly stopped. But recent studies are showing promise in ways the psychedelic can add benefits.
Current research offers hope — especially when it comes to ketamine for anxiety and depression — but more is necessary. As of today, medical professionals are still reluctant to suggest treatment from a ketamine clinic after diagnosis.
Using Ketamine For Anxiety Is Potentially Addictive
With nearly any drug, there’s a risk of developing some kind of dependence. Ketamine has addictive potential, so it’s important to keep sessions controlled and supervised in order to prevent abuse. Licensed and trained medical professionals monitor doses, making sure they remain at proper levels. This is to avoid any addictive tendencies within the patient.
Lack of Regulation
Despite its benefits, ketamine for anxiety and depression still lacks regulations. In other words, there’s no universal rule in which all ketamine clinics abide by. As mentioned, only one form of ketamine, esketamine, has approval by the FDA. The way it should be administered is strictly regulated by its guidelines, and there’s still a question surrounding what the normal dose of ketamine is.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the same for IV infusions — which people report more success with than esketamine nasal spray. This leaves space for different ways of administering, dosage guesses, and even wrongly monitored side effects. All of which can potentially bring more harm than good.
All in all, the pros of using ketamine for anxiety are slowly outweighing the cons. Medical professionals continue to educate themselves on how to safely use the psychedelic. Hopefully, in time, industry regulations will follow.