How Ketamine Infusion Works

How Ketamine Infusion Works

So you’ve decided to try out a ketamine therapy and you don’t really know what to expect? Here’s all you need to know about how a ketamine infusion works.

Ketamine is one of the most popular psychedelics nowadays, especially as it gains more attention from the mainstream media. Likewise, given its positive testimonials, it’s no wonder why more ketamine clinics are opening around the world.

As a dissociative anesthetic, ketamine has also been classified as a hallucinogen. These types of drugs alter consciousness, involving acute changes in somatic, perceptual, cognitive, and affective processes. Therefore, it is a psychedelic.

Psychedelics are gaining popularity these days for their healing capabilities. Psilocybin (or magic mushrooms), ayahuasca, and MDMA aren’t the only ones getting the attention. Ketamine is generating much of the interest, causing a revolution in alternative treatment options.

With positive results concerning anxiety and depression, questions about ketamine treatments have been popping in many psychotherapists’ offices, in hopes that this alternative treatment will finally help them get some relief they’ve been desperately waiting for but none of the current therapies provide.

Ketamine Treatments

When it comes to ketamine treatments, there are two different ways one can go about it.

  • Esketamine. This type of ketamine is taken as a nasal spray (Spravato). Patients still need to visit a doctor prior to receiving treatment. Esketamine is typically prescribed in conjunction with a conventional oral antidepressant, as it may enhance the effect of those drugs.
  • Intravenous Infusions. This type of ketamine treatment includes six or more doses spread out over a month. This may then be followed with booster infusions once a month, if necessary. Unlike Esketamine, ketamine infusions aren’t regulated or approved by the FDA which leaves some room for uncertainty and speculation. Since it enters the bloodstream directly, this is typically much stronger, often yielding better results.

Ketamine Infusion 101

Similar to any IV, a ketamine infusion is attached to a vein through a tube. It then enters the bloodstream and disperses throughout the body.

Before getting a ketamine infusion, the patient needs to go through a thorough checklist in order to determine eligibility. The checklist includes a severe diagnosis of several mental health issues like bipolar disorder or personality disorder.

Ketamine Therapy Exclusion

Those who are not eligible for to receive a ketamine infusion are those with the following.

  • Active substance abuse (Alcohol, cannabis, non-prescribed medications, etc.)
  • Negative urine toxicology screening prior to the initiation of treatment to prevent risk of precipitated mania
  • History of psychosis
  • History of increased intracranial pressure
  • Pregnancy (current)
  • Uncontrolled hypertension
  • Acute or unstable cardiovascular disease
  • Previous negative response to ketamine

Once the provider deems the patient eligible for receiving treatment, a pre-treatment consultation is the next step. This is where they receive all the necessary information about the ketamine infusions — like what to expect. Info regarding symptoms and recovery. As well as obtaining medical clearance based on their situation.

Following approval, treatment begins. It usually lasts around 40 minutes, with the typical frequency of the infusions of twice per week for 4-5 weeks with taper.

Throughout the infusion, the clinic closely monitors the patient. Vital signs include heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, level of consciousness, signs and symptoms of potential ketamine toxicity, and dissociative effects, as ketamine impacts everyone differently.

Once ketamine therapy is complete, the clinic still monitors the patient in case any new symptoms occur. He/she is then able to leave with a designated driver, as side effects do occur.

Common Ketamine Side Effects

Below are some side effects from ketamine treatment.

  • A dream-like feeling and/or drowsiness
  • Double vision or blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Jerky muscle movements
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleep disturbances or insomnia
  • High blood pressure

Recovery includes getting to pre-administration vital sign baseline levels and a complete absence of dissociative effects.

So, How Does Ketamine Infusion Actually Work?

Researchers aren’t yet entirely sure how ketamine works. It behaves like an antidepressant in the way that it helps manage severe depression, especially in situations when other treatments fail. Some researchers even believe that it actually works through an entirely different mechanism than antidepressant medications, therefore explaining its efficacy.

Ketamine reduces signals that trigger inflammation, which often aligns with mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. It also appears ketamine effects the communication across specific areas within the brain, targeting specific receptors.

Ketamine IV infusion targets the NMDA receptors in the brain and it binds to them, increasing the amount of a neurotransmitter glutamate in the space between neurons. Glutamate then activates the connections in a different receptor called the AMPA receptor. Working in unison, these NMDA and activated AMPA receptors release additional molecules that help neurons communicate along new pathways. This complex process is synaptogenesis, and it affects mood, cognition, and thought patterns.

Ketamine does a lot to the human body. While this is a main reason why researchers are bullish about its positive results, further studies are necessary. There are lots of pros and cons, but still plenty to learn about the therapeutic effects of the psychedelic.

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Karla Ilicic

View all posts by Karla Ilicic

Karla is a freelance writer, yoga teacher and nutritionist who's been writing about nutrition, fitness, yoga, mindfulness, and overall health and wellness topics for over seven years. She's written for numerous publications such as Healthline, Livesavvy, Psychology.com, Well + Good, and many others, sharing her love of storytelling and educating. She loves talking about superfoods and another amazing plant powers that people can benefit from if they learn how to use it properly. Her passion lies in helping others not only eat healthier meals but implement good eating habits, find a great relationship with food & achieve a balanced lifestyle. She believes that the only diet and lifestyle that's worth creating is the one you can stick to, so she aims to find what that means for each and every individual. Teaching WHY we eat, and not only WHAT we eat, is the premise of her approach.

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