3 Pros And 3 Cons Of Ketamine Therapy
Ketamine therapy has become available in many clinics all over the world. Indeed, ketamine therapy is an increasingly popular option for treating many mental health issues. But every psychedelic-assisted therapy has its pros and cons.
Ketamine is a psychedelic substance well-known as an anaesthetic and a party drug. It’s also recently been linked to helping alleviate symptoms of many mental health issues. These include depression, PTSD, bipolarity, anxiety, and even mood disorders.
With high rates of success, many scientists and psychedelic researchers are joining the cause. Many hope that ketamine therapy will soon gain full approval. Only in this way will it become available to those who desperately need it.
The Pros of Ketamine Therapy
Ketamine Therapy is Quick and Easy
Ketamine can be administered in two different ways:
- As an FDA-approved nasal spray (Spravato) for those struggling with treatment-resistant depression which “must be administered in a certified medical office where the health care provider can monitor the patient.”
- As an IV treatment using racemic ketamine, still not approved by the FDA.
Unlike most psychedelics, ketamine doesn’t take days or special ceremonies to be administered. Ketamine nasal spray is self-administered under the supervision of a health care provider. This takes place in a certified doctor’s clinic. The therapy includes two hours of extra supervision afterward. This ensures the patient is safe to drive themselves home.
The IV therapy usually takes six infusions over the course of two weeks. Each Ketamine IV session lasts 45 minutes to an hour. The only downside is finding a driver to take the patient to and from the clinic, as he or she will not be able to drive. But other than that, the session itself is pretty quick and simple.
Ketamine Therapy Presents Little to No Side Effects
Possible side effects are a fear for many considering psychedelic-assisted therapy. This is especially true since they’re mostly classified as hallucinogens. Psilocybin, MDMA, LSD, ayahuasca and others can potentially cause psychedelic side effects. These include visual hallucinations, vomiting and nausea, diarrhea, confusion, anxiety, euphoria, heightened senses, insomnia, and others.
Ketamine, on the other hand, has shown very mild, if any, side effects. The most common side effect of ketamine is feeling a little bit “out of place” after the treatment. Since ketamine is an anaesthetic, expect some dissociation and drowsiness. That said, every person is different, and more serious symptoms can still occur.
Ketamine Therapy Provides Successful, Fast-Acting Symptom Relief
Whether nasal spray or infusion, ketamine therapy works fast. ‘Fast’ in this case means within a few hours of treatment. People report a massive ease in depressive symptoms very soon. This is something scientists have yet to understand. However, links to a rapid increase in glutamate have been discovered.
Ketamine stimulates the increase in glutamate. Glutamate is an important amino acid and the main neurotransmitter encouraging growth of synapses in the brain. It helps strengthen and restore important neural connections and pathways. It does so in the regions of the brain that are most impacted and impaired by depression. Once these new connections are created, something pretty miraculous happens. They induce beneficial changes in brain circuit function and decrease depression symptoms.
Ketamine therapy is still being studied fully. But, current research shows high success rates and significant symptom relief after only a few infusions. This may be key for ketamine to receive acknowledgment and FDA approval in the near future.
The Cons of Ketamine Therapy
Ketamine Has Addictive Potential
Unlike other psychedelics used to treat drug addiction, ketamine does have addictive potential. This potential, granted, is only slightly more so than cannabis. Ketamine’s addictive potential sways more towards the psychological side. However, it is still different from an opioid addiction.
As a dissociative, ketamine can trigger escapism. Escapism happens when a person separates from their sense of the world and self. This usually takes place as a way to avoid painful feelings instead of confronting them. Escapism is an addictive feeling as it gives a sense of “freedom” from personal problems. Indeed, stopping ketamine can create psychological withdrawal symptoms. These can include strong cravings, anxiety, and loss of pleasure. The addiction itself can even lead to serious organ damage.
However, when ketamine is used carefully, the likelihood of addiction is substantially low. When ketamine is taken out of a monitored, clinical context, safety controls are removed. Dosage and frequency are less regulated, and this leads to potential addiction.
Ketamine Clinics Aren’t Yet Regulated
Psychedelic-assisted therapies are still very controversial. Indeed, even though they’re legal, ketamine therapy clinics aren’t exactly regulated. This could result in untrained staff who aren’t certified to administer ketamine dosages.
However, there are some rough industry guidelines. Take the consensus statement published in JAMA Psychiatry for example. There are teachings from organizations like the KRIYA Institute that can also provide guidance. The American Society of Ketamine Physicians (ASKP) is another. However, these are purely suggestions for guidelines that ketamine clinics should, but not required, to follow.
Ketamine Therapy is Expensive
When it comes to crunching numbers, ketamine therapy will not go easy on your wallet. They typically cost up to $1,000 per infusion, and treatment usually includes six infusions. Since ketamine therapy does not have FDA approval, insurance companies do not cover costs.
This can be a big reason for someone to think twice before signing up for a consultation. Indeed, a consultation fee of around $350 typically exists. Until standard approval and regulations for ketamine therapy is intact, each clinic can charge any amount.
However, the pros still outweigh the cons when it comes to the potential of ketamine therapy. For those suffering from treatment resistant depression, ketamine therapy may be a solution. But it’s up to potential users to find a well-respected ketamine clinic and do the research.