This Is How A Ketamine Therapy Session Works

This Is How A Ketamine Therapy Session Works

Ketamine therapy clinics have been popping up all over the place, with plenty of them available within the US. But what does a ketamine therapy session actually include? Here’s what you need to know. 

Ketamine is known as a party drug, an FDA-approved anaesthetic, and lately, as a potentially great psychedelic substance that can help in treating a wide array of mental health issues. From PTSD, depression and anxiety to mood disorders, bipolarity, and even addiction, ketamine has shown some great results, so it’s no wonder the treatment itself has gained such popularity. 

It’s important to note though that none of the clinics existing presently are regulated, and it’s on you to dive deep into research and find the one that will uphold all safety procedures and protocols which will make the sessions efficient and safe. That isn’t to say that there’s a lack of credible, available organizations, such as MAPS, to provide professional, straightforward advice.

Speaking of ketamine treatment, there are two different ways it can be administered:

  • Using a nasal spray called esketamine, which was FDA-approved in 2019 for those struggling with treatment-resistant depression
  • An IV treatment using racemic ketamine, which has yet to be FDA approved

Esketamine

The nasal spray called Spravato is currently only available through a restricted distribution system, under a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) developed by the FDA, and according to them, it “must be administered in a certified medical office where the health care provider can monitor the patient.”

The eligibility for using esketamine is also rigorously regulated and only those with a major depressive disorder who, despite trying at least two antidepressant treatments given at adequate doses for an adequate duration in the current episode, have not responded to treatment, are considered to have treatment-resistant depression, and can therefore be a good candidate for the esketamine therapy.

Spravato comes with a warning of potential sedation and dissociation (difficulty with attention, judgment and thinking), so patients must be monitored by a health care provider for at least two hours after receiving the dose. The spray is also self-administered under the supervision of a health care provider in a certified doctor’s office or clinic, and it’s important to note that the spray cannot be taken home. 

After the two hours have passed, the patient gets evaluated by the doctor who gives them the green light to leave the office and go home. 

IV Ketamine Therapy 

Since this type of ketamine therapy isn’t yet approved or regulated by the FDA, it’s hard to know exactly how different types of clinics administer it. Still, once you decide on which one you’re going to, you should receive all information, including how to prepare for your session. 

Preparation

Ideally, you should be in the state of a minimum 3 hour fast before going in for your session as some of the known side effects include nausea and vomiting. Having food in your stomach can therefore make these side effects much worse. 

Another important thing to keep in mind before your ketamine therapy session is to avoid having any other substances in your bloodstream at the time. This includes alcohol, which can cause cardiovascular problems, breathing issues, and even death, and caffeine, which can cause overstimulation and worsening of the side effects. 

It’s also good to mentally prepare yourself for the session and bring yourself to a calm state through meditation, mindfulness practice, or any other form of self-care that works for you. Ketamine therapy side effects can range from mild to severe, so it’s important to educate yourself on all of them and void your mind of any negative or stressful thoughts concerning them before the session. Getting yourself in a positive state of mind can definitely improve your overall experience. 

Talking about ketamine therapy with your partner, friend, or family member may also be a good idea as emotional support can play a huge role in your experience. You will also need someone to come with you or at least pick you up as you won’t be allowed to go home by yourself. 

If talking to someone close to you seems daunting, consider talk therapy and discussing your motivations, desires, and fears with a professional. You can go over everything that might be bothering you or you’re afraid of, as well as all the possible side effects. If you’re considering ketamine therapy, chances are you are already talking to a professional on a regular basis so don’t forget to share this information with them. 

Duration

Unlike the nasal spray session which only happens once and you’re free to go after the few hours have passed, the usual standard protocol for ketamine IV infusions is 6 infusions over the course of two weeks, with each session lasting 45 minutes to an hour. If possible, it’s highly recommended that you try taking those days off since work won’t really be productive. 

The Process

Once you arrive at the clinic for the first time, you will most likely be assessed and evaluated by their psychiatry team through a comprehensive mental health screening, as well as a medical and physical exam to ensure you’re the right candidate for ketamine IV therapy. 

On the day of the session, you’ll be met with their anesthesia care providers who will walk you through the whole process as well as be there throughout its entirety, controlling and overseeing every step. 

You will be seated in a comfortable chair and put in a relaxing setting while the IV will be hooked up to your vein, usually with headphones so you can listen to relaxing music and even an option to watch TV and distract yourself. Depending on the clinic, the infusion time can vary from 45-60 minutes, but have no fear – the anesthesia care provider will be there with you the entire time. 

After the IV session is done, you will most likely be transferred to a spa-like setting where you’ll rest until you’re assessed and discharged home. In the following days, you’re expected to start feeling less stressed with your mood much improved, but pay attention to the aforementioned side effects and call your healthcare provider as soon as you start experiencing them, if you do. 

With ketamine, these two options are currently the only ones you can try with any guarantee of safety and control. If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD or other mental health issues, talk to your doctor and discuss potential therapy treatment. 

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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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