If you struggle with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), first-line treatments usually include some type of medication combined with some form of psychotherapy.
While these can help many people manage their symptoms, some 30-40% of patients don’t respond to them, or they have too many side effects, leaving them with few, if any, options.
Fortunately, there’s ketamine, a drug that targets different pathways in the brain than most antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications.
At ReYou, our expert clinical team offers ketamine therapy for people in the Howell, New Jersey, area who need to think outside the box. Here’s what you need to know about ketamine and what the treatment is like.
So, what is ketamine?
Ketamine started in the 1960s as a veterinary anesthetic and was approved as an anesthetic for use in humans in 1970, initially to treat injured soldiers on the battlefield during the Vietnam War. After being used in operating rooms, ketamine eventually showed promise as a treatment for mental health conditions.
Ketamine works on cells in your brain called NMDA receptors. These receptors interact with neurotransmitters such as glutamate, increasing communication between nerve cells.
But if the nerves remain excited for too long, they start to die off, and this leads to a failure cascade that can trigger conditions such as depression or anxiety. Both depression and anxiety have been linked to malfunctions in the NMDA receptors.
Ktamine, given as an infusion, doesn’t have to go through the digestive tract like oral medications. Instead, it works directly on the brain to block the NMDA receptor signals and allow the brain to create new neural pathways.
Ketamine also blocks glutamate so it can’t access and trigger the NMDA receptors. In addition, it activates the AMPA receptor, which leads to the release of other molecules that benefit mood, thought patterns, and cognition.
The ketamine infusion
Ketamine administration is a process, and it contains five steps.
Before we can recommend ketamine therapy, we have to conduct a medical screening. We review your medical history, current health, and severity of symptoms, which allows us to determine if you’re a good candidate. We also address any questions you may have.
If we recommend ketamine therapy, we work with you to set up an individual treatment plan. And if your consultation is in person and not a telehealth visit, we can begin your first infusion as soon as the treatment plan is complete.
2. Setting up
Before we start, an integration specialist discusses any concerns you may have about the therapy and helps you set goals for the session.
The integrator also gives you an eye mask and noise-canceling headphones, then programs a customized music track from WavePaths™ — a specialized neuropsychologist-designed music program to guide you through your ketamine treatments.
We also connect you to the monitoring equipment and the infusion pump.
In the third step, we activate the infusion pump, and it’s here that individual experience varies the most. You start to feel the medication’s effect almost immediately, and it lasts around 40 minutes. If you need to go deeper or lighter, we can titrate the dose on the spot.
Most of our patients report enjoying the experience and find the curated music both therapeutic and meaningful. Some people feel lightheadedness, a tingling in their extremities, or a sense of heaviness. Others report out-of-body experiences or euphoria.
The integrator and prescriber remain available the whole time if you need them, though most of our patients prefer to go through the experience alone.
Once the effects of the ketamine have worn off, you meet briefly with the integrator, who helps you make sense of the experience.
Ketamine’s efficacy doesn’t depend on having profound experiences, but we’ve found that when patients do have such an experience, they find it therapeutic to share it with the integrator.
You’ll be ready to leave in about 20-30 minutes post-infusion, but you’ll need a family member, friend, or car service to give you a ride home, as you may feel a bit groggy.
5. First 24 hours post-infusion
Take it easy for the first 24 hours after your infusion; you just went through an intense experience, and you need the rest. The next day, journal your experience while listening to the same WavePaths™ music track you did during your infusion.
We highly recommend you do a short integration session with your own therapist or one of our partner therapists so you understand the insights the treatment may have provided into your condition.
Are you ready for a new approach to managing your mental health issues? Ketamine infusion therapy may be just the thing. Contact us at ReYou today by phone or online to schedule a consultation with one of our ketamine specialists.