Recently, you might have read the front-page New York Times article titled, “The Psychedelic Revolution Is Coming. Psychiatry May Never Be the Same.” The title says it all, and Ketamine plays a big role in this revolution. At Avesta Ketamine and Wellness, with clinics in Bethesda, MD and McLean VA, we get to see Ketamine turn peoples’ lives around.
Psychiatrists' first line of treatment for mood disorders has always been antidepressants; however, other options like Ketamine have been more effective for many people. Alone or when used in conjunction with antidepressants, Ketamine is helping mood disorder patients feel more functional and happier. With continued evidence about Ketamine, it is becoming a more ideal option for many people.
Common antidepressants mask peoples’ depression by increasing the amount of activity of certain neurotransmitters (i.e., serotonin & dopamine) flowing in the brain.1 The theory behind antidepressants is that with more of these “happy” chemicals flowing through the brain, people will feel happier. While this approach works well for many, there are still people who are left feeling little to no effect, or sometimes even worse with antidepressants.
Ketamine is a promising alternative for these individuals that do not benefit from regularly prescribed antidepressants. Ketamine helps people with mood disorders for a couple reasons.
First, it builds new connections in the brain that were not previously there. With more neurons firing, people often report having more energy and more motivation to work on projects and fulfil responsibilities.
Second, while on Ketamine many people experience dissociation, which enables them to step outside of their head and see things from a more objective place. Dissociation is essentially detachment from the self. Patients can benefit from dissociation because it allows them to think about everything from a different perspective. Although detachment can be daunting, especially for those who have never experienced anything like it, it can provide therapeutic benefits.
Dissociation feels different for everyone, but is commonly described as a floaty and light sensation. According to the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies 2(MAPS), Ketamine “is a dissociative medicine that quiets sensory input and can launch people into an expansive, transpersonal space.”2 One of the most important pieces of advice that we give to our patients is to let go of control in this dissociative state, trust the process, and allow the Ketamine to open their minds.
We use a patient progress tracking app called Osmind. When you become our patient, we use the app to stay in touch, deploy surveys, and track your mood. Aside from measuring your progress, Osmind is an extremely helpful resource for patients. Osmind provides our patients undergoing Ketamine therapy a venue for communication with other Ketamine patients across the country. The patients in the community are able to post questions, experiences, comments, and concerns linking like minded individuals who are all experiencing Ketamine. Here are some samples of people’s own description of their dissociative experiences from the Osmind app:
“I get a euphoric feeling and a peaceful descent into an unknown space that looks and feels like a constantly changing reality that’s not real while having short thoughts that are real.”
“In my experience it was feeling like my brain was outside of my head, sounds were louder, scents more pronounced, and I felt disconnected to my fingers and toes.”
“I’ve felt myself lift out of my body (best way I can describe it), and towards the end I see myself falling into a chair-sometimes through floors. I was scared the first time it happened, thinking it would hurt. It doesn’t happen all the time and it’s not so scary anymore.” 3
The treatment plan for patients with depression, anxiety, or PTSD starts with an average of six initial induction sessions over a two to three week period called the induction phase. The induction phase is where the brain will create a majority of the new pathways. It is after completion of this phase that patients begin to feel significant changes.
After the induction phase, patients go into the maintenance, booster phase. The goal of the booster phase is to maintain the progress, and pathways, from the induction phase, while spreading sessions out as much as possible.
According to MAPS, the “approach to ketamine treatment is fundamentally a Western medical or a surgical model, where the antidepressant or therapeutic effects of ketamine are attributed to its biochemical properties, and the benefits are explained in terms of molecules, receptors, neurotransmitters, and the like.” There is scientific evidence that this formula that we use can work to treat mood disorders.4
Because everyone’s brain is so different, we cannot predict how long it will take and how effective Ketamine therapy will be for you.
It is no accident that non-traditional, mind-altering drugs like Ketamine are being studied and explored more than ever for treating mood disorders. Nonetheless, it is a big step, and sometimes an intimidating commitment. When determining if it is the right option for you, it is wise to educate yourself as much as possible. Luckily, here at Avesta, we provide a lot of reliable, well researched information about Ketamine therapy. You can read any of our other blogs to learn more, or call to schedule a free phone consultation.
Coauthored, in alphabetical order by: Dr. Ladan Eshkevari, PhD, CRNA, FAAN, and Stephanie Gordon, BA