Myths and Facts About Ketamine

With a flick of your finger, you can find information on virtually any topic. And while the sheer volume of available information has expanded horizons, it also has been tainted with misinformation. This is especially true when it comes to breakthrough treatments like ketamine infusions

At Avesta Ketamine and Wellness in Bethesda, Maryland, and McLean, Virginia, our team of experts is here to draw the line between fact and fiction and give you the best information about this revolutionary pain and mental health treatment. 

Myth: Ketamine is a dangerous recreational drug

You may have first heard of ketamine when it was the club scene’s most popular street drug, but it’s more than that. Physicians used ketamine while treating wounded soldiers on the battlefields of the Vietnam War. This is because it is one of the safest, least dangerous IV anesthesia drugs available today. Whereas most IV anesthetics, like propofol, which was used on Michael Jackson, decrease breathing, ketamine does not have this effect.  It has been used safely on both people and animals as an anesthetic during surgery. Indeed, ketamine is considered the safest anesthesia drug according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Now, it’s becoming increasingly popular in the medical field as a therapy for pain and mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety.  Having said that, those of us who practice anesthesia have continued to use it in a variety of settings, including the operating room. 

Recently, researchers found that ketamine temporarily disables certain chemical receptors in your brain, “resetting” them and regulating your brain’s chemical reactions.

Although ketamine has a great safety profile, when used by trained, board certified anesthesia providers like us, it can be dangerous when used recklessly. We also monitor your dosage closely to ensure your safety, which also makes ketamine infusion a great option for people who want to manage their health conditions without addictive medications.

Myth: Ketamine is a one-and-done treatment

Ketamine is an effective treatment, but it doesn’t offer permanent results, and you may need more infusions over time. In fact, you begin by receiving six treatment sessions over the course of two to three weeks before we individualize your treatment plan. The time between your infusions may extend until you feel stable enough to come in as needed. Most individuals taper off slowly over time, coming in less and less often until they feel that they can move to as needed treatments. Although the initial phase of the treatment has been tested in numerous trials, the maintenance phase has not been researched as much, mostly because like other treatments, it needs to be individualized to your needs and response to the medication. Our anesthesia team has been in practice for over 25 years each, and are experts in successfully moving you from the initial treatment phase to follow up treatments so that you do not back slide, and lose momentum on your progress. 

We also encourage you to continue following your other treatment plans and working with a mental health professional to support your progress. We do use a mood monitoring app, Osmind, to help track your progress. This is a helpful tool for you, and us to monitor your treatment outcomes. With your permission, we can also share your progress with your mental health care providers. In fact we work closely with your mental health care providers because we believe a team approach, and collaboration only benefits you that much more in reaching your goals.

Myth: Ketamine is an option for mild depression

We don’t recommend ketamine infusions if you feel down from time to time. We do, however, recommend ketamine infusions for individuals who struggle with severe mental health issues, especially those who are treatment resistant. It’s also an option for those who have frequent suicidal ideations. It is a useful tool in a vast number of treatment resistant mood disorders, in patients who have tried multiple drug regimens with little to no relief. 

Myth: Ketamine doesn’t cause side effects

Because of the nature of the substance, ketamine infusions do cause some mild side effects. Some of the most common include: 

Only in the most extreme cases do ketamine infusions cause side effects such as:

There are several factors that can lead to the side effects above. For example, not eating for a few hours before your treatment can reduce nausea and vomiting significantly. Making sure you discuss your other drug regimen with our team will also help, as there are certain drugs that can have additive effects, or counteracting effects on the ketamine treatment. The provider should also do a thorough intake of your current history, and make sure that you are optimized for receiving the treatment. Another good example, is the high blood pressure that can occur during ketamine infusions. This is an effect of the drug and usually not of concern if you are in general good health. But if you suffer from high blood pressure, it is important that you discuss this with our providers so that they can ensure you are well controlled before the treatment.

The good news with ketamine is that it has a very short duration of action, and leaves your blood very quickly such that most of the above side effects dissipate quickly, even when/if they do occur. The other consideration is that in our clinic we tailor each treatment to your weight, history with other medications, and anesthesia history. 

Finally, we specialize in administering ketamine infusions and supervise each infusion to ensure your safety. We also review your health history before recommending ketamine infusions to make sure they’re right for you and your unique situation. 

If you have more questions about ketamine infusions, don’t hesitate to call our office most convenient for you or request an appointment online today. 

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