FAQs

Ketamine Infusion Therapy

Frequently Asked Questions

Ketamine has been primarily used to start and maintain anesthesia for surgical procedures and treat pain. In small, sub-anesthetic doses, it is being used to treat depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicidal ideation, OCD, migraine headaches, and chronic pain. It is currently not FDA-approved for treating chronic pain and mental health conditions but is being used as an “off-label” treatment.

“Off-label” use means that it is being administered as a treatment that the FDA did not originally approve it for, but due to clinical experience and new evidence, new scientifically-validated uses are emerging.

Ketamine has been shown to stimulate neuron growth in the brain as quickly as one hour. Many scientists studying ketamine focus on the neurotransmitter glutamate, which plays an important role in neural activation. See our ketamine page for more information.

About 70% of patients with treatment-resistant depression (including bipolar patients) experience rapid relief after a low-dose ketamine infusion. Similar success rates have been seen in returning combat veterans suffering from PTSD. These cases are the worst of the worst, lasting years or decades, and have not responded to any other treatments. Many have hovered on the verge of suicide for years, many have attempted suicide, and all have endured a very poor quality of life. Before ketamine therapy, there was virtually no way to improve the condition of patients like these substantially. The fact that ketamine works rapidly on 70% of them is astonishing, and its discovery has profoundly changed depression research and our understanding of the very nature of depression. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that the degree of relief can vary among patients. Some sufferers get only partial relief, some do not get relief until a second or third infusion, and some do not respond to ketamine. Some patients have additional medical conditions besides depression that can reduce ketamine’s effectiveness.

You will be awake. The ketamine infusion dosage is not high enough to cause you to fall asleep, but you may feel drowsy during and shortly after the treatment.

There are legal and illicit drugs that will reduce the effectiveness of ketamine. Please be sure to inform us of all drugs you take. We will work with your prescribing physician to coordinate your care.

The length of treatment is unique to each patient and can vary greatly between patients. Most patients who respond to ketamine find that a single infusion will provide at least several days of symptomatic relief. This means relief of the physical symptoms that make mood disorders unbearable: anxiety, anhedonia, physical fatigue, dysphoria, cognitive impairment, insomnia, etc. Patients who get a series of multiple infusions over several days often get symptomatic relief that lasts weeks.

But there’s more to it than that. The relief of physical symptoms are relieved can trigger a dramatic improvement in mood, help patients feel healthy, function normally, and stop feeling negative about themselves, sometimes for the first time in decades. Even if the physical symptoms begin to return, many patients find themselves more resilient than before, instead of retreating to the fetal position each time a new stress or obstacle arises. This improvement in mood and function can last longer than physical symptom relief.

The most commonly reported side effects include mild nausea, drowsiness, and a temporary increase in blood pressure. Our staff will closely monitor your blood pressure and heart rate throughout the course of the infusion. During the treatment, you may experience something called a dissociative effect. Most patients describe the experience with relaxing, floating, and pleasant words. This “dream-like” state or euphoria quickly subsides after the therapy, allowing you to leave with your driver after treatment. Less common side effects include vivid dreams, mood swings, or agitation. If these types of side effects occur, they can be controlled by adjusting the dosage of ketamine.

Ketamine is typically well tolerated. We are unaware of any significant adverse reactions at the low dose used for this treatment. At the higher doses used in operating rooms, ketamine has been known to cause hallucinations and other cognitive distortions. Use of ketamine by people with conditions such as unstable heart disease risks aggravating these conditions. It is of utmost importance that you complete the medical questionnaire fully and truthfully, so we can properly evaluate whether you are medically appropriate for the treatment.

When ketamine is administered in a controlled medical setting by a properly trained provider using established methods, it is very safe. Ketamine is the only anesthetic that does not suppress the body’s cardiovascular and respiratory systems. It does have the potential to elevate heart rate and blood pressure, so the patient’s vitals must be monitored during treatment.

Using illegally-obtained ketamine alone, without a doctor’s supervision, is a different matter. There’s no assurance the substance you’re taking is ketamine at all or that it hasn’t been mixed with other substances. And since ketamine is an anesthetic capable of sedating patients during major surgery, you can seriously injure yourself while under its influence if you are not in a controlled medical setting. If you are contemplating taking “street” ketamine in hopes of relieving your depression, keep in mind that the antidepressant effect depends on it being administered in a very precise, controlled way that you cannot achieve in a recreational setting.

FREE consultation: 30-minute consultation with our ketamine specialists to explain the benefits of ketamine and answer any questions regarding ketamine infusion therapy. Please bring your most recent medical records and labs to your appointment.

At this time, ketamine infusion therapy is not reimbursed by insurance companies. It is being fast-tracked by the FDA as a treatment for depression, so we hope insurance companies will cover this therapy within the next couple of years.

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