reviewed by Jason Thompson
Ketamine-assisted therapy is an alternative depression treatment that is highly effective at helping people overcome mental health challenges.
Treatment with ketamine at Plus by APN provides targeted therapy for people struggling with several different mental health disorders. This alternative depression treatment can work for many people, even those who have tried antidepressants and other mental health medications without success.
Before we dive into more information on ketamine, we want to note that this blog post covers the clinical uses of ketamine. The benefits and applications outlined below do not include recreational use; we strongly advise against ketamine use outside of a therapeutic environment. Ketamine should only be administered by a medical professional in a clinical setting.
While ketamine is not a miracle drug, it can help some clients establish more trust with their therapist to overcome mental health blocks and make more progress in therapy. Providers often combine ketamine-assisted therapy with several other evidence-based treatments to improve the likelihood of success and help clients address the root causes of mental health issues.
What Is Ketamine?
Ketamine is a psychoactive medication that has been used for over fifty years as an anesthetic and pain reliever. It belongs to a drug class called “dissociatives,” a subclass of psychedelics.
Dissociative drugs like ketamine can induce a trance-like state, and at higher doses, they can even produce visual and auditory hallucinations. In a clinical environment at Plus by APN, we manage these effects by regulating sensory inputs and ensuring safety with medical supervision.
How Ketamine Became an Alternative Depression Treatment
Ketamine was used for several decades as the anesthetic of choice for medical providers. Doctors using ketamine as a battlefield anesthetic for mass casualty events during the Vietnam War noticed that low doses of ketamine could provide several beneficial effects, including:
- Reducing depression symptoms
- Alleviating end-of-life anxiety
- Providing temporary pain relief following surgery
- Decreasing suicidal ideation
Unfortunately, recreational ketamine use became a concern; ultimately, propofol replaced ketamine in the 1980s as the anesthetic of choice. Later, in the 1990s, high-dose opioids replaced both options, laying the groundwork for the opioid epidemic we’re currently facing.
In the past several years, researchers looking for new ways to address the mental health crisis returned to studying ketamine’s effects and found extremely promising results for depression and other common mental health struggles.
Ketamine-Assisted Therapy as an Alternative Depression Treatment
Recent research overwhelmingly supports ketamine as a viable treatment for a host of mental health disorders. Healthcare providers can use ketamine-assisted healing and therapy to help people reduce symptoms and make more progress toward their mental health goals and recovery.
At Plus by APN in Malibu and Denver, we connect people with serious mental health challenges with a team of clinicians and medical providers to deliver this cutting-edge treatment.
What Can Ketamine-Assisted Therapy Treat?
Healthcare providers can use ketamine as an off-label treatment to address a variety of mental health problems, including:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Anxiety disorders
- Major depressive disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Treatment with ketamine can even help people who haven’t found success with traditional therapy, medications, or treatments. Ketamine-assisted therapy is particularly beneficial for people with treatment-resistant depression, for instance.
The opportunity to find relief after struggling with mental health concerns and multiple failed treatment attempts has justly caused many people to feel a growing excitement for ketamine-assisted therapy.
At Plus by APN, we use interventional psychiatry and neurotechnology to fill the gaps in treatment. Our approach offers hope and a path forward for those who have tried traditional mental health treatments without relief.
Benefits of Ketamine-Assisted Therapy
Ketamine-assisted therapy is, at its core, an enhanced version of traditional talk therapy. Ketamine works as a tool to facilitate the therapy process, helping people to break through mental and emotional barriers during psychotherapy.
A medical professional will administer ketamine 24 hours before a therapy session with one of our trained therapists. The medication can help people feel relaxed, gain insight into their condition, and speak plainly about their issues with their therapist.
Ketamine-assisted healing at Plus by APN leverages this heightened emotional openness and mental clarity to help our clients process their feelings, learn new coping skills, and analyze problematic behaviors and their causes. This process essentially turbocharges a traditional therapy session and produces vastly improved results.
Ketamine-Assisted Healing for Depression
Ketamine-assisted therapy can help people with depression find temporary relief from the weight of their condition. This relief allows them to dig deeper into the root of their problems without being blocked by intense negative emotions.
Ketamine-Assisted Healing for PTSD and Anxiety
Professional etamine-assisted healing can help people with anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder can feel safe letting their guard down. With a trusted therapist, they can learn to face anxiety or fear-provoking events without having to react or shy away. They can unpack triggers, narrow down contributing factors, and work toward long-lasting healing.
Long-term Benefits of Ketamine-Assisted Healing
While talk therapy is a vital component of the treatment plan for ketamine-assisted healing at Plus by APN, the medication itself can also create lasting changes that help people struggling with mental health disorders. Even without talk therapy, studies have shown that ketamine can substantially reduce depression, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms.
The Research on Ketamine-Assisted Healing
In 2022, researchers performed a comprehensive review of the last two decades of ketamine research and found overwhelmingly positive results. This review covered 83 distinct studies on ketamine-assisted therapy, including 29 randomized controlled trials, 33 systematic reviews, and 17 meta-analyses.
The review concluded that ketamine had robust and rapid effects on previously untreated and treatment-resistant depression. These effects often fade over time, but many see continuous improvement with repeated treatment sessions.
Similarly, the researchers found positive and rapid improvements among several other mental health disorders, including:
- Bipolar disorder
- Suicidal ideation
- Social anxiety and generalized anxiety disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
While these effects aren’t quite as robust as ketamine’s impact on depression, the evidence still clearly suggests that ketamine can effectively reduce negative mental health symptoms associated with these disorders.
What to Expect: Ketamine-Assisted Healing Treatment Experience
At Plus by APN, a typical ketamine-assisted healing session has several stages. You’ll start working with a therapist ahead of your first ketamine session, meeting regularly and establishing a relationship. During this time, your medical providers will work with your therapist to accurately assess the state of your condition and determine whether any pre-existing health conditions could impede treatment.
At your first ketamine-assisted healing session, your care team will briefly go over what to anticipate from your first dose. A medical professional will then administer the ketamine, which typically begins to work in just a few minutes.
The effects of ketamine peak approximately 40 minutes after the first dose, though the entire session and monitoring can last up to three hours. Most people feel significant relief from depressive symptoms after just a single session.
You’ll attend a therapy session within 24 hours of each ketamine administration. You will likely feel more open and ready to navigate one-on-one therapy sessions during this window; you may notice that the mental health barriers you once struggled with feel more manageable or dissipate entirely.
Our goal is to help you capitalize on this opportunity and lean into the newfound relief so you can make more progress with a trusted therapist. Ketamine relieves the symptoms of chronic mental health conditions, and the work you do in therapy can treat the root causes.
When to Seek Treatment for Depression
Deliberating over when you need to seek professional help for depression or other mental health disorders can prevent you from getting effective treatment until the symptoms become unmanageable. But the truth is, you do not have to be in crisis to get help.
The very definition of mental health disorders implies that they interfere with your ability to live your life to the fullest, succeed at work or school, or complete your everyday tasks. If you’re not sure whether you’re struggling with a mental illness or just a transient emotional state, ask yourself these questions:
- Is your mental health interfering with your everyday life?
- Have your symptoms been present for more than two weeks?
- Do mental health symptoms cause you to miss work, school, or important events?
- Have your symptoms gotten worse over time?
- Do mental health symptoms interfere with your sleep, appetite, or focus?
- If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you could benefit from professional support. In our experience, personalized, evidence-based treatment is the best tool for addressing mental health disorders. Finding a quality mental health treatment center can help you recover.
At Plus by APN, we use a whole-person approach to mental and physical health, addressing the root cause of symptoms to help you to find effective relief. Ketamine-assisted healing is one of many alternative healing modalities that we employ, and we work with every client to develop a customized approach. Call 855.654.6595 or complete our confidential online contact form to get started with your healing journey today.
- Sepulveda Ramos, Carolina et al. “The Therapeutic Effects of Ketamine in Mental Health Disorders: A Narrative Review.” Cureus vol. 14,3 e23647. 30 Mar. 2022, doi:10.7759/cureus.23647
- Walsh, Zach et al. “Ketamine for the treatment of mental health and substance use disorders: comprehensive systematic review.” BJPsych open vol. 8,1 e19. 23 Dec. 2021, doi:10.1192/bjo.2021.1061