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How does ketamine treat mental health disorders?

Ketamine is a drug that is proving useful in a new wave of psychiatry where drugs can be viewed as enhancing psychotherapy.  To be sure, it has a biological action with antidepressant properties, but it also induces a mental state that when used in conjunction with a therapist present during the sessions may lead to rapid access to important psychological themes that can be creatively applied to enhance ones psychotherapy.  

 

How is ketamine used in the clinic?

Ketamine sessions last about an hour.  The drug is applied through a nasal spray with dosage individualized in 5 minute increments until a relaxed somewhat altered state is achieved.  The effects peak in about 30 minutes with patients pretty much feeling themselves within an hour.  During the drug effect's peak, patients will sometimes notice a mental stillness where perceptions are more salient than conclusions.  To give an example, the ticking of a clock  might attract the patient's interest more than the time.  One might also notice an enhanced awareness of emotions connected to people and places in one's life.

Patients should have a designated driver when they come to the clinic and should be prepared to remain in the clinic 30 to 60 minutes after their session in order to assure that the patient feels balanced and alert upon leaving.

In selective cases, once ones individual response to the drug is sufficiently understood, patients can purchase the drug for in home use.  Ketamine is quite inexpensive as a generic medicine.

 

What mental health conditions may benefit from ketamine?

Ketamine is approved for the treatment of depression.  It also is showing promise for various conditions including chronic pain, problematic drinking, and anxiety.  

Those wanting to dive deeper into this topic might enjoy a brief podcast I uploaded to youtube.