Everything You Should Know About Ketamine Infusion Therapy

Ketamine infusion therapy is becoming a popular form of treatment for individuals who suffer with severe depression and other forms of psychiatric disorders.  Coined as one of the most effective and fastest acting options for depression, ketamine infusion therapy is quickly becoming a go-to choice for individuals who are not responding well to other forms of treatments for depression.  Keep in mind, ketamine infusion therapy is not appropriate for individuals with mild to moderate depression who are responding to cognitive therapy and/or medications.

However, because ketamine infusion therapy is still a relatively new approach to treatment, potential patients may have limited knowledge on the subject. Here, we will examine what ketamine infusion is and what it can mean for people who suffer from depression.

A Brief History

Ketamine was first patented for human and animal use in 1966. It was first used in the medicinal world as a higher dose anesthetic. It wasn’t until 1970 that the Food and Drug Administration approved it for the use on soldiers during the Vietnam War. It proved to be an attractive option for anesthetic in the field because it was fast-acting. Ketamine was first introduced as a general anesthetic, which it is still used as today.  However, keep in mind this is administered at a much higher dose and has a proven track record of safety.

It’s true that ketamine infusion therapy as a treatment has not been FDA approved. However, this is largely believed because the FDA requires substantial research with multiple participants. Thus far, the controlled research of ketamine infusion therapy has been limited to a much smaller pool of people.  However, those studies have proven time and again that ketamine infusion therapy is safe if monitored by a professional.  Due to continuous trials and research, it was discovered that lower doses of ketamine can be an effective way to instantly provide relief for those that suffer with depression. Ketamine infusion therapy can drastically alter the depressed mood of an individual in a matter of hours. While the results are temporary, this type of instant relief could be life-saving for individuals who suffer with suicidal thoughts and ideation.

Unfortunately, ketamine has been used as an illicit street drug due to its hallucinogen properties. This has not helped the reputation of this new treatment plan, but the abuse of the product should not overshadow its benefits. With proper dosage, and medical oversight, ketamine is a safe and effective treatment option.

FDA Approval

Many people research FDA approval in order to learn if a drug is safe to take. However, it’s important for people to understand that the FDA process includes more than just safety. It also includes research and economics. Right now, there needs to be more clinical trials conducted in order to meet FDA guidelines for approval.  As it stands, ketamine is a generic drug so there isn’t a big incentive from any one manufacturer to gain FDA approval. Rest-assured, that there is valuable research that proves the safety and effectiveness of ketamine infusion and it’s many benefits for people who suffer from severe depression.

The Development of Ketamine Clinics

Once Yale research backed the claims that ketamine infusion therapy actually works and is safe to use, more and more ketamine clinics have been established. While research is still being conducted, providers with experience and knowledge about ketamine have started offering infusions as a treatment plan for their patients. Clinics offer a variety of options when it comes to choosing a treatment plan. Areas of consideration include:

  • Route of administration
  • Treatment schedule
  • Long-term plan
  • Experience with ketamine

To make the most informed decision for choosing a ketamine clinic, individuals should ask the following questions:

  • What is your experience with ketamine infusion therapy?
  • Have you completed any research? What were the findings?
  • Which route of administration do you use? Why?
  • What should I expect during treatment?
  • What is your long-term plan for my care?

A skilled professional will be able to readily answer the questions above and you will have peace of mind that you are working with a professional that you trust.

How does it Work?

Individuals who are new to ketamine infusion therapy may be anxious to know how the process works. Patients will be happy to learn that this treatment is offered as an outpatient procedure. This means there is no need for a lengthy hospital stay! Plus, many ketamine clinics do not require a referral to take on a new patient. Instead, the doctor will conduct an interview and learn more about the patient’s history before moving forward.

Once a patient has chosen to move forward, the medical professional will compile the patient’s medical history and evaluate any health concerns.  Individuals who suffer from depression, but do not respond well to cognitive therapy or other forms of medication may be a prime candidate for this treatment. Because IV administration is considered the most effective, this will likely be the route chosen by the doctor. The patient is placed in a quiet room and then the IV is put in place. Some people prefer to have the calming presence of a close friend or family member or to listen to music during the infusion.

Once the ketamine enters the body, the patient may experience a slight tingling sensation on the lips and extremities. Some people indicate that they have a “spacy” feeling that is both calming and relaxing. Patients should expect the treatment to take up to one hour from start to finish.  Patients should expect to be awake a totally conscious during the entire process.  Upon completion of the process, you will be fully aware of yourself and have clear thinking.

Route of Administration

It’s important that patients understand that the route of administration greatly impacts the effectiveness of the process. It is prevent IV administration is the absolute most effective way to gain the most from the infusion. Bioavailability refers to how much of the drug is circulated in the body once it is administered. For perspective, take a look at the bioavailability of the top three methods. IV administration is the only one that offers 100%

IV Administration 100% Ketamine Bioavailability

The only way to ensure that an individual’s body is getting an exact dose of ketamine is to administer it through an IV. This is the most controlled method that ensures that the patient’s body is getting the specific dose that their condition requires.  Ketamine used as a general anesthetic is designed to be given in this method so it only makes sense that it would work well being administered through an IV for infusion therapy. This process takes out the guesswork and can get proper dosage down to the milligram based on the patient’s weight and height.

Intramuscular Administration ~93% Ketamine Bioavailability

Some doctors offer intramuscular administration. The issue here is that this method often leads to uneven absorption which could cause prolonged side effects. This could make it virtually impossible for a doctor to identify if ketamine infusion therapy is even effective on their patient.

Intranasal Administration ~45% Ketamine Bioavailability

Another method that is sometimes used is intranasal administration. That is, a mist is shot up through the nasal passage. The issue with this method is that it has to overcome a number of barriers before it reaches the body’s bloodstream. The chance of the mist being evenly administered through the nasal passage is incredibly unlikely. However, even if that was accomplished, patients could possibly sneeze it out, or the ketamine could run into a mucus barrier in the nasal cavity before it even has the opportunity to enter the bloodstream. There are a number of variables that could impact the effectiveness of the dose.

What Makes a Good Candidate for Ketamine Infusion Therapy?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to what makes an individual more likely to respond to treatment. However, research has concluded that this type of treatment is best for individuals who suffer from severe depression and are treatment resistant to other forms of care.  People who have mild to moderate depression can usually be treated by cognitive therapy and antidepressant medication.

Keep in mind; some medications interfere with the effectiveness of the infusion. You should disclose all medications to your provider in case your medication schedule should be altered for the infusion. However, medications do not disqualify patients from treatment.

Myths about Addiction

Because ketamine entered the party drug scene in the 1980’s, it’s been rumored that it is an addictive drug. This often misleads people and even keeps them from seeking ketamine infusion therapy as a treatment. However, there is a difference between abusing a drug and being addicted to a drug. Abuse occurs when people use the drug outside of its intended scope.

Consider how often people use ketamine as a general anesthetic at a much higher dose and never showcase any signs of addiction. While it has been abused in the past, there is no research indicating that ketamine has addictive properties. The main focus should be on choosing a medical professional that is knowledgeable with the process and has experience administering the treatment.  And keep in mind that ketamine infusion therapy is offered at a sub anesthetic level which means you are being given a much lower dose than typical ketamine.

How Many Treatments Should You Have?

Many people wonder about how long their treatment plan will be. This varies based on how well a patient responds to treatment. Sometimes, people need several infusions while others need an occasional maintenance infusion over a long period of time. Usually, people who respond well to the first infusions will be asked to continue 6 more infusions over a two week period. The results are temporary and usually only last for about one week. However, the attractiveness of using ketamine infusion therapy to relieve symptoms of depression is largely focused on how quickly it works and not and the duration of the results.  For example, an individual who is having suicidal thoughts could greatly benefit from the immediate results of ketamine. It could very well save a life.

The Future of Ketamine Infusion Therapy

There is increasing evidence that ketamine infusion therapy is a safe and effective way to treat a variety of mental conditions, specifically severe depression. The instantaneous relief this process offers patients can greatly influence their mental state and improve their lives. However, more research needs to be conducted in order to achieve FDA approval.  In the meantime, ketamine clinics are gaining momentum as people are experiencing firsthand just how effective ketamine infusion therapy is for relieving severe symptoms of depression.