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A Scientific Look at Dissociation & Out-of-Body Experiences with Ketamine Therapy

Dissociation, a fascinating mental process, has been the subject of scientific exploration for many years. Dissociation involves the separation of thoughts, identity, consciousness, or perception from their usual integrated state, often as a response to severe stress or trauma. One intriguing facet of this topic is the use of dissociative medicines like ketamine, which showcases the complexity of the human mind and offers therapeutic potential. Let's thoroughly examine dissociation, with a specific focus on its relevance to the use of ketamine therapy in treating various mental conditions, such as depression.

What is Dissociation?

Dissociation, often described as an "out-of-body" experience, is a psychological phenomenon in which an individual's thoughts, identity, memories, feelings, or perceptions become disconnected from their usual state. In the context of a disorder or as a response to a stressful situation, dissociation can serve as a coping mechanism that our minds employ when faced with overwhelming trauma, distress, or painful events. This process can manifest in various forms, including depersonalization, derealization, amnesia, or even identity alteration in conditions like Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).

However, the experience of dissociation takes on a different dimension when induced in a safe and controlled setting, as seen during intravenous ketamine therapy. In this context, the state of mind induced by dissociation can be a liberating experience, offering a fresh perspective on one's life and providing a bird's-eye view of the intricacies and inner workings of the mind. This aspect of dissociation can be quite intriguing and enlightening.

Dissociation Versus an Out-of-Body Experience (OBE)

Dissociation is a broad psychological term that refers to a disconnection between various aspects of a person's conscious experience. It can manifest in different forms, including depersonalization (feeling detached from oneself), derealization (feeling detached from the external world), amnesia (memory loss), and identity confusion.

An out-of-body experience is a specific type of dissociative experience where an individual feels as though they have left their physical body and are observing themselves from an external perspective. This often includes the sensation of floating above or outside one's physical body. OBEs are typically associated with altered states of consciousness, such as those induced by meditation, near-death experiences, or certain substances like ketamine and psychedelics.

Ketamine as a Dissociative Medicine:

Ketamine is a powerful anesthetic that has gained recognition not only in the medical field, but also in the realm of dissociation research. It is classified as a ‘dissociative anesthetic’ due to its ability to induce altered states of consciousness causing a person to feel detached from their body, their surroundings, and even their sense of self. Many people report this sensation to be enjoyable, although rather peculiar. In medical and psychiatric settings, ketamine has demonstrated significant potential for the treatment of various conditions, making it a unique example of controlled dissociation.

One important point to emphasize is that there is no definitive evidence, as highlighted in Ballard et al.'s review article titled "The Role of Dissociation in Ketamine’s Antidepressant Effects," to establish a necessary link between dissociation during ketamine therapy and its therapeutic potential for mental conditions like depression. At Innerbloom, the dosage of ketamine is determined for each patient based on their weight and diagnosis. With this in mind, some patients may experience dissociation, while others may not. If dissociation does not occur, this does not mean the ketamine is not having the desired therapeutic effect. The converse is also true; those who do experience dissociation do not necessarily have an enhanced antidepressant effect.

It is important to appreciate that dissociation may be an effect experienced during ketamine therapy rather than a marker of its therapeutic potential.

Nonetheless, some individuals have reported gaining profound insights and achieving a better understanding of their minds, thoughts, and behaviors during dissociative or "out-of-body" experiences, insights that were otherwise inaccessible within their subconscious.

The Mechanism of Ketamine-Induced Dissociation:

Ketamine's mechanism of action involves blocking the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor in the brain, which is responsible for regulating the flow of glutamate, an important neurotransmitter. By interfering with glutamate transmission, ketamine can induce dissociative experiences. This results in a temporary disconnect between different aspects of consciousness, potentially allowing individuals to explore their traumatic memories or emotions from a different perspective. When this happens, it can be very beneficial.

Therapeutic Uses of Ketamine:

  1. Anesthesia: Ketamine is widely used as an anesthetic and pain management tool in medical procedures within hospitals.
  2. Depression and PTSD: Recent studies have shown that ketamine, when administered in controlled therapeutic settings, can rapidly alleviate symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  3. Chronic Pain: In lower doses, ketamine has demonstrated potential in the treatment of chronic pain conditions such as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and fibromyalgia.

Dissociative Medicine vs. Dissociative Disorders:

It is essential to distinguish between the controlled use of dissociative medicines like ketamine under professional guidance and the dissociative disorders that are characterized by uncontrolled and distressing dissociation. Dissociative disorders, including DID, require comprehensive psychological care, while the controlled administration of dissociative medicines is carefully monitored.


Dissociation is an intriguing mental process that often raises questions from patients considering ketamine therapy. It's entirely normal to have apprehension about entering an altered state of consciousness induced by a dissociative medicine like ketamine. At Innerbloom, we are prepared for and welcome dissociation, a view shared by many patients who find it enlightening. However, it is important to note that dissociation is not a requirement for a healing response.

The key point to remember is that if you choose ketamine for your healing journey, you will be in safe hands, closely monitored throughout your entire ketamine therapy experience.

Ketamine, as a dissociative medicine, sheds light on the complexities of the human mind and holds the potential for significant therapeutic breakthroughs. Its capacity to induce controlled states of dissociation has shown promise in the treatment of various conditions, offering hope to individuals suffering with depression, PTSD, and chronic pain. As research into the therapeutic possibilities of ketamine continues, it is essential to underscore the significance of its controlled and professional use, setting it apart from the distressing dissociative disorders that require specialized care. The journey into the depths of the mind continues, offering insights and opportunities for transformative healing!

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