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Frequently Asked Questions About Ketamine Therapy for Mental Health and Pain Treatment (Updated 2024)

Ketamine infusion therapy is an innovative treatment option for a broad spectrum of mental health and chronic pain conditions, notable by its high response rate, rapid effects, and safety profile. Located in downtown San Luis Obispo, California, Innerbloom Ketamine Therapy specializes in utilizing ketamine therapy paired with psychotherapy to treat a wide array of conditions, including depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and substance use disorders such as alcohol use disorder (AUD). Additionally, we offer relief to patients suffering from chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia, migraines, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), neuropathic pain, and beyond. Let’s address some of the most frequently asked questions about ketamine infusion therapy, examining why it might be the treatment you've been seeking.

What is ketamine infusion therapy?

Ketamine infusion therapy is a medical treatment that administers a low dose of ketamine intravenously (IV) over approximately 40 minutes. At these subanesthetic doses, ketamine is known to produce significant antidepressant and anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects. This treatment is conducted in a clinical setting under the supervision of a healthcare professional. For more than twenty years, research and clinical practice have explored the use of ketamine in addressing severe depression, PTSD, anxiety, and chronic pain, highlighting its potential as a valuable treatment option.

How does ketamine work for depression?

Ketamine differs from conventional antidepressants, such as SSRIs, by targeting the brain's glutamate system instead of the serotonin and noradrenaline pathways. This interaction with glutamate, a critical factor in brain plasticity, may facilitate the formation of new neural pathways, offering faster relief from depression symptoms than standard treatments.

Additionally, depression and other mental disorders can impair brain cell function, diminishing the brain's ability to communicate and function properly. This impairment often manifests as "brain fog," making it challenging for individuals to process negative experiences due to weakened neural connections. Ketamine, on the other hand, has been shown to aid in rewiring and reinforcing these connections, thus enhancing the communication between receptors and improving their response to neurotransmitters.

How well does ketamine therapy work?

Research suggests that ketamine, when used as a sole treatment, can achieve response rates exceeding 70% in certain cases. Integrating psychotherapy with ketamine therapy is believed to enhance and extend the duration of these outcomes. At Innerbloom, we have observed an 82% response rate, and our protocol includes ketamine-assisted psychotherapy (KAP). This achievement is particularly significant for patients who have not found relief with other antidepressants. A notable aspect of ketamine therapy is its rapid efficacy in reducing depression symptoms, sometimes within hours of administration.

Who is a candidate for IV ketamine therapy?

Candidates for IV ketamine therapy typically include individuals with depression, treatment-resistant depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, alcohol use disorder, and certain chronic pain conditions who have not responded to standard treatments. A thorough evaluation by a healthcare professional is necessary to determine if ketamine therapy is appropriate.

How long is a treatment session?

Standard IV infusions for mood disorders last 40 minutes, but patients have the option to remain at our clinic for up to 90 minutes to ensure the effects have sufficiently diminished. The onset of the medication usually occurs around 4 minutes after the infusion starts. Although the effects diminish rapidly post-infusion, most individuals return to their baseline state within approximately 2-3 hours. In contrast, the effects of intramuscular injections are felt almost immediately, within a minute, due to the administration of the entire ketamine dose at once. Separate from infusion days, psychotherapy sessions at Innerbloom last 50 minutes and can be conducted either in-person or virtually.

Ketamine therapy infusion room with a white chair, blanket, and cozy setting
One of Innerbloom's ketamine therapy infusion rooms.

What can I expect for my infusion days?

On your infusion days, you'll need to fast for 3 hours before your appointment—this means no food, although drinking water is both allowed and highly recommended. Upon arrival, you'll be seated in a cozy reclining chair. After the IV is placed, you'll be given eye shades and a Bluetooth headset playing a music playlist specially curated for your experience. Throughout the entire infusion, a staff member, such as the doctor, will stay in the room with you to closely monitor your condition, ensuring your safety. Be sure to read: A Comprehensive Guide for Your Experience at Innerbloom Ketamine Therapy.

Can I bring family or a friend for my infusion?

Absolutely, we welcome you to bring a friend, family member, or even your personal therapist to accompany you during your treatment if it helps you feel more at ease. We also kindly request that you arrange for transportation back home with someone other than yourself, ensuring your safety and well-being post-treatment.

What are the potential side effects of ketamine infusion therapy?

The potential side effects of ketamine infusion therapy can include nausea, dizziness, increased heart rate, and elevated blood pressure. Although some consider dissociation (feeling detached from one's body) a side effect, others view this effect as having great therapeutic potential. Side effects, if present, are generally temporary and closely monitored during the infusion. For a comprehensive understanding of the possible side effects, the associated risks, and a detailed discussion on the topic of addiction, consider reading our blog post: Ketamine: Navigating Risks, Mitigating Misuse, and Addressing Potential Addiction.

How quickly does ketamine infusion therapy work?

Some patients report feeling better within just hours to days after receiving an infusion, which is a significantly faster onset compared to most traditional antidepressants that can take weeks to start working. However, the response rate varies from person to person.

Is ketamine infusion therapy safe?

When administered under the supervision of trained medical professionals in a clinical setting, ketamine infusion therapy is considered very safe for most patients. However, it's essential to consider the potential for abuse and psychological dependence associated with ketamine, a known psychoactive substance when used recreationally or in a non-clinical setting.

How many ketamine infusions will I need?

The treatment approach is structured into two phases: induction and maintenance. The induction phase typically involves a series of six infusions spread over 3-6 weeks (one to two infusions per week), aiming to establish a baseline of therapeutic effect. Following this, the maintenance phase is customized based on the patient's response, with booster infusions scheduled at intervals that may vary depending on individual needs and outcomes.

At Innerbloom, our data indicates that after completing the six-infusion series, the majority of patients do not require additional booster infusions. However, we have found that 14% of patients who complete the initial series opt for a booster infusion, with those patients returning with an average frequency of around every three months. This frequency can vary, ranging from as often as once a month to as infrequently as once a year for some individuals.

Whether you prefer weekly sessions over six weeks or a more condensed approach of two sessions per week for three weeks, our goal is to tailor the therapy to best suit your response and schedule preferences. This flexibility aims to maximize efficacy while ensuring the treatment fits into your life.

Why is psychotherapy recommended alongside ketamine therapy?

Psychotherapy often enhances ketamine's antidepressant effects, promoting a lasting response. It facilitates the processing and integration of ketamine-induced experiences, providing a structured space for patients to explore insights and emotional breakthroughs. Continuous support from mental health professionals aids in progress monitoring and emotional support. Moreover, psychotherapy equips patients with coping strategies for long-term management and addresses underlying psychological issues for comprehensive healing. This holistic approach seeks not just immediate symptom relief, but long-term mental health resilience, recognizing the need to address both biochemical imbalances and psychological dimensions of mental health disorders.

An image illustrating the process of Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy
Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy (KAP), aimed at unlocking the full therapeutic potential of ketamine therapy.

I already have a therapist. Should I still use Innerbloom's ketamine-assisted psychotherapy (KAP) therapist?

Even if you already have a therapist, tapping into the expertise of an Innerbloom ketamine-assisted psychotherapy specialist, like Cindy, can be immensely beneficial. These specialists are trained specifically to help prepare you for treatment and integrate ketamine therapy with psychotherapeutic techniques, potentially enhancing both your experience and treatment outcomes. Collaborating between your current therapist and our specialist is highly recommended to ensure a comprehensive and unified approach. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with your current therapist and can even invite them to be present during your infusions, if that interests you.

What does ketamine feel like?

The onset of effects from IV ketamine is typically experienced within 3-4 minutes after the infusion begins. The initial sensations are often related to gentle movement, with patients frequently reporting experiences of soaring over picturesque landscapes, feeling a gentle rocking motion, or floating as if in water. Dream-like visualizations vary widely, encompassing nature scenes, people, or elements from one's past, in vivid colors or shades of grey. Common emotional themes emerge, including an overwhelming sense of love, connection, gratitude, and a newfound appreciation for oneself and the people in their lives. As the ketamine effects start to diminish, patients commonly experience a profound reconnection with their physical selves, filled with wonder and appreciation for their bodies.

What is Spravato?

Spravato, also known as esketamine, is a nasal spray formulation of ketamine that exclusively contains the S-ketamine molecule, unlike IV ketamine, which comprises both R- and S-ketamine molecules. Spravato tends to have a lower efficacy rate and is subject to more stringent eligibility criteria for use. Additionally, achieving remission with Spravato typically requires a greater number of treatments compared to IV ketamine. IV ketamine is widely regarded as safer, more effective, and the preferred mode of administration over Spravato and other methods. For a comprehensive comparison between Spravato and IV ketamine, including detailed discussions on their efficacy, safety profiles, and usage guidelines, be sure to read this: IV Ketamine vs. Nasal Spravato (Esketamine): In-Depth Comparison for Depression Treatment.

Should I continue taking my medications?

It's advised that you maintain your regular medication regimen as prescribed by your healthcare provider during your infusion series. While some patients express a wish to reduce or discontinue certain medications, such as antidepressants, during this period, we generally recommend waiting until the series is complete before making any changes, and only then under your prescriber's supervision. Ketamine therapy can and has shown to help facilitate the process of tapering off medications such as antidepressants and benzodiazepines, as discussed here: Ketamine’s Role for Discontinuing Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use for Treatment-Resistant Depression.

colorful weekly medication case
Ketamine: Known for its minimal drug interactions, yet vigilance remains key.

Are there any interactions with my medications?

Lamotrigine and benzodiazepines, including Xanax, may potentially reduce the efficacy of ketamine treatments. Due to this, it's recommended that patients avoid taking these medications on the day of their ketamine infusion. However, experience has shown that patients who couldn't forgo their doses have still experienced beneficial outcomes from ketamine therapy. This suggests that the impact of this interaction may be negligible or even absent for the majority of patients.

Is ketamine infusion therapy covered by insurance?

Coverage varies widely between insurance companies and plans. Generally, IV ketamine is not covered by insurance, although some insurance companies do reimburse patients after completion of treatment which requires them to pay up front. In some instances, insurance providers may reimburse a percentage or the complete cost of treatment. It's important to check with your insurance provider for specific coverage details.

Can I drive after receiving a ketamine infusion?

Due to the immediate effects of ketamine, patients are advised not to drive or operate heavy machinery for at least 24 hours after an infusion. Arrangements for transportation home should be made in advance.

How do I find a reputable ketamine infusion therapy provider?

Look for clinics with certified medical professionals experienced in administering ketamine infusions. It's also beneficial to research their treatment protocols, patient reviews, and consult healthcare providers for recommendations. For further trips on finding the best ketamine clinic, be sure to read this: How to Select the Best Ketamine Clinic and Recognize Potential Red Flags.

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