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The Ketamine Experience: What Does Ketamine Feel Like?

Much like traveling to an unfamiliar destination or starting a new job, the process of undergoing a ketamine experience may be filled with mixed emotions. How am I going to feel? Where will I go? Will I be safe? These are just some of the few questions we are asked when someone is considering ketamine therapy as an option for treatment. It is normal and expected to have some apprehension when starting something new and life changing.

The ketamine experience is somewhat challenging to explain in words, although we hope to shed some light on what the ketamine experience may feel like for you. We will discuss some common themes that we have witnessed during treatment of countless patients. Let this serve as a guide to prepare you for your healing journey and hopefully ease any nervousness about embarking into the unknown.

Onset, duration, and aftereffects of ketamine

At Innerbloom Ketamine Therapy, we primarily use intravenous ketamine (IV). The onset of IV ketamine is approximately 3-4 minutes, and our treatment protocol involves a 40-minute infusion.

So, what do patients undergoing ketamine therapy usually notice first? It is quite common to have doubts about whether the drug will have any effect. Frequently, just before the onset of ketamine's effects, patients find themselves wondering if the infusion might have accidentally not been started. Almost instantly after having this thought, the effects begin to take hold. The most frequently reported initial sensation is related to movement, with patients often describing feelings of soaring over scenic landscapes, experiencing a gentle rocking motion, or floating in a sea of water. For instance, one patient's experience during the onset of the treatment involved them flying over a lush forest and looking down on the world below as if they were a bird in the sky.

A woman floating in water

As the infusion ends and the effects of the medicine begin to diminish, another intriguing phenomenon unfolds. You gradually return to your body, and this, in itself, can be an extraordinary experience. It can be a beautiful moment to observe patients expressing their newfound appreciation for different parts of their body, often marveling at the functioning of their hands and feet. As one patient put it, “I love my lips; they feel like marshmallows.” From my viewpoint, it's similar to witnessing a newborn becoming familiar with their own body and radiating with joy at the marvel of how it all works.

Speaking immediately after an infusion can sometimes be challenging, so it's a good idea to remain patient for a few minutes and not worry. There will be plenty of opportunities to share your experiences, and we're also excited to hear about them. Patients often express that, even though they have much they want to convey and are eager to do so, finding the right words or articulating their thoughts can be difficult right after an infusion. This is a common and normal experience, and the effects wear off quickly!

The half-life of ketamine is approximately 3 hours, indicating that 50% of the medication has left the body by that time. For most patients, they typically feel back to their baseline within 3-4 hours. It's crucial to recognize that while some may feel energized, others may find the need to rest after an infusion. The key here is to pay attention to your body. We always encourage taking it easy after an infusion, leaving work or other life obligations for the following day. Plan to return to your regular routine in the morning, likely with a fresh outlook on life and an appreciation for its beauty.

Dissociation: the out-of-body experience

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic, but at low doses, it is effectively utilized for treating mood disorders like depression and anxiety. At these lower doses, patients may describe experiencing dissociation, which involves a sense of detachment from the body and mind. Dissociation refers to an altered state of consciousness where an individual may disconnect from their thoughts, emotions, memories, or even their sense of identity or ego.

What does dissociation feel like? Dissociation can feel similar to the sensation of deep meditation, where one can be fully present in the moment, observing without analyzing, criticizing, or attempting to control. Many describe dissociation as a relaxing or freeing experience.

It's crucial to understand, however, that not everyone will experience dissociation at the therapeutic dose used in ketamine therapy. In fact, the absence of dissociation does not indicate that the medication is ineffective. Experts in the field of ketamine therapy discourage the use of dissociation as a sole indicator of therapeutic efficacy. While some individuals might experience dissociation at the initial dose, others may require higher doses, but increased dosages do not necessarily equate to improved effectiveness.

An artist's abstract illustration of a comfortable plush chair with psychedelic colors

What is a k-hole?

Let's begin with a brief historical background on the term "k-hole" and its origins. Since 1985, ketamine has been included in the World Health Organization's list of essential medications. It has played a vital role in saving the lives of soldiers on the battlefield. During the Vietnam War, wounded soldiers were administered ketamine while awaiting medical assistance. Ketamine effectively managed pain and distress resulting from traumatic injuries. To protect these injured soldiers from the enemy, they were concealed in holes dug in the ground as they awaited helicopters for transportation back to the base for medical care. This practice led to the term "k-hole."

The term "k-hole" is associated with the dissociative state induced by ketamine, a phenomenon we've explained is a normal response to the drug and should not be viewed negatively or with fear. Ketamine offers the advantage of rapid action without causing respiratory depression or significant changes in vital signs, such as blood pressure. Therefore, it is an appealing treatment option in situations where patients are experiencing significant distress. As a trauma surgeon, I frequently chose to administer ketamine in cases of traumatic injuries, such as motor vehicle accidents or gunshot wounds, due to its known safety and effectiveness in high-stress scenarios.

Music as medicine

Music holds a pivotal role in the psychedelic experience, enhancing emotions, perception, and creativity. It can soothe anxiety, guide introspection, and set the ambiance for the journey. Music also aids in memory recall during integration and fosters connections in group settings. The choice of music is highly personal but can significantly impact the overall experience, making it more therapeutic and transformative. At Innerbloom, we carefully curate a unique playlist for each infusion, recognizing the significance of selecting appropriate music to enhance the therapeutic experience. You can explore one of our exclusive Spotify playlists to gain insight into what awaits you during your journeys.

What do people see and say about their ketamine experiences?

Some individuals perceive colors, while others observe various shades of gray, white, and black during these experiences. Familiar faces, including loved ones, may also make appearances in these moments. Emotions like love, compassion, gratitude, hope, and forgiveness are commonly reported by our patients.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from patients who have undergone the Innerbloom Experience:

"I find I have greater patience with my family and friends."

"I am more present and content with moments of stillness."

"I have reduced emotional attachment to uncertainty and work-related stress."

"I'm much more smiley!"

"I feel excited about the future rather than fearful."

What do I do before, during, and after a ketamine experience?

Our protocol involves you sitting in a comfortable chair while wearing eye shades and a noise canceling headset with a special curated playlist that pairs well with the ketamine experience. Make sure to read our Comprehensive Guide to Your Ketamine Therapy Experience at Innerbloom. Prepare yourself with essential information for a life-changing journey towards mental wellness. Everybody’s ketamine experience is special and unique, although we have a few pointers before, during and after your therapy

Before

  • Take the day off: Social media, emails, and work can wait for tomorrow
  • Relax: Enjoy nature, meditation, or light exercises such as yoga to clear your mind
  • Be comfy: Wear comfortable clothes and be ready to take off your shoes
  • Hydrate: Drink plenty of water prior to your infusion

During

  • Breathe: Focus on your breath and practice mindfulness
  • Trust: Know that you are safe and in good hands
  • Explore: If you encounter something challenging, allow yourself to explore and embrace what and why
  • Enjoy: Appreciate any feelings of bliss, love, compassion, and gratitude

After

  • Reflect: Journal and talk with professional such as a therapist or even a loved one after your infusion
  • Share: Talk about your experience and share your insights
  • Rest: Listen to your body and take time for yourself

Final thoughts

We understand, anticipate, and welcome all the feelings and emotions that may arise from ketamine therapy. Innerbloom Ketamine Therapy offers a unique, safe, and comfortable healing experience. We hope this guide helps answer many of your questions and ease any apprehension about this transformative therapy.

While some infusions may feel meaningful and perhaps filled with insights, others may feel random. It’s important to understand that healing begins and continues after your infusions when neuroplasticity and neurogenesis takes place.

At Innerbloom Ketamine Therapy, our goal is to make each ketamine experience special and offer support while you become the best version of yourself.

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