“Ketamine Infusion Therapy is the biggest breakthrough in depression treatment in 50 years.” At least that’s what the former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Thomas Insel M.D., proclaimed in 2012. Dr. Steven and Sam Mandel, Cofounders of Ketamine Clinics Los Angeles (KCLA), were some of the first pioneers to offer ketamine treatments to the public in 2014. Having provided more than 19,000 infusions to over 6,000 patients, they tend to agree with Insel’s early observations. A passion for effective, evidence-based solutions to the mental health crisis, not ketamine, caused the Mandels to open KCLA and specialize in ketamine therapy for mental health, including depression and other conditions.
Please note that this page’s information is exclusive to intravenous ketamine infusions in which the medication is given gradually, via IV, at a sub-anesthetic dose. The IV route of administration (ROA) is crucial for achieving the maximum therapeutic effect in the safest way possible when receiving ketamine for depression, anxiety, suicidality, PTSD, and other mood disorders. Approximately 90% of all research on ketamine for mood disorders consists of intravenous (IV) infusions. People can and do benefit from other ROAs of ketamine, such as sublingual (SL) lozenges or intramuscular (IM) injections; however, we are not discussing those other routes on this page.
Ketamine Infusions are among the safest, fastest-acting, most effective treatments for depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicidality, and other mental health disorders. Over 160 clinical trials conducted over the last 23 years by most of the world’s leading scientific institutions have proven the effectiveness of ketamine therapy for mental health. Some of the most notable early enthusiasm stemmed from the fact that ketamine effectively reduces symptoms even in patients who have not responded to any other treatments. Most patients at KCLA arrive with a “treatment-resistant” prognosis, and 83% benefit from ketamine treatment. Let’s explore what Ketamine Infusion Therapy is, how it works, and the potential benefits and risks associated with this treatment.
What is Ketamine Infusion Therapy?
Ketamine is a human anesthetic medication that the FDA approved in 1970, though it has come to have many other uses. It is commonly used in veterinary medicine, so some people know it as a horse or cat tranquilizer. Ketamine has pain-relieving properties, so others know it as an analgesic or pain reliever. A few people know ketamine to be “special K,” the recreational street drug. Ketamine is all of these things and more. However, its primary and most common use has always been as an anesthetic for humans in a clinical environment. For decades it has remained one of the most commonly used anesthetics in the world. In the early 2000s, researchers noted its antidepressant properties when given intravenously (IV) in lower than traditional doses. Additional findings have shown it to have anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects in some individuals. As a result, Ketamine Infusion Therapy has developed into a treatment option for individuals with treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicidality, and other mood disorders.
During a ketamine treatment at KCLA, you will receive a continuous, low-dose IV infusion of ketamine for 50-55 minutes. A complete treatment series consists of six infusions over 2-3 weeks. Each infusion builds upon the momentum generated by the one prior, and the relief process is cumulative.
What is a Ketamine Infusion Like?
Ketamine Therapy is a pleasant experience for many patients. On the day of your visit, you will complete some intake forms on an iPad and be invited back to a private room in our state-of-the-art facility. We are known for blending science, medicine, and art to ensure your safety and comfort. Most people describe KCLA as serene and spa-like. Once in the treatment room, Your KCLA Care Team will help you to get comfortable in a residential-like recliner with fresh blankets, pillows, a sleep mask, premium noise-canceling headphones, and unlimited playlists of relaxing music without lyrics. You will then be connected to hospital-grade monitoring equipment so we can continuously monitor your pulse, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, and electrocardiogram (ECG.)
Afterward, we will locate a suitable vein on your arm, wrist, or hand and insert a tiny needle with a tube right under the surface of your skin. Most patients are surprised at how painless this process is, even those who are scared of needles. Your KCLA Care Team trains rigorously to ensure they start most IVs on the first attempt. After establishing the IV, we remove the needle, and all that remains in your arm is a small, soft tube, so there is no discomfort when moving. We then connect the tubing to a syringe with your tailored dose inside a digital syringe pump; unlike most clinics, we do not use IV bags. Instead, we rely on digital infusion pumps that can be precisely programmed to administer the ketamine at a fine-tuned rate. Another advantage to the pump is that we can increase or decrease your dose instantly with the push of a button. You will start to feel the effects of the medicine several minutes after the infusion begins, and Your KCLA Care Team will monitor you the entire time.
Your team of experts has more combined experience in providing IV infusions of ketamine for mental health than any other team in this field. We are dedicated to ensuring every detail of your experience is smooth and seamless. You will be conscious and awake for the duration, though you will likely dissociate and feel altered. Most people go on an inward journey that ranges from reflective, spiritual, meditative, or enjoyable to odd, strange, or hard to describe. Patients don’t typically move or speak very much during their infusions, but individual experiences vary. All patients must remain seated throughout their treatment.
After the infusion is complete, the effects of the ketamine will begin to wear off quickly. Most patients rest and recover for around 20-30 minutes and are ready to leave the clinic soon after. It is common to be a little unsteady on your feet, and we advise you to hydrate, eat a healthy meal, and get some rest. You should refrain from resuming work, driving, operating machinery, signing contracts, or making any permanent decisions until after a whole night of sleep.
KCLA advises no eating or drinking anything four hours before your scheduled ketamine IV infusion appointment to minimize the chances of nausea. However, you may have some water up to two hours before your appointment.
Is Ketamine Infusion Therapy Safe?
Ketamine therapy is very safe when used by experienced providers in a clinical setting, and we take extra precautions to ensure your comfort and safety. KCLA is the first and only Ketamine Clinic accredited by Quad A, providing the most rigorous standards in safety protocols, staff training, emergency medical supplies and equipment, and hospital-grade monitors for continuous monitoring of your vital signs.
How Does Ketamine Work?
The exact mechanism by which ketamine produces its antidepressant and anxiolytic effects is not fully understood. However, some of the collective understanding is that ketamine increases neurotransmitters (chemicals that transmit signals in the brain), such as glutamate and GABA, aiding brain function and connectivity, especially in areas that have been underactive due to a mood disorder. Ketamine also increases the formation of new connections between neurons, a process known as neuroplasticity. The prefrontal cortex may plump and increase in physical size in areas that previously shrank due to a mental health disorder.
In addition to the chemical processes in the brain, essential experiences also occur in the “mind.” The dissociative state induced by the medicine often leads patients to profound positive shifts in psyche and consciousness; this is the infusion experience. The experiences people have during their infusions can be invaluable and instrumental in their healing and much less easily explained by science. Each individual has a unique journey; even among individuals, each infusion differs from the one prior. So many variables impact the infusion experience; the patient’s mindset, the setting of the treatment environment, the route of administration, the rate of infusion, and the total dose are some of the key factors. Many patients report feeling part of something greater than themselves, a sense of closure towards trauma and other life experiences, compassion towards self, out-of-body experiences, and more. While the experience is more challenging to measure than neurotransmitters, we believe there is tremendous therapeutic benefit in the experiential component of ketamine treatment.
The rapid onset of ketamine’s antidepressant effects is one of the key reasons it has garnered attention as a promising treatment option. Many traditional antidepressants require 4-6 weeks to months to produce a noticeable improvement in symptoms. Even then, the benefit is often insufficient, as reported by many patients. Ketamine produces a rapid and significant reduction in symptoms within hours to days.
Potential Benefits of Ketamine Infusion Therapy
Ketamine Infusion Therapy is highly effective in reducing the symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicidality, and other mental health conditions. In most cases, it has been shown to produce a rapid and significant improvement, even in individuals who have not responded to other forms of treatment.
Ketamine Infusion Therapy may also be a valuable option for individuals unable to take traditional antidepressants due to side effects or other contraindications. Ketamine produces virtually none of the short-term side effects of other antidepressant medications and has no long-term side effects. Ketamine also produces a better quality of relief than conventional treatments. Many patients report antidepressant medications as helpful but numbing, thus limiting their ability to experience pleasure and the full spectrum of life. Ketamine restores most patients’ ability to experience pleasure and increases empathy. Ketamine treatment may also appeal to individuals who do not want to take medication daily or prefer a more natural treatment approach.
Risks and Considerations
As with any medical treatment, there are potential risks and considerations associated with Ketamine Infusion Therapy. Some common side effects of ketamine include dizziness, nausea, and fatigue; these side effects generally resolve within a few hours after the infusion. There are no long-term side effects of ketamine for depression and other mood disorders. Ketamine has been used hundreds of millions of times since FDA approval in 1970 and has an excellent safety record when used clinically.
It is important to note that ketamine is a controlled substance and should only be administered by a licensed medical professional in an adequate clinical setting. Please do not attempt to use it recreationally or without medical supervision, as the consequences can be fatal. You can find more information on the ideal location, provider, and facility to get ketamine treatment with on our blog, How to Choose A Ketamine Clinic.
In conclusion, Ketamine Infusion Therapy is safe, with no long-term side effects. Ketamine therapy is fast, working within hours to days. Ketamine treatment is effective, working 83% of the time and when nothing else works. Ketamine infusions produce a better quality of relief, restoring pleasure and function. Ketamine treament provides many advantages over conventional treatments for mood disorders. While there are potential risks and considerations to be aware of, the rapid onset of its antidepressant effects and potential effectiveness in individuals who have not responded to other forms of treatment make it a promising option for many.
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