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What Is Ketamine-Assisted Healing and Therapy?

Ketamine-assisted healing uses low doses of ketamine, a dissociative anaesthetic medication, to help clients achieve a more relaxed state in a safe and therapeutic environment. Over time, ketamine-assisted healing can help clients make more progress in psychotherapy sessions and find relief from mental health symptoms.

Ketamine facilitates a deeper level of trust and understanding between clients and their therapists to rapidly pave the way for future success, particularly in the realm of mental health and emotional well-being.

Ketamine has been used for many decades in medical settings, primarily as a sedative and painkiller. However, in recent years, there has been growing interest in its potential therapeutic applications, particularly in the treatment of various mental health disorders. Let’s dive into the applications and benefits of ketamine for mental health conditions and share more about what to expect from the treatment experience.

The Science Behind Ketamine-Assisted Healing

Ketamine is an NMDA receptor antagonist; in simple terms, ketamine blocks overactive brain receptors for better regulation. Blocking the receptors creates a sort of dam in the brain, so neurotransmitters like glutamate, which act as brain messengers, can build up and promote new synapse growth in the brain. Synapses facilitate connections between nerve cells.

Ketamine’s mechanism of action is like going from a dial-up modem to fibre optic broadband: upgrading allows quicker download speeds and more capacity for higher functioning.

Ketamine For Mental Health Treatment

Ketamine has been studied and used in a clinical setting for various mental health conditions. One of the main appeals of using ketamine as a treatment for mental health disorders is its rapid onset of action; while traditional mental medications may take weeks to months to show noticeable effects, ketamine can trigger relief within hours or days.

Clients with specific diagnoses and treatment goals will have different experiences, but in general, here are a few of the potential applications and benefits of ketamine-assisted healing.

Ketamine for Depression

Ketamine has gained attention for its potential to rapidly alleviate symptoms of depression, particularly in individuals who have not responded well to other conventional treatments like antidepressant medications. Ketamine-assisted therapy can dramatically relieve symptoms of depression without common adverse side effects that can arise with traditional antidepressant treatment.

Researchers are still exploring the exact mechanism of action linked to ketamine’s antidepressant effects. Most researchers believe ketamine binds to NMDA receptors in the brain to increase glutamate production. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter capable of activating other connections in the brain; increased glutamate is associated with more effective communication between neurons, which, in turn, can boost mood, regulate thought patterns, and support cognition. In this way, ketamine promotes neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to rewire itself in response to experiences and environmental changes.

By enhancing neuroplasticity, ketamine can help the brain form new connections and pathways that can counteract the adverse effects of depression.

There’s also some evidence to suggest that depression is linked to inflammation in the brain. Ketamine might have anti-inflammatory properties that could contribute to its antidepressant effects by reducing neuroinflammation for better brain function.

Ketamine for Anxiety

Ketamine can also be an effective treatment for anxiety disorders, such as generalised anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder. Ketamine appears to affect various brain networks involved in mood regulation and emotional processing. By influencing these networks, it may help to regulate mood and decrease anxiety symptoms.

Ketamine helps facilitate better connections between neurons and enhance neuroplasticity; its effects on glutamate could also indirectly influence the balance between glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), another important neurotransmitter that regulates anxiety and other aspects of mood and behaviour.

Some research has suggested that ketamine might stimulate the growth of new neurons, a process known as neurogenesis. This could play a role in repairing and rewiring brain circuits associated with anxiety.

Ketamine for PTSD

Some research has suggested that ketamine might help reduce the symptoms of PTSD, possibly by helping to “extinguish” fear responses associated with traumatic memories.

Individuals with PTSD often engage in avoidance behaviours to cope with triggers associated with their trauma. Ketamine might help reduce avoidance behaviour by influencing the brain’s response to fear and stress, making it easier for individuals to confront and process traumatic memories.

Because ketamine is an NMDA receptor antagonist, it affects the action of the neurotransmitter glutamate. Glutamate is involved in memory and learning processes and plays a role in consolidating traumatic memories. By modulating glutamate transmission, ketamine might help disrupt the reinforcement of traumatic memories, potentially reducing PTSD symptoms.

Ketamine might help with PTSD by changing how the brain stores memories. It can also help facilitate new connections in the brain and reduce stress-related inflammation, which can disrupt the brain’s function and immune system, potentially intensifying emotional distress and contributing to the persistence of PTSD symptoms.

Ketamine for Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can lead to a phenomenon called central sensitisation, where the nervous system becomes more sensitive to pain signals over time. Ketamine may help dampen this sensitisation, potentially relieving chronic pain.

Ketamine has been used as an analgesic (pain reliever) in some instances of chronic pain, such as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) or neuropathic pain. When administered by a healthcare professional in a clinical environment, ketamine can safely induce altered states of consciousness and dissociation. These effects may contribute to a change in how individuals perceive their pain, providing temporary relief and helping to break the cycle of chronic pain.

Ketamine Therapy Treatment Experience

Ketamine-assisted healing refers to the use of ketamine in a controlled and supervised therapeutic setting, often in conjunction with psychotherapy.

Screening for Ketamine-Assisted Healing

Patients interested in ketamine-assisted therapy are carefully screened to ensure they are suitable candidates. Screening should include a comprehensive assessment of their mental and physical health history.

Preparation for Ketamine Treatment

Before a ketamine session, patients are usually prepared through counselling and education about what to expect during the experience. This can help manage expectations and reduce anxiety.

Ketamine Administration

Ketamine can be administered through various routes, including intravenous (IV) infusion, intramuscular injection, or even as a nasal spray. The choice of administration depends on the specific treatment approach and the clinician’s judgment.

Concurrent Psychotherapy

During and after the ketamine session, patients may engage in psychotherapy to explore and process the emotions, thoughts, and experiences that may arise during treatment.

Ketamine Integration

After a ketamine session, patients work with their therapists to integrate the insights and experiences gained during the treatment into their daily lives. This can involve ongoing therapy sessions and practices to support long-term healing.

Personalised Ketamine Therapy

It’s important to note that while ketamine-assisted therapy shows promise, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, and not everyone will benefit from treatment. Researchers are still studying the long-term effects and safety of repeated ketamine use, and it’s essential to work with a provider who roots their practice in an evidence-based approach.

At APN London, we tailor each client’s ketamine dosage to their unique needs as determined by their supervising doctor. At higher doses, patients can experience the full dissociative effects of this psychoactive chemical. During ketamine treatments, people with anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder can let their guard down or access distressing memories without feeling overwhelmed.

Ketamine-Assisted Therapy at APN London

Here’s what to expect from your treatment experience at APN London:

  1. The process starts with a free call or live chat. A member of our contact centre team will gather your information and send it along to our Ketamine-Assisted Healing + Therapy team.
  2. You will receive a call from an APN London team member to assess your story and financial arrangements. We’ll make arrangements for a more formal intake assessment.
  3. A ketamine-assisted healing session typically lasts two hours. First, a medical professional administers ketamine in a calm environment with limited stimuli. They’ll remain nearby and offer support based on your needs.
  4. Clients typically start noticing the effects of ketamine after 15 to 20 minutes. Effects peak for about 40 minutes and slowly dissipate over the course of two hours.
  5. Sometimes, challenging emotions and experiences surface during the session. Therapists can respond accordingly and help you navigate any emotional discomfort. As the effects wear off, you’ll work with a therapist to process emotions and integrate the experience.
  6. Your treatment team (consisting of a doctor, clinician, and nurse) will work together to monitor your progress and make adjustments as needed.

How Ketamine For Mental Health Promotes Recovery

Ketamine has become a valuable tool for treating mental health disorders, but only using ketamine for mental health is not a cure. Instead, ketamine can act as a therapy incubator, allowing someone to develop a deeper level of trust and understanding with their therapist to help them make more progress in therapy sessions.

When combined with psychotherapy, ketamine can work to reverse chemical imbalances and help achieve sustained results. The best treatment is a multipronged approach, combining ketamine for mental health with several other evidence-based treatments.

If you’d like to learn more about ketamine for mental health, please reach out to the team at All Points North London. Our clients typically find a reduction in symptoms within hours of their first treatment and experience a significant decrease in symptoms after six to eight sessions.

Contact our team today to find out if ketamine-assisted therapy is right for you. We can help connect you with the tools you need to find healing. Call 0203 984 7699 or complete our online contact form to get started.

References

  • Robert C. Meisner, MD. “Ketamine for Major Depression: New Tool, New Questions.” Harvard Health, 22 May 2019, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/ketamine-for-major-depression-new-tool-new-questions-2019052216673.
  • “The Inflamed Mind: A Radical New Approach to Depression.” Royal College of Psychiatrists, elearninghub.rcpsych.ac.uk/product?catalog=124_CORE_POD_Depr_New_App. Accessed 23 Jan. 2024.
  • Tully, Jamie L., et al. “Ketamine Treatment for Refractory Anxiety: A Systematic Review.” British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, vol. 88, no. 10, 2022, pp. 4412-4426, https://doi.org/10.1111/bcp.15374. Accessed 24 Jan. 2024.