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What Does Ketamine Therapy Feel Like?

What Does Ketamine Therapy Feel Like?

Ketamine therapy has proved to be a life-changing service for people whose mental health symptoms were not alleviated via prior treatment attempts. However, since this form of care is relatively new, patients often have questions about it. One of the most common inquiries is, what does ketamine feel like?

What Is Ketamine?

To fully understand what does ketamine feel like, it can help to learn a bit about what it is and how it interacts with the central nervous system.

Ketamine is classified as a dissociative anesthetic. It was first synthesized in the early 1960s, and it earned approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the U.S. in 1970. It was frequently used by U.S. military healthcare personnel during the Vietnam War, primary to anesthetize patients prior to surgery. 

Ketamine continues to be used as an anesthetic to this day, and its value is such that it has been included on the World Health Organization’s Model List of Essential Medicines.

Recently, researchers found that ketamine can be effective when used to treat certain mental health disorders. In 2019, the FDA approved a nasal spray that contains a ketamine derivative to treat people who have a form of major depressive disorder. We will discuss this development and other mental health uses for ketamine in the next section. 

What Disorders Does Ketamine Therapy Treat?

The FDA’s 2019 approval that we mentioned at the end of the previous section authorized clinicians to use esketamine to help people who have treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Though there is no universal standard for TRD, most experts define it as major depressive disorder that has not responded to at least two different medications.

Though TRD is the only disorder for which ketamine has been approved by the FDA, some doctors have prescribed it on an off-label basis for people who have a variety of other mental and behavioral health concerns, including:

What Does Ketamine Therapy Feel Like?

Now that we have reviewed the properties of ketamine and the types of disorders it may be used to treat, let’s answer the main question in today’s post: What does ketamine feel like?

When ketamine is used within the context of a reputable mental health treatment program, the drug is typically delivered via a nasal spray or intravenous (IV) injection. 

If you receive the esketamine nasal spray (which is sold under the brand name Spravato), you will take the medication yourself under the supervision of a doctor. If you receive IV ketamine, a nurse or other qualified healthcare professional will administer the medication.

When ketamine first enters your system, you may feel effects such as the following:

  • Distorted perception
  • Feeling slightly drunk or high
  • Mild dissociation (disconnection from your thoughts or emotions)
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Improved mood
  • General sense of relaxation
  • Increased empathy
  • Sleepiness

Just about every prescription medication can cause some unpleasant side effects. Ketamine is no exception to this rule. Potential side effects of ketamine therapy include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Vertigo
  • Anxiety

In some rare cases, ketamine treatment has caused people to experience suicidal thoughts. This is one of the reasons why the professionals who provide ketamine therapy will keep patients under observation for a few hours after they have received the medication.

Following a ketamine session, you will not be able to drive yourself home. This is because residual fatigue and perceptual distortions may persist for a bit after the session has ended. 

Is Ketamine Therapy Safe and Effective?

In addition to the question, what does ketamine feel like, two other common queries about this type of mental health treatment are does it work and is it safe?

Considerable research has documented that, when provided by qualified professionals to patients who meet certain criteria, ketamine therapy can be extremely effective. For example, a small study that appeared in the September-October 2019 edition of the Indian Journal of Psychiatry reported that IV ketamine led to “significant improvement in depression and anxiety symptoms immediately, one hour after [a] single dose.”

The researchers who conducted this study found that their subjects continued to show improvements while receiving six additional doses of ketamine over a two-week period.

Also, a March 2020 study in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that both esketamine and ketamine treatments were “effective, safe, and well tolerated.”

If you have any questions about the appropriateness, safety, and/or effectiveness of ketamine therapy for depression or another mental health concern, you should discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider before you receive this service. 

When you get the answers to questions such as, what does ketamine feel like, what possible side effects may occur, and what are the benefits of ketamine treatment, you will be in the best position to play an active and informed role in your care.

Find Ketamine Therapy in Atlanta

Atlanta Integrative Psychiatry offers both esketamine (Spravato) and ketamine treatment to help people whose mental health symptoms have not responded to other approaches. At our outpatient mental health treatment in Atlanta, our team of skilled professionals will assess your needs and recommend a customized course of treatment. Depending on a variety of individual factors, your personalized treatment plan may include ketamine therapy and a host of additional evidence-based services. To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our admissions page or call us today. 

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