Frequently Asked Questions
Because many people aren’t aware of how effective ketamine infusions can be, we get a lot of questions. Here are some of the ones we get the most frequently, but please, don’t hesitate to call us if you have others we haven’t addressed.
What is Ketamine?
Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that was originally approved for use in 1970. At high doses it creates a dissociative state that permits surgery to be performed on children and animals. It is very safe and does not cause depression in blood pressure or respiration. In the early 2000s, it was found to also be highly effective in treating depression because of its antagonistic action on the NMDA receptor in the brain.
How does Ketamine work?
Ketamine works to treat depression by affecting the glutamate neurotransmitter system rather than the well-known serotonin system. Some of the effects are the growth of new nerves in the amygdala (the emotional seat of the brain) and the creation of new neural networks. These synaptic connections get damaged by chronic stress.
Can ketamine help anxiety?
Anxiety is a worry and general belief that things will go wrong. Depression and anxiety are often linked. Ketamine has been shown to relieve some of that constant preoccupation that defines an anxiety disorder.
What is depression?
Depression is a feeling of sadness, usually with a sense of hopelessness and an extremely negative view of themselves and the world around them. It is often associated with thoughts of suicide. Approximately 20% of the US population has suffered with depression at some time.
Is ketamine approved by the FDA for treatment of anxiety and depression?
Ketamine has been approved by the FDA as an anesthetic agent for over 50 years. Its profound antidepressant effects were not discovered until the early 2000s. It has been used “off label” since then for the treatment of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues since then based on extensive clinical studies.
Is ketamine safe?
Ketamine is known to be one of the safest anesthetic agents available. The dosage used for treating mental health disorders is approximately 1/8 of what would be given to facilitate a surgical procedure. Ketamine does not affect respiratory rate or heart rate making it extremely safe. At Georgia Renew Clinics we monitor blood pressure pulse and pulse oximetry readings during treatment.
How is ketamine administered?
Ketamine is given through an intravenous infusion. It is very poorly absorbed through the stomach and intestines. That medication is infused over a period of 40 to 60 minutes.
Is ketamine addictive?
Ketamine has a history of recreational abuse (unsupervised, high, frequent, self- administered dosing) that peaked in the 1990’s. Therapeutic Ketamine infusions start with an incredibly low dose given slowly under medical supervision avoiding the sudden high that can predispose to addiction.
How often do I need ketamine infusions?
The number and frequency of Ketamine infusions is highly variable. Many people complete a single course of treatment (usually 6) and with improved engagement with friends and family and a lighter heart. They require no further treatment. Some do better with “booster” infusions every few months depending upon life circumstances.
Can ketamine have any long-term side effects?
The long-term side effects of Ketamine use are all related to the non-medical use of the drug with exceptionally large and frequent doses. The side effects include problems with bladder irritation and cognition. There are no reports of these issues with low dose therapeutic administration. Research is ongoing.
How long do the effects of ketamine treatment last?
Research shows that the active metabolites of Ketamine can remain in the system for several weeks. Part of the therapeutic healing process is that with an improved mood, life experiences are more positive adding to the joy of life.
Can ketamine be used to treat chronic pain?
Ketamine is known to modulate chronic pain, particularly neuropathic pain. It has been used in the treatment of CRPS, Fibromyalgia, Migraine headaches, orofacial pain, and neuralgia with moderate success.
Can ketamine help with suicidal thoughts?
In a large meta-analysis study published by the American Journal of Psychiatry, Ketamine was shown to rapidly reduce suicidal thoughts following a single infusion. Ketamine is used clinically for this purpose in psychiatric emergencies.
Is ketamine covered by insurance?
Ketamine is not covered by insurance for the treatment of pain and depression because the FDA has not formally approved the medication for these purposes. Some insurance companies reimburse for other aspects of the treatment such as IV fluids and the monitoring of vital signs.
Are there some people suffering with depression and anxiety who are not candidates for ketamine treatment?
Ketamine is an extremely safe drug but may not be the best choice for everyone dealing with anxiety and depression. Certain kinds of bipolar disorder (rapid cycling) or tendency for psychosis could be made worse with Ketamine so personal history and referral notes are carefully reviewed.
What should I expect from a ketamine infusion at Georgia Renew Clinics?
At the time of your first visit (after it is determined that you are a candidate) you will be seated in a comfortable recliner in a private room. Your blood pressure and pulse will be recorded, and a certified nurse will insert an IV catheter into your hand or arm. The carefully calculated dose of Ketamine will be infused by a calibrated pump over 40 minutes. Most patients feel mildly disoriented and some describe it as like being a bit “drunk.” Your vital signs will be rechecked during the infusion. The brief dissociation you experience will fade quickly during the 30- minute post-infusion time and you will be conversational and alert by the time you leave.
Can I receive ketamine infusions while I am on other medications for my mental health?
At Georgia Renew Clinics, we do not alter your routine daily medications at all. Your brain has adapted to the medications that you take regularly, and Ketamine can often enhance their effectiveness. Your referring provider may recommend that some of your medications be decreased during the infusion course, but this is decided case by case.
Is there any specific advice or restriction that I should be aware of following a ketamine infusion?
Following Ketamine therapy, you should not drive or make any major decisions. This recommendation is similar to that given following an endoscopy or other procedure that alters your perceptions. Most people do not want to return to work or engage in any heavy mental activities following a Ketamine infusion although you may feel fine. Alcohol and CBD should also be avoided for 24 hours.
Are there medical conditions such as heart problems or high blood pressure that would exclude me from ketamine infusion therapy?
It is always important to include your primary care specialist in your decision to undergo Ketamine treatments. They will let you know if it is safe to proceed. We closely monitor your vital signs here at GRC during the sessions and share the results with them.
Are depressed or suicidal teens candidates for ketamine?
There have only been a few studies reported on adolescent Ketamine therapy. The limited studies and anecdotal evidence show that their response is like it is in adults with about 80% positive improvement. There is an ongoing controlled study being done at Yale scheduled to end 12/31/24 which should give us n=more information. We at GRC have treated several teens with good outcomes.
Is ketamine safe in pregnancy or while breast-feeding?
The safety of Ketamine therapy in pregnancy and lactation is uncertain. Animal studies show no adverse effects, but the facts are not all in. Ketamine is used without adverse effects in very young children for emergency procedures.
What is Treatment Resistant Depression?
Treatment-resistant depression is a term used in clinical psychiatry to describe cases of major depressive disorder (MDD) that do not respond adequately to appropriate courses of at least two antidepressants.
If you have been treated with at least (2) or more classes antidepressants with no results, you may have a form Treatment-Resistant Depression.
Are there any pre-existing conditions that make ketamine dangerous or ineffective?
Uncontrolled/untreated high blood pressure, illegal substance abuse, untreated thyroid disease, unstable heart disease, mania, or active psychosis. These conditions and past medical history will be discussed with our physician/staff prior to treatment to ensure patient safety.
Are there any risks to Ketamine treatments?
The dose of ketamine used during each treatment for depression and anxiety is minuscule (a tenth of the dose used for sedation in the emergency room) and safe. During the active infusion there is a chance of a transient rise in blood pressure and heart rate, however vital signs are monitored before, during and after treatment to ensure patient safety.
Will I be awake and alert?
Yes. The ketamine treatment will not put you to sleep. If you arrive in a tired state or sleepy you may dose off for a short nap, but will arouse easily. You will be able to move freely in your room during the infusion.
How should I expect to feel after the treatment? How do I know if it worked?
Prior to treatment and approximately 24 hours after the first treatment, and each additional treatment, you will fill out specific depression and anxiety scales to help us determine your response to treatment. Some patient’s have noticed positive effects in as little as 40 minutes after the initial infusion, however most improvement starts 2-4 hours later, but can be up to 24 hours following treatment. When the treatment is finished you should not expect to feel as if everything is fixed but there should be noticeable improvement in feeling more hopeful, lifting of the depression, less sad, increased desire to engage in activities and with people. More noticeable improvements are expected to be seen throughout the course of your treatment.
What should I do during the treatment?
Patients are encouraged to bring their own music to each appointment or listen to provided relaxing sounds through speakers or headphones to create a relaxing environment. You may also want to bring a pair of sunglasses or shades as lights can seem brighter than usual. You will be monitored by licensed medical staff during your infusion. You are encouraged to direct your own experience. If you would like to talk we will be there to listen and guide you, however if you desire to remain quiet that is also acceptable. It is important to remember you may feel “weird” during this treatment and to accept ahead of time this is ok and you will leave feeling better than when you arrived.