Ketamine is an anesthetic and analgesic prescribed by physicians and veterinarians. It works by preventing the brain from processing pain signals. Recently, an oral form of ketamine has been shown effective for the treatment of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Although oral ketamine under proper medical supervision is safe, it can have some side effects. If excessive amounts are taken without a doctor's instructions, patients could suffer life-threatening consequences.
Typically there are very few side effects reported during low-dose ketamine treatment. Minor adverse effects that have been reported included: blurred vision, dizziness, exhilaration, nausea, slurred speech, and tremors. As part of the preparation, our care team will tell you how to avoid those uncomfortable effects of the medication. For example, we will advise you to lie down and wear an eye mask during the session to avoid a fall from expected dizziness. Additionally, eating right before the session is not a good idea. Make sure to finish eating at least 3 hours prior to the treatment session to avoid nausea. Based on the medical evaluation, you may also get an antinausea medication. Please also make sure to use the bathroom before the session so that you don’t have to walk while you are on medication. Making a comfortable space with a pillow, a blanket, and soothing music will make you feel comfortable.
Rarely, even with a relatively low dose of oral ketamine, patients may experience dissociative symptoms (out of body, hallucinations, and agitation) that typically start in 10 to 20 minutes and last for 10 minutes up to an hour. Some people may feel very anxious during this time. It is very important to remember that the effect of the medication is short living. Whatever you feel during the session will be completely over within 2 to 3 hours. Other less frequent side effects of oral ketamine include mildly elevated blood pressure and heart rate. Our medical team may request additional medical tests before ketamine-assisted therapy due to these effects.
All medication has side effects including ketamine. If you decide to treat a mental health condition with ketamine without your doctor’s advice, it can be dangerous. Furthermore, each person will experience treatment differently. A dose of ketamine that does not cause side effects in one person may cause side effects in another. Therefore, ketamine treatment without your doctor's advice should be avoided.
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