Two men talking in ketamine assisted psychotherapy for depression, anxiety


What Is Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy?

Written by

Isha Team


May 26, 2022


January 26, 2023

Many medications are powerful life saviors, in both physical and mental conditions. So is the alternative antidepressant, ketamine, which has been typically used as an anesthetic in hospitals. It is considered as a promising treatment option for major depressive disorder, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health conditions, especially when it is used in conjunction with psychotherapy. This is known as Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy(KAP).

What Is Ketamine?

It is a psychoactive drug that was synthesized in 1962. It has been used in healthcare settings in the United States since 1970 as a potent anesthetic.  In recent years, it has been used in conjunction with psychotherapy in subanesthetic or low doses, to treat depression, chronic pain, and other mental health problems. Due to its rapid antidepressant effect, it relieves emotional suffering, depressive episodes, and suicidal urges rapidly.

Multiple sessions of ketamine assisted therapy have shown a cumulative effect in relieving the symptoms of treatment-resistant depression in 60-70% of the individuals.

What Is Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy?

Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy or KAP is a therapeutic method that addresses a large variety of mental health problems like depression, PTSD, treatment-resistant depression, addiction, and anxiety disorders.

In addition to psychotherapy, Ketamine is administered to deepen and enhance the therapeutic process.

Administration of Ketamine in low doses in conjunction with psychotherapy, softens the psychological defenses temporarily, allowing psychotherapeutic processing and deep self-reflection of the person.

Ketamine affects NMDA glutamate receptors that are responsible for memory and synaptic activity. The effect of Ketamine on NMDA receptors enhances the rewriting and relearning ability of the patients. Memories open, get activated and become malleable. Ketamine consolidates these memories so that new memories can occupy your brain, releasing memories of painful events, sufferings, emotional breakdowns, and cravings for alcohol or other drugs of abuse. This new and flexible knowledge helps in the establishment of new and healthy habits after therapy.

Ketamine-assisted therapy opens up a doorway to unconscious material and thoughts in the mind of the patient. A highly skilled therapist gains access to those untold and unfolded stories that disturb the thoughts of the patient. This inner access to "stuck" content and emotions allows active examination and reconsolidation of thoughts with long-lasting changes in the overall lifestyle of the patient.

Is Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy Effective?

There have been numerous studies evaluating the efficacy of ketamine for various mental health conditions. For example, the effectiveness of KAP has been studied in a cohort-based case report to evaluate the effectiveness of Ketamine assisted therapy in people with PTSD and depression. In a 12-weeks treatment program, 91% of the patients with a generalized anxiety disorder (irritability, unstoppable worrisome thoughts, trouble relaxing) showed improvement in their symptoms. Symptoms of depression (hopelessness, loss of interest in daily activities, loss of appetite, and disturbed sleeping patterns) improved in 79% of the patients. 86% of people with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) left the program as they screened negative for symptoms of PTSD after ketamine-assisted therapy.

Clinical improvement was noticed in 92% of patients with impaired work relationships, friendships, romantic relationships, and lack of self-care. These statistics support the effectiveness of Ketamine assisted therapy.

This randomized control study, 28 patients received twice a week iv ketamine dosing followed by 14 weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy(CBT) in one group and no psychotherapy in the other. The group with CBT showed a better depression score (QIDS) compared to its no therapy counterpart 14 weeks after the ketamine treatments. This supports that ketamien combined with psychotherapy can sustain the treatment effects longer.

What to expect with Isha KAT?

Initially, you will meet a physician for medical evaluation. The aim here is to assess whether you are a good fit for ketamine treatment at Isha Health or not. If our doctor thinks you may benefit from this treatment, the medications will be shipped to your home.

One low-dose ketamine session lasts for about two hours. Depending on the dosage, our physician may check in with at the beginning of the session. Make sure to have a support person near you while you are under the effect of ketamine. The effect of ketamine usually begins at 15-20 minutes and peaks at 40 minutes and disappears after 2 hours usually. After you take ketamine, you'll lie down with an eye mask on and music being played in the background. You'll feel a sense of relaxation in your mind, tingling sensations in the body, a surge of past memories, and images of old events passing in front of your mind.  This will continue for approximately 30-60 minutes. After that, we highly recommend you meet with your psychotherapist to discuss the experience and incorporate into your daily life. If you don't have one, we can pair you with one of our psychotherapists.

Is ketamine addictive?

Is Ketamine Addictive?

Although recreational high-dose ketamine users can get psychological addiction, ketamine is not physically addictive as it does not activate dopamine pathways like other drugs of abuse do. Researches show that ketamine has a low addiction profile, especially under proper clinical supervision. In contrast, ketamine has shown promising results in the treatment of substance use disorder. The use of ketamine is rarely compulsive.

Ketamine therapy can provide tremendous healing potential for various mental health conditions especially when it is combined with psychotherapy.

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