Peninsula Integrative Cardiology

What to Expect During Your Ketamine Therapy

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Ketamine therapy is a new treatment for depression. Find out what to expect and if it’s right for you.

Ketamine therapy has emerged as the first novel treatment for depression in many years. While it’s not for everyone, many people are discovering that it works to treat depression – often in cases that haven’t responded well to other treatments.

The drug was first legally used as an anesthetic. Now it is FDA-approved in the form of a nasal spray, but people are finding it has benefits in IV form as well. Dr. Daniel Rieders of Peninsula Integrative Cardiology explains more about this new depression treatment.

What is ketamine?

Ketamine is a dissociative drug used as an anesthetic. In larger, unregulated amounts, it’s also known as a club drug. 

The FDA approved the use of Spravato® (esketamine) nasal spray in conjunction with an antidepressant for treatment-resistant depression. This condition often occurs when you have tried multiple antidepressant medications but failed to get adequate relief.

Ketamine therapy for depression

When used properly, ketamine can reset the neurotransmitters in the brain, offering powerful relief from depression and other chronic conditions. Some of the conditions that ketamine can treat include:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Spinal injury
  • Chronic regional pain syndrome
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Alcohol-use disorder

Others have found that ketamine can relieve some side effects of cancer treatments. 

How ketamine works

Ketamine works on glutamine receptors, which can help your brain to produce more good feelings and relieve discomfort. Glutamine receptors are the ones responsible for feeling excitement. Ketamine is most effective in activating the NMDA and AMPA receptors.

Your doctor prescribes a small, controlled dose of ketamine. While you should still take any antidepressant medications as prescribed, many people find that ketamine produces rapid relief from depression symptoms.

Antidepressant medications usually take several weeks to work. In comparison, ketamine produces results in hours, lasting for 3-14 days. Most patients need repeated ketamine treatments, usually 6-12. Some people need continued maintenance treatment every few months to sustain the results.

What to expect from ketamine treatment

Ketamine works differently in every patient. Treatments are delivered intravenously (IV) and last about 45 minutes, followed by 30 minutes of observation.

You may experience mild hallucinations, but you will likely not find them disturbing. Even though most people do not find ketamine treatment disruptive, your provider advises you not to drive for 24 hours following a ketamine infusion. You also should not make any legal or financial decisions in the first 24 hours after a treatment.

Some of the possible side effects of ketamine treatment may include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Sleepiness
  • Feeling strange
  • Visual blurring or distortions

The effects of ketamine wear off gradually in the first 24 hours.

If you have depression or other chronic conditions and haven’t responded well to other treatments, you may benefit from ketamine treatment. Contact Dr. Daniel Rieders at Peninsula Integrative Cardiology in Palo Alto, California or request an appointment online.