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How Safe is Ketamine Therapy?

By Ashley Barnes, M.S.


Reviewed by: Mark Hrymoc, MD





Safety Index of Ketamine


Many people who are exploring treatment options come across ketamine therapy and due to not knowing much about it (other than how ketamine has been used recreationally), are apprehensive. As a result, many people don’t take ketamine into consideration and thus pass up a potentially life-changing medication.


Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic discovered in 1962 and has been heavily researched since then. Ketamine has been FDA approved since 1970 as an anesthetic and was initially sold under the trade name Ketalar®. Due to its safety and short-acting analgesic properties, ketamine became the most widely-used battlefield anesthetic in the Vietnam War.


The medication is on the World Health Organization’s Essential Medicines List of most important, effective, and safe medications (WHO, 2023). While patients are receiving ketamine, their cardiac output, respiratory drive, and airways reflexes are maintained. Ketamine is used to treat animals, children, adults, and the elderly population. In fact, ketamine is one of the most commonly used anesthetics worldwide because of its safety profile.


The ketamine that is used in medical settings is carefully created in labs and administered by licensed medical professionals. Doctors start patients out at a low dose the first ketamine treatment and work up from there depending on what works best for the patient. While patients receive ketamine, nurses and doctors carefully monitor blood pressure and other vital signs.


Doctors also take extra precautions to ensure the patient’s experience is safe, such as providing the following instructions: no food 4 hours before or drink 1 hour before a ketamine treatment (to prevent nausea which is one of the few side effects of ketamine), no driving the rest of the day (alike what an oral surgeon will tell you if you get your wisdom teeth out), and drug screening at the first visit (to make sure that a patient is not under the influence of other drugs that may interact with ketamine in any way).


Effectiveness of Ketamine


Ketamine has more recently been discovered to have profoundly positive effects on treatment resistant depression, chronic pain, and other medical concerns that plague patients.


Ketamine Therapy can be used to treat a variety of mood disorders including but not limited to Bipolar Depression and Treatment-Resistant Depression (TRD). Treatment-Resistant Depression describes “depression that doesn’t respond to antidepressants,” also known as treatment-refractory depression (Healthline, 2022).


Someone with TRD may try two or more antidepressant medications such as Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and feel no effect. Ketamine Therapy has been researched to have a high response rate in Treatment-Resistant Depression with 70% of patients reporting improvement in contrast with only 15% for another oral antidepressant (Trivedi et al., 2006). A wealth of more recent studies back ketamine as being a highly effective treatment option for treatment-resistant depression.


If you have a history of recent heart attack, stroke, psychosis (hallucinations, delusions), or bladder inflammation (cystitis), you may not be a candidate for ketamine treatment, or you may require clearance from your physician.



Ketamine Therapy Center


Ketamine Therapy Center is a treatment branch from the Mental Health Center that specializes in ketamine infusion therapy. We plan to offer even more types of psychedelic treatments when it is permissible to do so, as we believe in evidence-based treatment approaches that have the power to transform one’s life.


Our doctors offer Ketamine Therapy Evaluations to thoroughly assess patients for ketamine therapy candidacy; from here, they collaborate with patients to develop treatment plans. Our office in the Cedars- Sinai Medical Office towers houses rooms specially designed for patient comfort. Our highly experienced and talented nurses are well-versed in ketamine infusion therapy and help patients feel comfortable as they move through the treatment process. Our therapists are trained in Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy and offer therapeutic guidance to enhance the psychological benefit of the treatment while simultaneously creating a grounded and safe space.


For more information, please do not hesitate to explore our website or contact our office!



References


Healthline Media. (2020). How to manage treatment-resistant depression. Healthline. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/treatment-resistant-depression


Trivedi, M.H., Rush, A.J., Wisniewski, S.R., et al. (2006). Evaluation of outcomes with citalopram for depression using measurement-based care in STAR*D: Implications for clinical practice. Am J Psychiatry, 163(1): 28–40. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.163.1.28.


World Health Organization. (2023). Who model lists of essential medicines. World Health Organization. Retrieved April 16, 2023, from https://www.who.int/groups/expert-committee-on-selection-and-use-of-essential-medicines/essential-medicines-lists

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