Understanding Ketamine-Assisted Therapy

Man Undertaking Assisted Therapy

Ketamine is mostly misunderstood. You’ve probably heard it’s a party drug, a horse tranquilizer, or dubbed “Special K.” Ketamine isn’t just a recreational substance however, there’s a clinical purpose behind it. 

Ketamine-assisted therapy targets mostly mental health conditions, like bipolar disorder, clinical depression, PTSD, or anxiety disorders. Casual ketamine use is not the same as ketamine-assisted therapy or ketamine infusions. Ketamine-assisted therapy is safe when conducted under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional, like a physician or registered nurse, but recreational consumption has led to organ damage and more rarely, death.

What is Ketamine?


Ketamine was discovered in the 1960s, after efforts to find a drug that both prevented surgical patients from feeling pain and completely sedated them in the process. Ketamine was first used as an anesthetic for animals after discovery. The FDA approved ketamine for use in humans in the 1970s, where it then treated wounded soldiers in the Vietnam War. 

Physicians then began noticing the powerful effects of ketamine on mental health conditions. First responders would administer ketamine to actively-suicidal patients just to get them to a calm state of being, but patients reported going months without feeling suicidal after taking the drug

How Does Ketamine Work?

Ketamine works by modulating a neurotransmitter called glutamate. Glutamate is an amino acid found in our brains. Glutamate is found most-concentrated in and around our synapses, which is the pathway that joins two nerve cells. A dysfunction in the synapses, stemming from chronic stress, has been linked to mental health conditions like depression

Ketamine causes a “dissociative experience”, which basically means losing touch with the reality around you. This sounds frightening, but it’s not. We’ve all experienced a normal amount of dissociation, like daydreaming or zoning out. 

There are more severe forms of dissociation, like dissociative disorders, but ketamine’s related dissociation appears to be a key component in treating mental health patients. You might feel euphoric like you’re floating, time slows down or speeds up, or feel as though your body has changed. These side effects are short-lived and dissipate when your ketamine-assisted therapy session is complete, however, the depression and mental health challenges will hopefully subside.


The Benefits of Ketamine-Assisted Therapy and What to Expect in Your Session


Ketamine serves as a powerful alternative to conventional mental health treatments, like prescription medication. 

Mental health conditions affected nearly one in five Americans in 2020. That’s 53 million people. It’s safe to say mental illness is a problem in the United States and across the world, and especially as the world endures tougher-than-usual circumstances with the pandemic and its ripple effects, like economic uncertainty. 

Nearly one-third of all patients with depression are resistant to the conventional drug treatments available. Around half of the patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder don’t respond to the first line of treatment. Prescription medications and psychotherapeutic techniques are the first lines of defense for mental health treatments, and in some cases, in-patient hospitalization. When treatments like this don’t work, mental health patients are left to suffer or seek alternative treatment, like ketamine-assisted therapy.

Before your first ketamine therapy session, detox from harmful substances like alcohol. Avoid depressing content and movies with violence and traumatic scenes. Eat clean and stay hydrated in the days leading up to your first session. 

Patients are administered ketamine through infusions, nasal sprays, or sublingual treatments, meaning under the tongue and swallowed. Ketamine infusions typically work within just a few hours, and patients are left feeling the positive effects for up to several weeks. Sublingual administrations and nasal sprays work quickly, too, and provide the same long-lasting relief as infusions. 

No matter your route of administration, you will be supervised for approximately two hours after ketamine-assisted therapy to ensure you are safe before being released. You might experience an increased heart rate, headache, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, and other side effects after your session. Your doctor will be able to identify these side effects and immediately begin treating you. 

After your session is over, you will likely be asked to discuss your feelings with your healthcare provider. This is known as integration. The integration allows you to process what you uncovered or experienced during your ketamine therapy session. Journaling, meditation, prayer, art, and music are other ways to firmly integrate your experiences into your mind. 

We encourage you to rest and reflect for the first 24 hours at home after your ketamine therapy appointment. Your experiences will be more likely to stick with you if you take the first day after your session to reflect.


Find Ketamine-Assisted Therapy Near You

Your primary care physician likely doesn’t administer ketamine, though it’s always worth it to ask. More and more healthcare providers are beginning to see the benefits of ketamine, but it’s not mainstream for treating mental health conditions just yet. 

Heally’s network of integrative health professionals connects you with ketamine-therapy providers in the San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Greater Sacramento area. 

After filling out an online form, you’ll connect with a prescribing doctor for evaluation in a video call. Be prepared to list your current medications and medical history with the physician to determine if you’re a good fit for ketamine-assisted therapy. From there, a registered nurse will come to your location and administer ketamine to you. 

Our online and in-person network of physicians are located throughout the United States. While our ketamine therapy services are currently limited to California-based patients, Heally’s partners can recommend medical marijuana to patients in legal states; and utilize other alternative methods of treatment, like hypnosis and homeopathy, from anywhere. 

If you’re suffering with treatment-resistant mental health conditions, reach out to us. We’ll be in touch soon to schedule an appointment and develop the best treatment plan for you.  


Interested in alternative treatment options? Connect to an alternative medicine practitioner.

Interested in using cannabis as an alternative treatment? Get
your cannabis card with a licensed physician.