Ketamine Therapy: Not for Everyone

Woman on sofa in counseling session.

Ketamine therapy has been gaining traction in recent years as a potential treatment for various mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

However, it’s crucial to understand that this treatment is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

My name is Laurie Newcomb , a mental health counselor based in the Atlanta, Georgia, and I’m here to provide you with a comprehensive guide on why ketamine therapy might not be suitable for everyone.

Understanding Ketamine Therapy

Ketamine is a medication primarily used for starting and maintaining anesthesia. It induces a trance-like state while providing pain relief, sedation, and memory loss.

In recent years, it has been repurposed for treating certain mental health conditions, showing promising results, especially in cases of treatment-resistant depression.

How Does Ketamine Work?

Ketamine works by blocking NMDA receptors in the brain, which play a crucial role in mood regulation.

By doing so, it helps to increase the amount of a neurotransmitter called glutamate in the spaces between neurons. Glutamate then activates connections in another receptor, AMPA, leading to the release of other molecules that help neurons communicate along new pathways.

This is believed to affect mood, thought patterns, and cognition.

Who Is Not A Good Candidate?

While ketamine therapy has shown to be beneficial for many, it’s not suitable for everyone.

There are specific criteria and conditions that healthcare providers consider before recommending this treatment.

Pre-Existing Health Conditions

Individuals with certain health conditions may be at a higher risk of experiencing adverse effects from ketamine therapy.

These conditions include:

  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • History of heart attack or stroke
  • Severe liver disease
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Certain psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder with psychotic features

Possible Side Effects Of Ketamine Therapy

Ketamine therapy, while showing promising results for certain mental health conditions, does come with a range of potential side effects.

It’s crucial for individuals considering this treatment to be aware of these possible adverse effects to make an informed decision.

Here’s a comprehensive list of the potential side effects associated with ketamine therapy:

Physical Side Effects

During the Treatment:

  • Increased Blood Pressure and Heart Rate: Ketamine can cause a temporary increase in blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Nausea or Vomiting: Some individuals may experience nausea or vomiting during or after the treatment.
  • Dizziness: Feelings of dizziness or lightheadedness are common.
  • Blurred Vision: Some patients report experiencing blurred or double vision.
  • Respiratory Issues: In rare cases, ketamine can affect breathing patterns.

After the Treatment:

  • Fatigue: Patients may feel tired or fatigued after the treatment.
  • Headache: A headache or a feeling of heaviness in the head is possible.
  • Muscle Stiffness: Some individuals report stiffness or pain in the muscles.

Psychological Side Effects

During the Treatment:

  • Dissociation: Ketamine can induce a state of dissociation, making one feel detached from their body and reality.
  • Altered Perception: Patients may experience changes in how they perceive time, space, and their surroundings.
  • Hallucinations: Visual or auditory hallucinations are possible.
  • Anxiety or Panic: Some individuals may feel anxious or panicked during the treatment.

After the Treatment:

  • Memory Issues: Short-term memory loss or difficulties in recalling the treatment session may occur.
  • Mood Swings: Some patients report experiencing mood swings or changes in emotional state.
  • Difficulty Concentrating: Concentration and focus might be affected temporarily.

Long-Term Side Effects

While the long-term side effects of ketamine therapy are still being studied, there is concern about the potential for:

  • Cognitive Impairment: Prolonged use of ketamine in non-medical settings has been linked to cognitive deficits.
  • Dependency: There is a risk of developing a dependency on ketamine, especially for individuals with a history of substance abuse.

It’s imperative to discuss these potential side effects with a healthcare provider before starting ketamine therapy.

The provider will assess the individual’s medical history, current health status, and potential risks to determine if ketamine therapy is a safe and suitable option.

Additionally, it’s important to receive this treatment in a controlled medical setting, where healthcare professionals can monitor the patient and manage any adverse effects that may arise.

Potential For Abuse

Ketamine has a history of being used recreationally, and it has the potential for abuse.

Individuals with a history of substance abuse may not be suitable candidates for this therapy due to the risk of developing a dependency on the drug.

What Are The Alternatives?

For those who are not suitable candidates for ketamine therapy, there are alternative treatments available that can be effective in managing mental health conditions.

Medication And Psychotherapy

Traditional antidepressants, in conjunction with psychotherapy, have been the standard treatment for depression and anxiety for many years.

These treatments have a long track record and are suitable for a wide range of individuals.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

TMS is a non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression.

It is generally considered safe and well-tolerated.

Making An Informed Decision

Choosing the right treatment for mental health conditions is a critical decision that should be made in consultation with a healthcare provider.

It’s essential to consider all available options, understand the potential risks and benefits, and make an informed choice that aligns with your individual needs and circumstances.

If you’re considering ketamine therapy, I encourage you to reach out to a healthcare professional to discuss whether this treatment is suitable for you.

Remember, your mental health is a priority, and finding the right treatment is a significant step towards a healthier, happier life.

Contact Information And Clinic Locations

Our clinic is conveniently located, and our contact information is readily available for any inquiries you may have.

For more information about our counseling and neurotherapy services, contact us today via email or call us at 404-449-1236.

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Laurie Newcomb, MA, LPC, NCC, CCTP

Licensed Professional Counselor, MA, LPC, NCC, CCTP My goal for each therapy session is to respect the client, allow them to be heard, appreciate where they are coming from, and help guide them through their struggles or issues. My approach to therapy is to utilize an integrative approach with clients. What this means is that I utilize different approaches for different people, as we are not all alike. Whether you're suffering from depression, anxiety, trauma, or any other kind of challenge, you want a therapist you feel comfortable with and who can help you bring about change. I have experience working with substance abuse, anxiety, depression, trauma, and life transitions. I am personally passionate about assisting clients who have endured trauma in their life. I am certified in trauma therapy and continue to work with clients with substance abuse.