Is Ketamine Therapy Safe? Photo of clients

Is Ketamine Therapy Safe?

Struggling with treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, trauma, or substance use disorders is more than just frustrating – it can make you feel downright hopeless. Fortunately, you’re not limited in your potential avenues to recovery. Treatment methods that were once considered experimental are now becoming increasingly available, backed by robust scientific proof of their effectiveness and safety.

At the Sanctuary, we take a distinctly holistic approach to recovery from addiction and mental health disorders. And depending on the needs of our individual clients, we may recommend ketamine-assisted treatment (KAT) as part of their healing process. 

Ketamine is an FDA-approved drug with known anesthetic properties. It’s prized for its ability to induce a lucid state that can last for hours. Many people find that this state helps relax the blocks they previously experienced in therapy, creating an opening that allows for a shift in their perspective. And that shift can be the beginning of hope for some who have felt stuck in the dark. 

Considering this treatment for the first time naturally brings up the question, “Is ketamine therapy safe?” The answer depends on several factors, including how it’s administered and what setting it’s used in. 

Let’s take a closer look at the potential benefits of ketamine-assisted therapy and how this treatment could fit into your recovery journey. 

What Is Ketamine?

Ketamine hydrochloride is a Schedule III controlled drug available via clinical administration in the US. 

Medical professionals have used this substance as an anesthetic and painkiller for decades. And in more recent years, it’s been successfully used to treat mental health conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, and chronic pain. It can also help those with addictive disorders. For example, a 2019 review featured in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs found ketamine helpful for treating anxiety and treatment-resistant depression

Lynne McInnes, MD explains that, as it promotes the formation of synapses between neurons, ketamine may enhance the beneficial effects of psychotherapy. At the same time, its ability to reduce inhibitions makes it easier for patients to open up during psychotherapy sessions. 

How Does Ketamine-Assisted Treatment Work?

Ketamine-assisted treatment (KAT), or ketamine-assisted psychotherapy (KAP), could be one of the biggest breakthroughs in treating pain and depression. 

According to Chaplaincy Institute founder Michael Ziegler, ketamine may serve as a transformational catalyst. The state it induces helps surpass the brain’s default mode network, helping people make breakthroughs earlier on in treatment. It also has a lasting effect that’s therapeutic in and of itself.

As Ziegler notes, KAT allows recipients to change their perspective from their old, patterned mind-state to a new one. This helps many people break the cycle of depression and reconnect with their inner selves. 

During KAT, you may find it easier to access your emotions and reach the unconscious. And over time, you may find it to be a key part of the process that allows for more self-forgiveness, understanding, and compassion. 

Raquel Bennett, Psy.D. told the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies that ketamine quiets the senses, making you feel detached from physical pain and other sensations. During a typical session, you may feel as if you are floating outside your body. This increases access to your subconscious mind, where you can address the root cause of depression, anxiety, and other problems you may face. 

This substance interacts with the NMDA and sigma receptors in the brain, which in turn may reduce pain memory and increase pain tolerance. While its mechanism of action isn’t fully understood, researchers believe that KAT may benefit those with mood disorders. Its effect depends on the dosage and route of administration. 

Is Ketamine Therapy Safe?

In short, ketamine is generally safe. It all comes down to how you’re using it. 

Generally, recreational users resort to high ketamine doses, which may cause adverse effects. The dosages used for medical and therapeutic purposes are significantly lower and pose fewer health risks. In large doses, this substance may cause disorientation, motor function impairment, blurred vision, insomnia, dizziness, chest pain, and other adverse reactions, warns the WHO. 

The ketamine available on the black market is often mixed with other drugs. Therefore, it carries a higher risk of addiction and side effects than pure ketamine. The latter, on the other hand, can have a positive clinical impact when used in appropriate doses. 

Ketamine-assisted treatment, however, is nothing like recreational use. Instead, it’s a valuable tool that can enhance the therapeutic process in multiple pathways. 

According to current evidence, this form of treatment carries a low risk of side effects. For example, a 2020 survey investigated the safety of repeated ketamine administration for depression treatment. Fewer than 1% of patients experienced adverse effects, such as psychological distress and psychotic symptoms. These findings indicate that long-term ketamine administration is likely safe. 

In another study, ketamine was safe and well-tolerated by most patients with treatment-resistant depression. Fewer than 0.05% of subjects reported side effects. 

A more recent study conducted on patients with major depressive or bipolar disorder found that fewer than 5% of participants ceased the treatment due to tolerability concerns. The most commonly reported side effects were drowsiness and dizziness.

Ketamine and Your Journey to Recovery 

At the Sanctuary, we don’t use ketamine-assisted treatment as a standalone therapy. Instead, we see it as a tool that complements our holistic approach to recovery. Our team integrates Ketamine into the other sessions, which include psychotherapy, meditation, nature-based practices, and more. 

These methods work synergistically, allowing our guests to shift their awareness and take control over their emotions. The role of Ketamine is to help you open up and access the feelings you repress. Simply put, it makes it easier to gain access to the unconscious and address the underlying cause of pain, depression, or addiction. 

Our approach aims to bring your emotions to the surface so that you can address them in a safe environment. First, we take the time to understand our guests and their concerns. Our on-staff naturopathic doctor will assess your health and answer any questions you may have. After two weeks, we’ll have an initial Ketamine session as part of our healing program. 

Once we get started with Ketamine, you will gain a different perspective on the world around you. Things will finally start to make sense. You will be able to better understand and process your emotions, open your heart, and find your path to recovery. While Ketamine is just one step of the process, it can lead to significant breakthroughs and help you fully reap the benefits of our other therapies.

Our Ketamine sessions take place in a safe, supportive environment, with no more than six participants. Our guests receive two treatments per week for three weeks. They also have the chance to discuss with their therapist and share their experiences the day after each session. This allows us to monitor their progress and make adjustments to our program as needed.

We hope that our guide answered your question, “Is ketamine therapy safe?”  With KAT, our guests can dive deeper into their healing journey and address deep-rooted emotions. Our holistic process aims to bring the root causes of their problems to light and not just treat their symptoms. 

If you feel ready to take this step, reach out to our team to see how we can help.