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Ketamine-Assisted Therapy

“Whether we realize it or not, it is our woundedness, or how we cope with it, that dictates much of our behavior, shapes our social habits, and informs our ways of thinking.” -Dr. Gabor Maté


Ketamine is a synthetic pharmaceutical compound that is classified as a dissociative anesthetic. It was approved by the FDA in 1970. It is widely used in hospitals and medical offices for anesthesia and sedation because of its rapid onset, proven favorable safety profile, and short duration of action. 


In the last two decades, ketamine has been increasingly used at low doses that do not induce anesthesia as an off-label treatment for mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and substance use disorder. Ketamine’s use as off-label means that it has not been approved by the FDA for these indications. Many medications are used off-label safely and effectively.


Research has shown that ketamine provides rapid and robust antidepressant and antianxiety effects and is effective in treating many mental health symptoms and disorders. The effect of ketamine is cumulative with repeated sessions. Most often, people start with a series of six ketamine sessions, but sometimes more sessions are required depending on the condition being treated. Some people relapse following ketamine and require ongoing maintenance sessions from time to time.  


Ketamine's dissociative effect means that it temporarily induces a state where people can feel separated from their mind and body and their everyday awareness and perception. Everyday awareness and perception are often called “ordinary consciousness”. A non-ordinary state of consciousness gives us a break from our normal way of thinking, including ruminating, obsessing, or depressing thought patterns. This may bring about new ways of experiencing the world, yourself and your thought patterns, and your relationships, which can be a powerful mechanism for healing.


Ketamine temporarily calms the activity in a part of the brain known as the Default Mode Network (DMN). The DMN has been shown to be overactive in people suffering from anxiety and depression and other mental health conditions. By offering a reprieve from habitual patterns of thought that underlie mood and behavior, an opportunity for learning new and healthier patterns of thought may be created. Ketamine decreases neuroinflammation and leads to the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which enhances neurogenesis and neuroplasticity in the brain, meaning it helps create new connections and repair damaged ones. 


Ketamine acts on the glutamate receptors in the brain, which is a different neurotransmitter system than most psychiatric drugs act upon. For this reason, ketamine is safe to be used for people taking many psychoactive medications, so tapering off them is often not required before beginning katemine therapy.


For some clients, very low doses, known as psycholytic dosing, are used. This can feel light a light, calming meditative state. Other times, psychedelic doses are used, which can produce more of a dissociative state that is inward-focused where the processing of life experiences and emotions and new insights and awarenesses may occur. Some people are talkative during the session, while others are silent. There is no right way to experience ketamine and every journey can be different. 


At Entheos Aspen, rapid dissolving sublingual tablets are used for ketamine-assisted therapy. This is less invasive and makes the treatments less expensive. While many clinics leave clients alone during their sessions or are only checked on periodically, clients at Entheos Aspen are never left alone. Safety, emotional support, and the relational aspect between the client and practitioner combine with the effects of the medicine and are paramount to optimize outcomes and for true healing to occur. We work closely together to establish clear treatment goals and intentions and do in-depth preparation so you know what to expect within the medicine sessions. 


Following a ketamine session, there is a 48-hour window of neuroplasticity, where the brain is able to repair damaged connections and form new pathways. During this window, integration of the experience is essential so that new ways of thinking, behaving, and being can be embodied, leading to lasting change.  


All clients undergoing ketamine-assisted therapy at Entheos Aspen are required to have a counselor, psychotherapist, or psychiatrist that they are also working with. If you do not already have an established relationship with a mental health professional, I am happy to provide a referral so that you will have to support you need to optimize treatment outcomes.

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