You may have heard of ketamine, a drug that is rapidly gaining popularity thanks to its fast-acting relief for depression, anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Ketamine is commonly used in medicine as a painkiller, especially in emergency rooms.
But now, ketamine has become widely popular for a different reason: it may help with many mental health conditions for which few effective medications exist, and the ones that do often take days or weeks to start working. In contrast to traditional methods, ketamine works almost instantly, with long-lasting effects, which is why so many doctors and researchers are reexamining this unique drug.
But why has ketamine become so popular? And if you want to receive this type of treatment, what should you expect?
To get started, your first appointment will be a consultation with Dr. Steuer.
Your first appointment is an informational meeting for you and Dr. Steuer so you can get to know each other and to get a feel for how things will go.
Dr. Steuer will discuss your physical and mental health history so we can get to know you and to build a plan together with you. There is no time limit to this initial consultation and Dr. Steuer will spend as much time with you as you need to answer all of your questions.
Your treatment plan and the initial dose of ketamine is based on many factors including your individual medical history, your weight, your age, and your prior treatment history, among other factors.
Your ketamine treatments from there will be adjusted based on how you respond to the initial treatment.
How Long Do Treatments Last For?
Your ketamine infusion treatments generally last for 45-60 minutes for depression, PTSD, bipolar and other mood disorders. Treatments generally require a larger dose, provided over a longer interval for patients who are treated with ketamine for pain management.
The ketamine infusion experience is a pleasurable one. You will relax in a comfortable over-sized reclining chair during your treatment and for the next 40-60 minutes, most patients feel a sense of warmth and comfort. We equip all rooms with a soft blanket if you so desire.
During your treatment, you will not lose consciousness. Rather, you will experience a mild euphoric feeling – many of our patients describe it as a “warm out of body experience.” You will feel relaxed. However, your mind will be aware and engaged. Your ketamine treatment will feel like a therapy session in itself, and you will feel invigorated and refreshed after the effects wear off. You will feel the effects of the treatment immediately, unlike many of the SSRI drugs that take weeks or months to see an effect. This is part of the benefit of ketamine treatments.
Some of our patients describe a “dissociation” effect and most of our patients enjoy this feeling. For most patients, this dissociation effect is what helps with your treatment and provides a positive response to your ketamine treatment. This is all a normal part of the treatment and you will always be in a safe environment with staff to supervise you and be available to you at all times.
After Your Treatment
After your treatment, you are welcome to stay in our “lounge” in our comfortable office. We provide you with an iPad and noise canceling headphones from the moment you walk into our office and throughout your session. You are welcome to listen to music and relax in our spa-like lounge and enjoy some lemon water, herbal tea, a latte, or water until you feel like winding up your session to be on your way.
Many of our patients like to “chill” in our lounge for 30-60 minutes after their treatment, which you are welcome to do. Ketamine levels are still relatively high in your bloodstream, and we provide a safe and confidential experience for you to relax after your session until you feel ready to leave.
During your entire session, you will stay in your clothes and simply relax in our comfortable reclining chairs during your session, just like you would as if you are relaxing on your sofa at home.
You are welcome to bring family members and/or friends. However, we recommend that you have your treatment by yourself in a private exclusive experience in our comfortable treatment rooms that are specially designed to enhance your ketamine treatments and experience.
We provide you with noise-canceling headphones and a blindfold so you can drift off to any music of your choice, or you can listen to any one of our curated playlists to enhance your ketamine experience. This sensory experience is designed to enhance the ketamine treatment and increases the effectiveness of your ketamine treatment.
What to Expect With Your First Ketamine Infusion Experience
As we get started, the doctor or nurse will set up your ketamine IV session by finding a vein on your arm (or hand or wrist) and will use the smallest IV needle possible to get your treatment started. It doesn’t hurt too much – we promise.
The IV is connected to an IV pump that sends measured amounts of ketamine every second of your infusion treatment to balance out the treatment throughout your session.
During your ketamine treatment, we monitor your pulse, oxygen levels, blood pressure.
After your session, your IV will be removed and we will discuss your thoughts, and how you are feeling. You are welcome to stay in our office as long as you’d like – many of our patients leave after staying for 30-60 minutes after their infusion treatment.
It is rare to feel nauseous, however, if you do, we can control that by adding Zofran to your treatment, which is an anti-nausea medicine that is used in hospitals and ERs throughout the world.
Once your treatment ends, you will regain your full faculties within minutes. Some patients feel tired after their infusion, others feel fine and ready to walk out of the office immediately. In either case, we welcome you to relax in our lounge and enjoy a beverage and/or light snack.
Ketamine treatments are low doses of ketamine, and therefore do not induce sleep. It’s a much lower dose than those that are used in general anesthesia. Because of this, you will regain your mental energy quickly after your infusion.
We recommend that you either take Uber or Lyft to and from the office for your treatment or have a friend or family member drive you home. Specifically, we do not allow patients to drive home after their infusion, so please make arrangements accordingly.
Improve Your Quality of Life
Ketamine treatments are highly effective and have proven to be effective for 80-85% of our patients who have depression or other mood disorders. We see a success rate of 85-95% with patients who have PTSD.
For many of our patients, this therapy is life changing. As part of our overall experience and ongoing treatment with you, we will send you text messages to see how you are feeling and to monitor your day to day emotions. We take a lot of care in our patient experience and stay connected with you before, during and after your ketamine treatments.
Please give us a call at 424.332.5550 to schedule your free consultation today. We look forward to talking with you.
Michael E. Steuer, M.D and the Pacific Ketamine Institute Team