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Ketamine FAQs

Image by Jong Marshes
  • What is Ketamine?
    Ketamine is a medicine developed more than 50 years ago for anesthesia during surgery, and has been used for that purpose since that time in children, adults, and animals. More recently, ketamine has been found to be a valuable and highly effective treatment for depression, anxiety, and certain pain disorders.
  • Why aren't other doctors doing this?
    Most doctors do not perform “procedures” and do not have the equipment within their offices to use this medicine. The process of establishing a program like this in a hospital or outpatient center is a long and difficult one. In addition, because ketamine is not marketed by a pharmaceutical company, there are no conferences or sales representatives teaching doctors about this and giving them samples. A growing number of top academic hospitals and outpatient providers are beginning to use this treatment for their treatment resistant depression and chronic pain patients.
  • Is there potential for addiction?
    Some may have heard that ketamine is used as a “party drug” and worry about addiction potential. Studies and clinical experience have shown that in very low doses, like those used in this treatment, in a medical setting with lack of access at home, and infrequent dosing, there is virtually no potential for addiction or abuse.
  • Would it work the same if I took it orally or nasally?
    No. Ketamine is absorbed by the body very differently and unreliably when taken orally or nasally and has not been shown to be as effective for depression.
  • What can ketamine be used to treat?
    Major depression, the depressed phase of bipolar disorder (bipolar depression), anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), pain syndromes such as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS, also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), and addiction.
  • Are there any conditions that may make ketamine dangerous or ineffective?
    Uncontrolled blood pressure, unstable heart disease, untreated thyroid disease, active substance abuse, current manic phase of bipolar disorder, or active psychotic (hallucinations or delusions) symptoms.
  • What are the risks?
    The dose used for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders is very low and safe. For a few minutes during the infusion itself, blood pressure and heart rate may increase. This is monitored to ensure safety.
  • Do I have to stop my other medications?
    There are very few medicines that can not be taken in combination with ketamine. For treatment planning purposes, please contact us with any questions regarding interactions between your current medications and ketamine.
  • What is it like to have a ketamine infusion?
    The medicine is given very slowly over 40 minutes. The first 15-20 minutes are uneventful with no noticeable effects. At around the 20 minute mark, people tend to notice some blurring of vision or double vision, a feeling of “lightness”, “floating”, or intoxication, and sometimes some numbness in the toes or area around the mouth. Over the course of this 20 minute period, these feelings tend to build, so that the medicine is at the peak of its intensity at the very end. Other common feelings include euphoria, talkativeness, a feeling of being “disconnected” or in a dream, heightened perceptions (background noise may seem louder, colors or lights are more intense), and a feeling that people often describe as “weird, odd, different, or interesting”. Most people can expect to be with us for about 90 minutes from the time you walk in the door to when you leave, with no side effects at that point and none between treatments.
  • Will I be awake?
    Yes. Ketamine will not put you to sleep. If you are already sleepy and are feeling very calm and relaxed during the treatment, you might drift off for a short nap. People are able to move freely during the treatment.
  • What should I do during the infusion?
    Many find it helpful and relaxing to listen to music and to wear an eyeshade or sunglasses. It can be difficult to carry on a conversation during the procedure, so you are encouraged to sit back and relax and pay attention to what you are feeling. Expectations coming in to the treatment do affect the experience, so it is helpful to decide ahead of time that you will be safe, will feel “weird” for a little while, and that is ok, because that will quickly pass and you will be left feeling much better.​
  • How do I know if it worked/what should I expect?
    You will fill out depression and anxiety scales prior to the first treatment and approximately 24 hours later. This will help determine response. It is possible to notice effects as soon as 40 min after the infusion, most typically starting 2-4 hours later, but sometimes taking up to 24 hours. You should not expect to wake up feeling “perfect and overjoyed”, but rather there should be a noticeable difference in feeling more hopeful, less sad, decreased thoughts of suicide, increased calmness, “weight” of depression lifted, or more inclined to engage with people. Further improvements are often seen over the course of treatment.
  • How do I maximize the benefits?
    It is common to get advice when depressed that makes sense intellectually, but is impossible to follow through on because of the depressive symptoms. This includes things like, “eat well, exercise, engage in talk therapy, find social support, stay busy, etc”. Ketamine rapidly enables you to be able to act on these important activities, and those who have the best results support the medicine’s effect in these ways. In addition, ketamine likely “primes” the brain for learning and making new connections. Talk therapy can be an ideal way to “lock in” therapeutic learning and capitalize on this unique window of time.
  • How long will the results last?
    A single infusion typically lasts anywhere from a couple of days up to 1-2 weeks. A series of 6 infusions may last anywhere from weeks to months, and often a single booster infusion when effects are wearing off can restore response. For those who have not had long-standing chronic depression, it may last much longer than that.
  • What is the usual course of treatment?
    Typically, it will take just 1 or 2 infusions to know if ketamine will help you. If you are having positive results, it is recommended to have 6 total infusions within the first 2-3 weeks. After that, maintenance (booster) infusions may be scheduled to maintain response. The total length of treatment is highly dependent on each individual’s unique circumstances.
  • Do I continue with my current psychiatrist, therapist, or primary care physician?
    Yes. Physicians at Freedom Ketamine Infusion Centers are providing a treatment that should be used in conjunction with traditional psychotherapy. In some cases, patients may choose to see one of our doctors in his/her private practice. But in most cases, people will continue with either their primary psychiatrist or primary care doctor, and are highly encouraged to either begin or continue talking with a therapist.
  • How does ketamine compare to alternatives?
    Typical antidepressants take weeks to months to work. There are many to choose from and no reliable way at this point to know which we will be effective and well-tolerated. Therefore, one may wait weeks and find that the medicine does not even work. These medications have common side effects of weight gain, sexual dysfunction, gastrointestinal disturbances, sleep disturbance, fatigue, and emotional blunting. Some newer “add-on” antidepressants also have risks of causing diabetes. Unfortunately not everyone will respond to ketamine, but you will know that almost immediately and not have to waste time or money unnecessarily. Side effects are limited to the time of the infusion, with no side effects in between. In this way, outside of the infusion time, you are not “medicated”.
  • What are the success rates?
    Approximately 70% of people respond to ketamine infusions.
  • Is it more expensive than taking an oral medication?
    An infusion of ketamine is more expensive than a typical doctor’s visit and medication copay. However, when also considering the financial toll of ongoing depression symptoms affecting work and social function, as well as multiple office visits and ongoing medication costs, quickly being restored to life by ketamine is an excellent value.
  • Do you accept insurance?
    We do not accept insurance from any carriers.
  • What does an infusion cost?
    Treatment Resistant Depression/Anxiety/PTSD/OCD/Bipolar costs $450 Chronic Pain Infusion/CRPS HYBRID Infusion costs $1200-1500 Chronic Pain Infusion/CRPS FULL Infusion costs $2200-2500 Intranasal Ketamine in Conjunction with IV Ketamine Infusion costs $300 per perscription (Plus a 4% surcharge for credit card transactions)
  • What is ketamine infusion used for?
    We do ketamine infusions for chronic pain, treatment resistant depression, anxiety, PTSD and other mood disorders.
  • How many infusions are needed?
    Typically we do 6 infusions in about a two-three week period. Which we term the treatment or ramp up period. At which 1-4 months later you might need an additional “interval” IV infusion (single infusion). It’s hard to tell what interval a patient needs the booster, it varies per patient and we typically let the patient dictate when they think they may require the interval infusion.
  • Where are your offices located?
    We have six offices located throughout the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area, including: Virginia: Reston, Vienna, and Marshall Maryland: Bethesda, Rockville, and Columbia
  • When is your office open?
    We accept appointments Monday - Friday, but an appointment must be scheduled beforehand by chatting with us here or calling our office at (301) 235-9022.
  • What appointment instructions can we provide for you?
    The infusion itself takes about 40 minutes, then a 10-20 minute recovery time.
  • How should I prepare?
    On day of infusion you need to not eat anything for 6 hours, hydrate well to help with IV placement and bring a driver with you (you cannot and will not be able to drive home).
  • What are the side effects of ketamine infusion therapy?
    Side effects are rare and generally mild. The most commonly reported side-effects include: feeling dizzy or like you are floating (or generally in a dissociative state), nausea, or an increased heart rate. Studies show that if side effects occur, they are short-lived and mild. Throughout infusions and for a short period afterward, patients are monitored by our licensed and trained medical staff to ensure optimal health and safety.
Side Effects
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