Updated: Dec 30, 2022
When patients visit our offices for life-changing ketamine infusion therapy, they often have a list of common concerns they’ve heard from friends or family about the nature and use of ketamine for treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, or chronic pain. To help dispel some of the misinformation about the treatments we provide, our Board-Certified Physicians joined us for a Q&A addressing the myths about ketamine therapy.
Meet Dr. Aubrey Verdun and Dr. Edward Park, the Physicians behind our four offices in Rockville/Bethesda Maryland, and Reston/Vienna Virginia, respectively. Dr. Verdun and Dr. Park bring a combined over thirty years of experience in medicine, and have glowing five-star reviews on our Rockville and Reston google pages.
First off, let’s address the sentiment that ketamine is a party drug. What’s the deal behind that reputation?
Dr. Verdun and Dr. Park: The drug originated as an anesthetic in the late sixties and early seventies, and has since developed a reputation for illicit use, popularly going by the name “K” or “Special K.” However that illegal use has no bearing on the clinical use we provide it for in our offices. Ketamine was FDA-Approved well before it developed a reputation for partying, is on the World Health Organization’s list of “Essential Medicines,” and continues to be researched around the world for its numerous medical applications.
Infusion therapy in our office is completely legal, Physician-supervised, and has tremendous effects for the mental health of our patients around the DMV.
Next, many people say ketamine is meant for veterinarians, and is a ‘horse tranquilizer.’ What do you say to patients who bring that up in consultations?
Dr. Verdun and Dr. Park: This one is common and technically correct! While it was not originally developed for use in animals and livestock, its anesthetic properties have been used on humans and animals alike for decades. Ketamine has a really safe history, which is why it helps vets and physicians alike. But in our offices, only humans are eligible for infusion therapy for depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and so on.
Some patients ask if ketamine has the potential to be addictive. What does the research say on that?
Dr. Verdun and Dr. Park: This goes back to the myth that ketamine is a party drug. When used recreationally, there may be potential for addiction with the drug. But when infused via IV under physician care, there is no risk of addiction for this drug.
Numerous studies and our clinical experience has shown that in very low doses and when used in a medical setting, like with this treatment, there is virtually no potential for addiction or abuse.
What do you say to patients who are nervous of having a psychedelic trip during an infusion?
Dr. Verdun and Dr. Park: This is a bit complicated to answer, but ketamine is regarded in many circles as a psychedelic drug, although many medical communities disagree on just how to classify it. When people think of psychedelics, they are likely thinking of the psilocybin in mushrooms or the effects of LSD, for example.
While many people who struggle with mental health issues do self-report improvement of their symptoms in the use of psychedelics, our infusion therapy isn’t set up quite the same way as a mushroom shaman’s office might be. Our infusions are physician-guided after extensive review of patient records, and are carefully and slowly administered over about forty minutes. The medicine is FDA-approved and provided legally under our care.
Those nervous about experiencing psychedelic symptoms are asking fair questions - the experience is different for every patient. The medicine is delivered in such small doses and so slowly, however, that most people simply feel a bit dissociative or sleepy. Some patients report feeling like they are floating. We ask that you bring a loved one to help drive you home after the procedure, and they are welcome to sit with you during your infusion. Having a friendly face is usually helpful for those worried about ‘a trip,’ and we provide a blanket, music, and a safe atmosphere to experience the process. If you share these concerns, be sure to talk through these questions and concerns with us prior to your first infusion.
Another common myth we’ve heard is that you can’t do ketamine infusion therapy while on antidepressants or SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). Is that true?
Dr. Verdun and Dr. Park: Ketamine actually travels through different pathways in the brain than SSRIs, it works in the NMDA receptor through our brain’s glutamate system. This means that ketamine can safely be combined with SSRIs. In fact, we recommend that our patients continue their normal courses of treatment (medication, talk therapy, and so on), in addition to infusion therapy. We always review full patient records before deciding whether patients are a fit for infusion therapy, and we will thoroughly review risks and side effect potentials with any prospective patients.
Overall, no concern in combining ketamine infusion therapy with antidepressants.
If you’re interested in learning more about ketamine infusion therapy, book a consultation with one of our physicians today. Freedom Ketamine Treatment Centers has four offices in Maryland and Virginia, and we also offer mobile infusion therapy and flexible appointment scheduling across the DMV. Call our office today to get started.
The photo in this article is owned by Mark Williams.