Ketamine Infusion Therapy is one of the newest and most effective ways to provide relief for individuals with anxiety and/or depression. Ketamine, once recognized as a party drug, is working to fix its stigmatized reputation. Emerging research largely supports Ketamine Therapy as a highly promising solution for patients suffering from anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. When compared to other depression treatments, including traditional antidepressant medications and other alternative depression treatments, Ketamine Therapy works faster, is more effective, and has no long-term side effects.
It’s natural to be curious about the Ketamine Infusion experience. While many patients are eager to be included as part of the 83% success rate, some are nervous about the intravenous (IV) route of administration and the sensations they’ll feel during and after treatment. However, it’s important to remember that you’re in good hands at Ketamine Clinics Los Angeles (KCLA).
KCLA has helped over 1,500 people suffering from anxiety and mood disorders, performing over 10,000 infusions to date. We closely monitor patients during their infusions and follow up with regular check-ins after their treatment sessions. Based on our own clients’ typical feedback, here is what you can expect to feel during treatment.
Before the Ketamine Infusion
A member from our medical team will help you get comfortable in your own private room where you will find a recliner with blankets and pillows awaiting you. The lights will be dimmed, and you will have access to our soft eye masks and premium noise-canceling headphones that play calming, instrumental music to encourage relaxation.
A medical provider will connect you to a number of monitors to track your blood pressure, oxygen, pulse, EKG, and more. They will then locate a suitable vein on your arm, wrist, or hand and insert a tiny needle with a tube right under the skin’s surface. Many patients report this process as painless. The most you should feel is a quick prick, but once inserted, you shouldn’t feel any pain. The thin, soft tube is left in place and the needle does not remain in your arm or hand.
During the Ketamine Infusion
Ketamine reaches your brain in seconds, so its effects come on quickly. The response that our patients have to a ketamine infusion are typically grouped into three categories:
- “I don’t feel much different.” – Some patients do not feel anything out of the ordinary during treatment. They may feel a sensation of wellbeing or relaxation, but no other obvious effects.
- “That was a pleasant and serene experience.” – The majority of our patients find ketamine infusion comparable to drinking a few glasses of wine. You may feel slightly tipsy, uninhibited, and relaxed. In this calming state, you may have heightened sensitivity to colors and sounds. Your mind might reflect on past or current anxieties in a surprisingly calm and practical way. You may feel as though you are watching yourself have the experience.
- “That was strange.” – Confining a fully engaged mind in an overly relaxed body might feel strange. Many patients have some level of dissociation where they lose awareness of their body or have an out of body experience. Usually, this is not unpleasant in any way, but can be startling to some patients. If dissociation is at all bothersome, your care team can quickly lower the dose, provide additional calming medicine, or stop the infusion altogether. The effects of any of these adjustments can be felt within minutes, so you don’t have to worry about being “stuck” in any one state for too long.
Unlike many conventional antidepressant treatments, the short-term side effects of Ketamine Therapy are minimal and only last a brief time. Your care team will monitor you for comfort and efficacy during treatment to see how you are responding to the infusion. In some cases, feelings of nausea occur, particularly in people who suffer from motion sickness. This is almost always managed with an antiemetic given before, during, and/or after your infusion. Another common side effect is fatigue. These short-term side effects typically wear off gradually over several hours and are completely gone after a full night of rest. There are no known long-term side effects for ketamine treatment when used in a clinical setting.
After the Ketamine Infusion
Once the infusion is complete, the effects of ketamine wear off very quickly. Patients tend to feel much like themselves within 15 to 30 minutes of the completion of their infusion.
While any effects you feel may seem to wear off shortly after an infusion, it is important that you take it easy for the remainder of the day. We advise you not to return to work or school, operate any heavy machinery, sign legal agreements, drive, or engage in any other high-stress activities the day of your infusion. You’ll need someone to drive you home afterwards, so make arrangements with a family member, friend, or car service like Uber or Lyft.
Progress may be subtle, gradual, or intermittent over several days or weeks. For those who notice immediate improvement, symptoms of depression often begin to dissipate within one hour of their first infusion. Patients with thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation often notice those thoughts and feelings are the first to go away and often disappear completely. There is often a dramatic relief of dread and hopelessness.
It is more common for patients to see gradual, subtle improvement that increases over time than dramatic, rapid improvement in hours. In some cases, function improves before mood does. Most patients see some improvement by the day after their third infusion. Other patients may not notice any improvement in mood until several days or weeks after they have completed a full course of treatment, a series of 5-6 infusions.
Patient testimonials report breaking free from negative thought and behavior cycles and the ability to stay productive throughout the day. Patients also report handling everyday activities and challenges that once seemed unbearable with ease. Overall, patients feel more energized, focused, and better able to experience pleasure. Food tastes better, music sounds better, and social interaction is easier and more enjoyable, among other things.
One positive side effect of Ketamine Therapy is that it often enhances the impact of antidepressants, talk therapy, and other modalities like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). Once the first series of infusions restores the brain to a healthy balance and function, providing initial relief, it is easier to sustain with healthy lifestyle changes and the other therapies we recommend as part of our Aftercare Program to support your ongoing recovery.
Will I Feel the Same Way Each Time?
Ketamine affects everyone differently and your experience will almost surely differ from one session to the next. Sometimes a blissful infusion is followed by a difficult one where memories or other thoughts can be confronting. Sometimes an initial infusion is strange and off-putting and a 2nd infusion is fascinating and comfortable. Preparing for treatment by researching, asking questions, and going in with a calm, positive mindset will help your chances of having a smooth experience. The work you do between treatments, such as following our Aftercare Guide, will positively influence your experiences and help you to achieve even greater therapeutic benefits. Like with anything, a willingness to be open to the experience as it is without concrete expectations will likely yield a positive outcome.