It’s possible, assuming you’ve paid the occasional attention to the rise of psychedelic-assisted therapy over the past couple of years, that you’re a bit confused by the sudden ubiquity of ketamine treatment. How does your neighbor’s kindergarten teacher suddenly have easy access to a hallucinogenic dance floor? Why are colorful ketamine clinics with catchy names now popping up in your city — and in your Instagram ads?
Well, while drugs like MDMA and psilocybin continue to seek FDA approval for the next few years, ketamine actually earned the accolade more than 50 years ago. It was originally licensed for medical use as an anesthetic. The compound rose to prominence during the Vietnam War, where battlefield doctors relied on ketamine to reduce heart and respiratory rates in patients and keep them under pressure during excruciating surgery.
It was long considered a safe and highly effective anesthetic, until about the last 20 years when clinicians also began noting the drug’s antidepressant properties.
Traditional antidepressants are a very imperfect “solution” to a mental health crisis that has only grown since the pandemic began two years ago. At most, an estimated 65% of people find relief with antidepressants, but many have to wait months for their pills to start working, and even then they come with a dizzying array of side effects. : indigestion, headache, restlessness. , insomnia, decreased libido, etc.
At sub-anesthetic doses, however, ketamine has proven to be a valid alternative to the more commonly prescribed SSRIs. Generally, the anti-anxiety powers of antidepressants only last as long as those antidepressants are active in your system. But ketamine works differently – as Dr. John Krystal of Yale Medicine explains: “When you take ketamine, it triggers reactions in your cortex that allow brain connections to regenerate. It is the reaction to ketamine, not the presence of ketamine in the body, that constitutes its effects.
It all comes down to the idea of ”neuroplasticity,” which is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself and make new connections, which, in turn, can create new behaviors and dramatically improve the perception of past traumas or days to come. to come. Basically: At its best, ketamine gives the brain a kind of rewiring session.
That said, that doesn’t mean ketamine is a particularly pleasant experience. In a recent Freethink profile from Mindbloom, a startup specializing in prescription ketamine, a patient attempted to put her therapy into words. “[It] feels like you’re entering a place, internally, that you can’t necessarily access all the time. Contrary to the prejudices of society’s non-psychedelics — those who inherited a Nixon-era disdain for drugs of all kinds — this isn’t a groovy trip disguised as an experimental cure. It’s hard work, forcing patients to directly question personal oceans of trauma and doubt.
The intensity of these sessions has facilitated the growth of clinics such as Field Trip Health, which now has 12 locations across North America and Europe, where patients can receive expert and available assistance from professionals. But don’t be surprised, as more labs like Mindbloom spring up (and more come in a few years, singing the praises of MDMA and psilocybin for therapy), if prescribed, at-home psychedelics are becoming household names.
Industry disruptors appreciate their hyperbole – one Mindbloom employee said of ketamine: ‘It’s like trying to explain the cosmos by just looking at the stars’ – but at the end of the day it takes dreamers to shake up this space. Antidepressants bring in $30 billion every year. It will take more than open minds to pave the way for new solutions to the mental health crisis.
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