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A New Horizon in Suicide Prevention: Ketamine-Assisted Therapy for Suicidality

Suicide prevention remains an ongoing challenge, with conventional treatment options falling short.

In this article, we delve into the potential of ketamine combined with psychotherapy as a novel approach, illuminating its unique advantages in reducing suicidal thoughts and behavior.

Suicide as a ‘silent epidemic’

Every year, more than 700,000 people take their lives and many more seriously consider doing so. Teenagers and young adults, particularly those identifying as LGBTQ+, are especially at risk.

Yet despite the alarming statistics, the topic of suicide is often overlooked, earning its label as a ‘silent epidemic’.

What are the existing options?

When it comes to suicide prevention, early and effective interventions are critical for a life-saving approach.

Current treatment options include one or a combination of:

While medications are often prescribed, they come with their own set of challenges.

When Standard Medications Fall Short

Standard medicines often help reduce suicidality, but other factors limit their overall efficacy.

They take too long 

Most standard medications, like SSRIs and lithium, take weeks before a patient experiences any beneficial changes. This presents a challenge in the context of suicide prevention, where timely interventions are crucial.

For people grappling with severe distress, waiting for relief can exacerbate feelings of hopelessness, intensifying the urgency for more immediate solutions.

Troubling side-effects 

Another worry is unwanted side effects. SSRIs and lithium commonly lead to a variety of unwanted changes, like nausea, vomiting, weight gain, and diminished sexual desire/function. This complicates treatment adherence as patients may find that the medication’s benefits don’t outweigh its downsides.

Withdrawals

A third problem is debilitating withdrawal symptoms. Abruptly stopping SSRIs and lithium can cause a number of cognitive and emotional changes, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, and suicidality.

The dilemma is clear: while medications can offer relief, their discontinuation can also, paradoxically, amplify the very risks they aim to treat.

Given these limitations, what sets ketamine apart?

Ketamine as a Promising Alternative

In recent years, ketamine has been recognized as a general treatment for mental health conditions. This includes treating suicidality, which is effective in reducing the intensity and frequency of suicidal thoughts and behavior. 

Because ketamine offers some unique advantages over other existing medicines, it is considered an attractive alternative.

Fast-acting changes

Ketamine has the ability to provide rapid relief. Patients can experience decreases in suicidal ideation within 24 hours of ketamine treatment, with some studies showing beneficial effects as soon as 40 minutes.

This contrasts with the delayed action of standard treatments, underscoring ketamine’s potential in situations of psychiatric emergency. 

Lasting benefits

Another advantage of ketamine treatment is its sustained efficacy. Unlike standard medications, ketamine treatment can provide robust and prolonged therapeutic benefits after just a single dose.

Patients have reported reductions in suicidal thoughts and an uplifted mood that lasts between three days and up to a week. These enduring benefits make ketamine not only a short-term crisis intervention tool but also a promising option in ongoing suicide prevention efforts.

Ketamine and the Brain: How Does Ketamine Reduce Suicidality?

The exact mechanism underlying ketamine’s effects is not fully known, but scientists suspect that it may have something to do with glutamate.

Glutamate is our brain’s main excitatory neurotransmitter. It enhances brain immunity and helps us learn and remember things. However, too much of it can lead to mood swings and depressive symptoms.

Let’s delve deeper into this mechanism.

NMDA receptors and the role of glutamate

Ketamine acts by blocking N-methyl-D aspartate (NMDA) receptors, which play a major role in regulating glutamate.

In people experiencing suicidal feelings, the normal flow of glutamate signaling may be disrupted. Ketamine is thought to contribute to mood stabilization by restoring this balance.

Tapping into the brain’s immune response

Another key insight into how ketamine works might be through glutamate’s role in the brain’s inflammatory processes.

People with suicidal behavior show elevated inflammation markers, which correlate with increased glutamate signaling. This has led researchers to speculate that ketamine’s therapeutic potential comes from its anti-inflammatory properties, which are driven by its inhibiting action on NMDA receptors.

Some of the relief patients experience after using ketamine could be attributed to these processes.

Combining Ketamine with Therapeutic Support

Ketamine offers some clear benefits, but coupling it with psychological guidance can provide a more comprehensive approach to mental health.

The importance of professional support and care

When it comes to improving mental well-being, combining medication with psychotherapy is consistently better than medication alone. This is no different with ketamine, as the inclusion of therapeutic support (‘ketamine-assisted therapy’) is an especially effective approach for addressing psychological health problems. 

Beyond its neurological effects, ketamine’s unique property of inducing transformative states of consciousness can help soothe the deep-seated emotional distress in patients.

A well-rounded approach with both ketamine and therapeutic guidance ensures that patients not only find relief from their symptoms but also acquire tools and insights to navigate future challenges.

A Case Study Demonstrating Usefulness

How does this combined approach play out in real-life scenarios?

A recent case study illustrates the usefulness of ketamine-assisted therapy in suicide prevention. It describes a 37-year-old man in crisis, reporting severe depression, anhedonia, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. He had tried a number of treatment options and felt increasingly hopeless about his situation. 

The combination of ketamine infusions and meaning-centered therapy was carried out as an alternative. Across the therapy, the patient became more and more able to talk about difficult topics, and experienced “increasing feelings of hope, empathy, and love.” By the end, his suicide risk had dropped from a 4 to a 1 (out of a maximum of 5), alongside other significant improvements in mental health.

In a three-month follow-up, the man reported improved quality of life and mental well-being. He also no longer expressed a desire to take his own life.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

The case study above highlights ketamine-assisted therapy’s potential when other methods fail. However, like all treatments, it has its own risks and considerations.

  • Possible side effects: Ketamine can lead to side effects, although these almost always fade following the treatment session. The short-term side effects can range from dizziness and nausea to hallucinations and alterations in thoughts and emotions. 
  • Varied treatment response: People react differently to ketamine. Some might feel significant relief, while others may notice only slight mood alterations. Similarly, some can find the dissociative influence of ketamine therapeutic, whereas others might find it unsettling.
  • Dependence and misuse: There’s a potential of becoming reliant on ketamine, especially if not used under medical supervision. This risk is heightened for individuals with a history of substance abuse.

Ketamine-Assisted Therapy for Suicidality

Navigating the depths of suicidal distress requires compassion and innovative solutions. 

While ketamine is not completely without risks, its transformative effects, especially when combined with psychotherapy, offer a hopeful alternative for people looking beyond standard methods. Give us a call today to learn more about ketamine-assisted therapy for suicidal ideation and how the therapists at the Psychedelica Collective can help you or a loved one.

References

1. WHO (2023). Suicide.

2. Park-Lee, E., Hedden, S. L., & Lipari, R. N. (2018). Suicidal thoughts and behavior in 33 Metropolitan Statistical Areas update: 2013 to 2015

3. Kashmir Observer (2023. Suicide: the silent epidemic.

4. Stanley, B. et al. (2009). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for suicide prevention (CBT-SP): treatment model, feasibility, and acceptability. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 48(10), 1005-1013.

5. Palmer, E. G., Sornalingam, S., Page, L., & Cooper, M. (2023). Withdrawing from SSRI antidepressants: advice for primary care. British Journal of General Practice, 73(728), 138-140.

6. Walsh, Z. et al. (2022). Ketamine for the treatment of mental health and substance use disorders: comprehensive systematic review. BJPsych Open, 8(1), e19.

7. Reinstatler, L., & Youssef, N. A. (2015). Ketamine as a potential treatment for suicidal ideation: a systematic review of the literature. Drugs in R&d, 15, 37-43. 

8. Wilkinson, S. T. et al. (2018). The effect of a single dose of intravenous ketamine on suicidal ideation: a systematic review and individual participant data meta-analysis. American journal of psychiatry, 175(2), 150-158.

9. Bernstein, H. G. et al. (2013). Disruption of glutamate-glutamine-GABA cycle significantly impacts on suicidal behaviour: survey of the literature and own findings on glutamine synthetase. CNS & Neurological Disorders-Drug Targets, 12(7), 900-913.

10. Serafini, G. et al. (2020). A specific inflammatory profile underlying suicide risk? Systematic review of the main literature findings. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(7), 2393.

11. Kavalali, E. T., & Monteggia, L. M. (2015). How does ketamine elicit a rapid antidepressant response?. Current opinion in pharmacology, 20, 35-39.

12. Cuijpers, P., Sijbrandij, M., Koole, S. L., Andersson, G., Beekman, A. T., & Reynolds III, C. F. (2014). Adding psychotherapy to antidepressant medication in depression and anxiety disorders: a meta-analysis. Focus, 12(3), 347-358. 

13. Forcén, F. E., Marengo, L., & Behn, M. (2023). Ketamine-assisted meaning-centered psychotherapy for a patient with severe suicidal behavior. Palliative & Supportive Care, 21(2), 362-364.

MDMA for PTSD: A New Horizon in Mental Health Treatment

A groundbreaking study unveils the transformative power of MDMA-assisted therapy (MDMA-AT) for individuals battling with moderate to severe posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), marking a significant stride in mental health treatment. This research, notable for its inclusion of a diverse ethnoracial participant base, underscores the safety and effectiveness of MDMA in alleviating the debilitating symptoms of PTSD.

The study reveals a glaring gap in the effectiveness of traditional trauma-focused psychotherapies and SSRIs, with up to 47% of PTSD patients remaining unresponsive. MDMA-AT emerges as a beacon of hope, promoting prosocial feelings and mitigating emotional challenges, enhancing the overall impact of psychotherapy.

The confirmatory phase 3 trial, MAPP2, involved 104 PTSD patients, offering compelling evidence of the substantial reduction in PTSD symptom severity and functional impairment among those treated with MDMA-AT. A remarkable 86.5% of participants experienced clinically meaningful benefits, with 71.2% no longer meeting the PTSD criteria by the study’s conclusion.

MDMA-AT’s safety profile is underscored by the transient and mild to moderate severity of treatment-emergent adverse events, with no increased risk of suicidal ideation or reports of MDMA abuse or dependence. This study illuminates MDMA-AT as a promising alternative, heralding a new era of enhanced, inclusive, and effective PTSD treatment, and positioning “MDMA for PTSD” at the forefront of psychiatric innovation.

Link to the original article from MDedge.

The Renaissance of Psychedelic Therapy: A Beacon of Hope for Trauma Survivors

In a world where the rigidity of the adult mind often stands as a barrier to healing from trauma, a resurgence in psychedelic research heralds a new frontier of hope and possibilities. Pioneering studies led by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, including the esteemed neuroscientist Gul Dolen, are unearthing the remarkable potential of psychedelics to “reopen” critical periods in the brain, allowing it to once again embrace new information and foster healing.

This innovative exploration into psychedelics for trauma reveals not only a promising tool to alleviate suffering stemming from abuse and violence but unveils a broader spectrum of potential therapeutic applications, encompassing recovery from physical ailments such as stroke and hearing loss. By facilitating a state of heightened malleability within the brain, psychedelics might offer individuals grappling with debilitating traumas a golden key to unlock newfound pathways to recovery, healing, and growth, albeit under carefully guided and structured therapeutic environments.

With global movements inching towards the decriminalization and medical endorsement of psychedelics, we stand at the cusp of a transformative era in mental health treatment. In this wave of change, psychedelics are not only reshaping our understanding of the brain’s plasticity but beckon a hopeful future where recovery is not just a possibility but a reality nurtured through scientific innovation and empathetic understanding.

Ready to embark on a transformative journey towards healing and rejuvenation? At the Psychedelica Collective in Los Angeles, we’re at the forefront of leveraging the pioneering research on psychedelics for trauma recovery. Our specialized ketamine-assisted therapy sessions are designed to unlock new pathways to mental wellness, helping you navigate life’s challenges with renewed hope and resilience. Discover a sanctuary where innovative therapy meets compassionate care. Contact us today to schedule your free personalized consultation.

Link to full article in Nature.

Unlocking Psilocybin’s Potential: A New Frontier in Anorexia Treatment

In a groundbreaking pilot study, scientists are paving a hopeful path for the utilization of psilocybin, a compound found in “magic mushrooms“, as a promising treatment avenue for adults grappling with anorexia nervosa, a severe condition currently lacking approved pharmacological interventions. In a pioneering trial led by Dr. Stephanie Knatz Peck and her team at the University of California San Diego, a single 25-mg dose of synthetic psilocybin coupled with psychological support emerged as a well-tolerated and potentially transformative intervention for women with anorexia.

Notably, the participants – all of whom met the DSM-5 criteria for anorexia nervosa or were in partial remission – experienced a substantial decrease in weight and shape concerns, with effects sustained up to three months post-treatment. While variations in the impact were observed, an overwhelming majority recounted a heightened sense of optimism and a positive shift in their personal identity and life perspective following the treatment, with many even ranking the experience among the most meaningful events of their lives.

Sponsored by Compass Pathways, which also furnished the synthetic psilocybin formulation COMP360, the study signifies a thrilling stride in the burgeoning field of psychedelic therapy, which is concurrently being explored for its efficacy in treating conditions like treatment-resistant depression and PTSD.

Despite the small sample size and absence of a control group marking the study’s limitations, the promising results have propelled the launch of a more extensive Phase II trial. As researchers stand on the cusp of potentially revolutionizing anorexia treatment, the community holds its breath for a therapeutic approach that might finally bring enduring relief to those afflicted by this grave disorder, underscoring the vital need for innovative strategies to enhance treatment engagement and outcomes in the battle against anorexia.

The promising results emerging from the study of psilocybin therapy for anorexia nervosa point to a burgeoning paradigm shift in psychiatric treatment methodologies. The study, helmed by Dr. Stephanie Knatz Peck, parallels a wider movement in psychiatric research, which is progressively exploring the therapeutic potentials of substances previously classified strictly within a recreational or illicit framework.

Similarly, oral ketamine, another compound with a history of recreational use, has been ushered into the limelight as a potential game-changer in the treatment of various psychiatric disorders, including anorexia.

As we stand on the threshold of what seems to be a new era in psychiatric treatment, it becomes increasingly evident that the potential applications of substances like psilocybin and ketamine are far-reaching. Both compounds have demonstrated a capacity to foster profound shifts in perception, identity, and overall quality of life in individuals grappling with complex psychiatric disorders, including anorexia nervosa.

Moreover, the combination of these substances with psychological support seems to amplify their therapeutic potential, nurturing deeper levels of healing and insight. This hints at the possibility of integrated treatment protocols in the near future that could revolutionize the management and potential recovery pathways for individuals with anorexia and other psychiatric conditions.

With continued research and a commitment to exploring innovative treatment avenues, we might be witnessing the dawn of a new epoch in psychiatry. One where previously stigmatized substances are re-evaluated and potentially re-purposed to craft more nuanced, holistic, and profoundly transformative therapeutic experiences, possibly opening doors to recovery avenues hitherto untraveled, and shedding new light on the complex landscape of human psychology and wellbeing.

Call us today to learn more about your treatment options for anorexia nervosa in Los Angeles. Our experienced therapists will walk you through our ketamine-assisted psychotherapy protocols to build you a personalized treatment plan. Get started on your journey to mental wellbeing today.

Link to the full article

California Moves Closer to Legalizing Certain Psychedelic Drugs with Senate Bill 58

California’s State Assembly has greenlighted Senate Bill 58, a pioneering legislation aiming to legalize the personal possession and use of select natural psychedelic substances for adults aged 21 and above. The bill, championed by San Francisco Democrat Scott Wiener, has undergone revisions in the Assembly following its approval by the Senate earlier this year.

The current version of the bill permits the possession and cultivation of restricted quantities of psilocybin, psilocin, mescaline, and dimethyltryptamine (DMT) – compounds found naturally in certain plants and fungi known for their potential therapeutic benefits in treating mental health disorders like depression and PTSD. Advocates emphasize the significant promise these substances hold in alleviating the nation’s mounting mental health crisis, noting their non-addictive nature and capacity for healing.

The legislation mandates the establishment of a working group under the California Health and Human Services Agency to study the implications of psychedelic use, focusing on safety, efficacy in treating various mental health conditions, and the development of a regulated framework for therapeutic applications. This step signals a progressive move towards recognizing the potential benefits of psychedelics in treating an array of serious mental health conditions, as substantiated by numerous studies and clinical trials.

Senate Bill 58 has garnered substantial support, particularly among mental health clinicians and those struggling with mental health issues who have tried conventional therapies with no success, who see this as a hopeful avenue to access these promising plant-based medicines without criminal repercussions. The bill, which has faced amendments including the establishment of possession limits and the exclusion of synthetic psychedelics like LSD and MDMA, is slated to return to the Senate for approval of the changes before moving to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk for final endorsement.

The potential passage of this revolutionary bill could signify a watershed moment for psychedelic-assisted therapy clinics in California. As the bill directs the establishment of a structured group to conduct comprehensive studies and propose regulatory frameworks, it could pave the way for clinics to operate within a clearer, legally sanctioned environment. Furthermore, the clinics might witness a surge in demand as individuals seek individual and group therapy options that incorporate these newly legalized substances.

By potentially fostering collaborations with biopharmaceutical entities researching psychedelic compounds, these clinics could become frontiers of innovation, offering advanced, evidence-based treatment modalities for individuals grappling with persistent mental health conditions, thus marking a revolutionary shift in the landscape of mental health care in the state.

The Psychedelica Collective in Beverly Hills is at the forefront of this revolution, offering individual and group ketamine-assisted psychotherapy for those struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and a wide range of other mental health concerns. Call us today for a no-obligation consultation on whether ketamine-assisted therapy is right for you.

Link to full article on Forbes.

Conscious Dying: The Role of Ketamine For End of Life Distress

In the world of end-of-life care, the concept of conscious dying is gaining more and more attention.

What does this term mean? And how can ketamine-assisted therapy help bridge the gap between the principles of conscious dying and the current state of affairs?

Conscious Dying and Why it Matters for Terminally Ill Patients

Traditional approaches to end-of-life (EOL) experiences tend to focus on physical comfort.

However, when faced with death, many experience what is called existential distress. This refers to one’s angst due to a perceived loss of meaning.

Existential distress has been defined as:

  • Hopelessness
  • Feeling like a burden to others
  • Loss of sense of dignity
  • Desire for death
  • Loss of will to live
  • Threats to self-identity

Keeping this in mind, it becomes clear that focusing solely on physical comfort is not enough.

Recognizing the importance of psychological and emotional well-being in the final stages of life, conscious dying offers a holistic approach that goes beyond the physical.

The Role of Ketamine in End-of-Life Care

In line with traditional EOL approaches, ketamine’s role in palliative care initially focused on pain management. However, recent research has highlighted other potential.

Ketamine targets not just the body but also the mind. And thanks to its ability to induce altered states of consciousness and enhance emotional processing, it could alleviate the inner turmoil often experienced by terminally ill patients.

Understanding Conscious Dying: A Paradigm Shift

What does conscious dying mean?

Conscious dying is a framework rooted in a human caring ontology. It strives to embrace a patient’s journey toward death as an integral part of the circle of life.

When we think about the end of life, we usually think about physical pain. But conscious dying is different.

It is not only about the body but also the mind.

It is about how people feel inside — instead of just fixing physical pain, it looks at all the emotions someone might be dealing with.

It is also about helping people feel okay about facing death. Making them less fearful and more relaxed is just as important as stopping their pain.

Why feelings matter at the end of life

The mind and body can be seen as a two-way street — what goes on in your mind affects what happens in your body, and vice versa.

For example, studies have found that higher anxiety in patients is consistently related to increased pain perception and decreased pain tolerance.

Mental health is also known to have wide-ranging effects on the immune system.

Finally, a patient’s psychological state can influence how the disease progresses. For example, interventions that improve depressive symptoms have been related to longer survival times in cancer patients.

The intersection of Ketamine and Palliative Care

In palliative care, ketamine is a valuable asset in two important domains:

  • Managing physical pain
  • Easing emotional pain and existential distress

Managing pain with ketamine

Among the various challenges of terminal illness, pain often takes center stage. On average, about half of patients report significant pain, and many do not experience adequate pain relief.

Ketamine has been widely recognized for its analgesic (pain-relieving) properties, and it is considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an essential drug for pain management.

By blocking N-methyl-D aspartate (NMDA) receptors, ketamine inhibits the brain’s normal pain response and brings rapid and potent pain relief.

This is particularly useful for patients who are unresponsive to or have become tolerant of opioids.

Ketamine’s role in easing psychological and existential distress

Studies are currently being undertaken to explore ketamine’s efficacy in treating anxiety and death distress, but its usefulness has already been well documented in other areas.

Ketamine is most famously known to treat depression, where it can have rapid and lasting anti-depressant effects even after a single session.

Although less studied, it is also effective in treating a spectrum of treatment-resistant anxiety disorders.

Given the high prevalence of symptoms of anxiety and depression during a terminal illness, this is not unimportant. The shift towards emotional tranquility can greatly enhance the quality of the EOL experience and offers a more serene transition.

Bridging the Gap: A Case Study on Ketamine and Conscious Dying

Ketamine’s unique properties act as a bridge between the principles of conscious dying and the current reality of end-of-life care.

The following case study underscores the profound impact ketamine can have.

A 64-year-old cancer patient faced excruciating neck and nerve pain along with severe depression, even yearning for a hastened death. His wife claimed that “he is just not himself anymore.”

Hospitalized in California, the patient received continuous IV ketamine. Within hours, his pain reduced from 8/10 to 3/10, and the next day, it vanished completely. 

When he was reevaluated four days later, his mood had improved considerably. He was smiling and stated that he was feeling better. He no longer had suicidal ideation, and his wife thanked the hospital staff for “bringing him back.”

Following his discharge from the hospital, the therapy continued, culminating in a peaceful passing at home two weeks later.

Types of Ketamine Administration in End-of-Life Care

Comparing ketamine administration methods

Ketamine can be given through the veins (IV), under the tongue (sublingual), through the nose (nasal esketamine), or into the muscles (IM).

Each method has its pros and cons.

Finding the right fit can enhance the benefits. This depends on what the patient needs and feels most comfortable with.

Ketamine administration from the patients’ perspective

Understanding the patient’s viewpoint is pivotal when considering ketamine administration. Factors like ease, comfort, and practicality all play a big role.

Here is a brief overview of each method:

  • IV ketamine: Offers a quick onset of effect, which translates into rapid relief. However, it requires medical expertise, and the needle may cause discomfort or anxiety.
  • IM ketamine: IM injections are more straightforward than IV injections, but the fear of needles might still pose a challenge.
  • Sublingual ketamine: A less invasive option that still ensures relatively fast absorption. Yet, the tablet’s taste may be unpleasant, and keeping it under the tongue could be complicated for some patients.
  • Nasal ketamine: Quick, convenient, and non-invasive. It offers rapid effects and can be self-administered under medical supervision. However, nasal irritation might arise.

Practical Considerations and Potential Risks

When using ketamine in EOL care, there are some practicalities and potential risks that require extra attention.

Picking the right setting

The setting plays a crucial role in shaping the experience and outcomes. This refers to the environment in which ketamine is administered. Ideally, you want a setting that promotes tranquility, comfort, and a sense of security.

Providing adequate support

Emotional support is a cornerstone of conscious dying. The presence of caring healthcare professionals, family members, and friends, or trained support personnel contributes significantly to the patient’s well-being.

Risk awareness

Ketamine administration, like any medical intervention, presents certain risks. These could involve temporary confusion, disorientation, or even hallucinations. Ketamine’s dissociative effects might also influence a patient’s emotional state, potentially leading to distress. 

While the correct setting and support already go a long way, there are some additional steps that can be taken to mitigate potential risks:

  • Conduct patient assessments to identify those at risk of adverse effects.
  • Tailor dosing according to the patient’s condition and needs.
  • Ensure continuous monitoring during ketamine therapy.
  • Maintain open communication with the patient, their family, and the care team.

Ketamine-Assisted Therapy for End-of-Life in Los Angeles

Bringing together the ideas of conscious dying and the potential of ketamine, we see a future where the end of life can be more peaceful and dignified.

By addressing not only physical pain but also emotional and existential distress, this approach offers a more compassionate way to navigate life’s final journey.

The Psychedelica Collective offers ketamine-assisted group therapy sessions to help those who are terminally ill come to terms with the psychological and emotional challenges that present themselves in the fila stages of life. Call us today for a free consultation.

Types of Ketamine for Therapeutic Use

The mental health landscape is continuously evolving, with novel treatment methods to help individuals deal with various conditions. 

One such breakthrough has been the utilization of ketamine – a substance used to treat mental health issues that are difficult to overcome with traditional methods.

How Ketamine Affects The Brain

Ketamine is known to have a profound impact on glutamate, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for synaptic plasticity and neural communication. This property allows for a rapid and profound alteration in mood, perception, and cognition. 

With a heightened awareness and the ability to connect seemingly disconnected parts of the brain, patients can arrive at profound insights that may take weeks or months with regular mood stabilizers or antidepressants.

What Can Ketamine Treat?

Clinical studies show that ketamine can treat a range of mental health conditions, even in patients who have shown resistance to conventional methods.

While research is relatively small, there’s enough evidence suggesting that ketamine has the potential to alter the therapeutic landscape and how we view certain illnesses.

Here are a few conditions that have been treated with ketamine along with links to clinical trials supporting these cases.

Types Of Ketamine Administration

Ketamine can be administered in four different ways. 

  • Intravenous: This is the most common method and involves the controlled infusion of ketamine through an intravenous tube and directly into the bloodstream. 
  • Sublingual: A ketamine-infused tablet or liquid is placed under the tongue, which dissolves and subsequently enters the bloodstream.
  • Nasal Esketamine: This method uses a nasal spray containing esketamine, a derivative of ketamine, sprayed into the nostrils and absorbed through the nasal mucosa.
  • Intramuscular Injection: Ketamine is directly injected into the thigh or buttocks and gradually absorbed into the bloodstream.

The speed of onset, duration, intensity of the experience, and potential side effects vary depending on the method.

The Rationale Behind Different Routes Of Ketamine Administration

While the same substance is administered in each situation, there are nuances that can alter the efficacy and results of the therapeutic process. 

Let’s look at the different methods of administration, their pros and cons, and studies that show how they are being used.

IV Ketamine

The intravenous method involves ketamine being administered via controlled infusion directly into the patient’s bloodstream through a vein. 

This method ensures that the substance bypasses the digestive system, leading to a quicker onset of effects compared to other methods. 

Benefits   

  • Rapid Onset: The key benefit of the IV method is the immediate onset, often noticeable minutes after the infusion begins. This swift response quickly alleviates depression and other severe symptoms.
  • Precise Dosage: The dosage can be regulated and tailored according to the patient’s needs and responses, which can optimize the therapeutic outcome.
  • Clinically Monitored: IV infusions involve a healthcare professional who monitors the patient’s vital signs and mental state closely and makes adjustments when needed.
  • Established Efficacy: There are plenty of clinical trials substantiating the efficacy of IV ketamine in treating severe conditions like treatment-resistant depression and PTSD.

Drawbacks

  • Discomfort: The insertion process may be uncomfortable and even scary to patients with a fear of needles.
  • Intense Effects: The rapid onset through IV administration and the dissociative effects can be overwhelming for some people.
  • Medical Equipment: This method requires medical equipment for the infusion as well as monitoring the patient’s vital signs to make changes if needed. This can limit accessibility to regular sessions.

IV infusion continues to gain recognition as a viable form of treatment. And the rapid onset is a beacon of hope for those grappling with severe mental health conditions such as treatment-resistant depression.

Sublingual Ketamine 

Sublingual ketamine offers an alternative to the traditional intravenous approach, by combining convenience and rapidity of effects.

Here, patients place ketamine-infused tablets or liquids under their tongue and the medication is absorbed through the sublingual mucosa (mucous membrane) into the bloodstream.

Benefits

  • Quick Onset: While it’s not immediate, this method exhibits a faster onset of effects than oral ingestion. Combined with the ease of administration, it’s ideal for patients seeking quick relief.
  • Reduced Discomfort: There are no needles or medical equipment involved, making this a more comfortable way to ingest ketamine.
  • Home Administration: Studies show that sublingual ketamine can be administered at home in safe doses for a significant reduction in depressive symptoms. It is generally recommended that the administration of sublingual ketamine be supervised by a trained professional.

Drawbacks

  • Variability In Absorption: Factors like saliva production and mucosal health differ among individuals, which leads to varying levels of effectiveness among patients. 
  • Slower Onset: While it’s absorbed quickly, sublingual ketamine still takes longer to act than IV administration.
  • Dissociative Effects: Like IV, sublingual ketamine can cause dissociation.

Clinical studies show that sublingual ketamine has the potential to significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

While this treatment hasn’t been tested as extensively as IV, there is growing research to help us better understand how it works so we can discover its potential for therapy.

Nasal Esketamine

This approach utilizes a nasal spray to deliver esketamine such as Spravato, a derivative of ketamine. The difference isn’t just in the method of administration, but also in the substance being administered.

Esketamine is similar to ketamine, albeit with lesser dissociative effects. When the nasal spray is administered, esketamine is absorbed through the nasal mucosa and quickly enters the bloodstream.

Benefits

  • Ease of Use: It is non-invasive, reducing the discomfort associated with this form of treatment. Patients may even self-administer under medical supervision.
  • Mitigated Dissociative Effects: Esketamine is formulated to reduce the intensity of dissociative experiences. This makes the effects more tolerable for patients. 

Drawbacks

  • Frequency Of Treatment: The effects of nasal esketamine are short-lived and most patients require frequent sessions to maintain the therapeutic benefits.
  • Variability In Response: Like sublingual ketamine, nasal administration shows variability in response depending on the absorption rates of different individuals.
  • Requires Medical Supervision: Nasal esketamine is relatively newer than other forms of treatment. As such, it may still require the supervision of a medical professional.

While the efficacy of nasal esketamine in the long term requires further examination, studies show that it can alleviate symptoms of treatment-resistant depression. 

This study even labeled esketamine as a breakthrough treatment for depression and its associated symptoms.

Research continues to prove that esketamine is effective in treating mental health conditions, with great promise that this treatment will be integrated into the therapeutic landscape. 

Intramuscular Injection 

Intramuscular administration involves injecting ketamine solution into a muscle, usually the thigh or buttocks.

This method capitalizes on the gradual absorption of ketamine through the muscle tissue, leading to a sustained release into the bloodstream over an extended period.

Benefits

  • Longer Duration: Unlike other forms, intramuscular injections have a longer-lasting effect and provide extended relief, reducing the number of treatments required.
  • Greater Stability: The gradual release leads to a more sustained level of medication in the bloodstream, minimizing abrupt mood fluctuations.
  • Reduced Dissociation: While dissociation occurs, it is often mild due to the gradual release of ketamine, making the experience more comfortable. 

Drawbacks

  • Slower Onset: It takes longer to feel the effects of intramuscular ketamine as it must be absorbed from the muscle into the bloodstream.
  • Injection Required: While it’s not as invasive as an IV, there is still an injection involved, which may cause anxiety in some patients.
  • Professional Administration: Intramuscular injections are usually administered by healthcare professionals and require a clinical setting, or specialized training for outpatient administration.

While intramuscular injections take longer, the difference is only a few hours. 

This study found that intramuscular ketamine caused a significant reduction in depressive symptoms of two individuals diagnosed as highly depressed with suicidal ideation. 

The reduction in symptoms continued three days after the injection and dropped further when a second dose was administered.

Another study found that 0.25 mg/kg of intramuscular ketamine was as safe and effective as a higher dose of 0.5 mg/kg using the IV route. This proves that the IM method of administration is a powerful and promising method to reduce severe symptoms of depression without a full medical setup.

Comparison Of Different Ketamine Treatments

Here’s a table comparing the different ketamine administration routes depending on specific factors.

IV KetamineSublingual KetamineNasal EsketamineIntramuscular Ketamine
EffectivenessHigh efficacy in severe cases of depression and other disorders. Results may vary based on absorption by the patient’s body.A notable efficacy in treating disorders. Yet, not as effective as other forms.Extended duration of effects, showing potential for sustained relief.
Side Effects Dissociation, dizziness, and nausea which subside quickly.Potential for dissociative effects but more tolerable than IV.Reduced dissociation due to esketamine formulation.Least dissociative due to gradual release of medication.
Convenience Must be conducted in a medical facility. Can be self-administered.But the potential for variability can cause inconvenience.Can be self-administered. However, the patient may need frequent sessions.  Requires a professional. But the effects last longer, which means fewer sessions.
Patient Satisfaction High satisfaction due to rapid and profound results. There may be concerns about dissociation, but these are mitigated under a trained therapist.Mixed satisfaction due to variable absorption rates.Typically positive due to ease of administration and manageable side effects.High satisfaction due to sustained effects. However, not ideal for patients who need  immediate relief.
Overview of the different types of ketamine for therapeutic purposes

Factors Affecting The Choice Of Ketamine Administration

While the aim of ketamine therapy is to achieve a desired outcome, the choice of administration will influence the result.

Here are a few factors to consider.

  • Medical Condition: Depending on the nature and severity of the issue, the therapist may recommend a rapid relief measure (intravenous) or suggest the need for long-term stability (intramuscular).
  • Patient Preference: Some patients may be uncomfortable with needles and opt for sublingual or nasal administration. Others may not want to experience intense dissociation and avoid the IV method.
  • Frequency: For those looking to minimize clinical visits, the intramuscular method works best. However, some may require rapid relief and more frequent sessions, for which IV or nasal spray is a better option.
  • Accessibility: Consideration of available medical facilities, trained professionals, and the ability to self-administer will influence the chosen method.
  • Cost: The cost associated with each form of treatment and the medical facilities involved will affect the patient’s final decision.

Ultimately, the method of ketamine administration should be chosen through a discussion between the therapist and patient, after reviewing the patient’s medical history, preferences, and treatment goals.

This personalized approach is crucial to ensure that the chosen method aligns with the patient’s unique needs and maximizes the potential benefits of ketamine therapy.

Make An Informed Choice  

Each approach carries its own set of benefits and drawbacks, catering to different preferences and therapeutic needs.

  • Intravenous ketamine offers immediate relief in acute situations, leading to profound insights and high efficacy. But the possibility of an intense dissociative experience is higher.
  • Sublingual ketamine offers a balance of convenience and efficacy. However, the outcome will vary depending on how effectively the substance is absorbed.
  • Nasal esketamine is easy to use and the dissociative effects are minimized. But the lower intensity means that patients may require more sessions to achieve the desired outcome.
  • Intramuscular ketamine provides extended relief for those seeking sustained effects. However, it takes longer for effects to kick in once the ketamine has been administered.

A patient must understand the different methods, the benefits, and the drawbacks so they can make an informed decision aligned with their unique circumstances.

Ketamine-Assisted Therapy in Los Angeles

The evolution of ketamine therapy signals a shift in the approach toward mental health. 

The Psychedelic Collective aims to empower patients with the latest insights, equipping them to collaborate effectively in crafting personalized treatment plans.

Our evidence-based modalities focus on patient-centered care and prioritizing the physical, mental, and emotional safety of those who seek our help.

We urge you to explore the realm of ketamine-assisted therapy in Los Angeles as a potential avenue for relief. Call us today to learn more about your treatment options and craft a plan that suits you best.

With the help of ketamine, you can navigate your condition in a way that produces tangible results in a short time, helping you improve your overall quality of life.

Additional Reading

What is Grief Counseling: Evidence and Modalities

Grief is a universal human experience often felt after the loss of a loved one, the end of a significant relationship, or traumatic life events.

For the purpose of this article, we will refer to grief as the emotional response to the death of a loved one.

Grief counseling therapy was designed to help people process this loss by working through the sorrow that arises from such a situation.

Everyone processes grief differently, and the intensity and time frame depends on the person, their attachment to the loved one, and several other factors. However, to move on, acknowledging and addressing grief is an essential part of the healing process.

Unattended grief can significantly affect you by disrupting your daily routine and damaging your physical, mental, and emotional health. By addressing loss through grief counseling therapy, you can work through the emotions that arise and move forward in life, eventually turning that pain into a catalyst for growth.

Understanding Grief And Its Impact

Grief is best described as a complex and multifaceted emotional response to loss. Aside from sadness, grievers experience a range of feelings, including anger, confusion, guilt, and even relief.

Grief can manifest in various forms, some of which include:

  • Feelings of emptiness
  • A sense of detachment from the world
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Disruption in sleeping and eating patterns   
  • Physical illnesses and irregularities like pain, fatigue, headaches, and nausea
  • An overwhelming desire to reminisce about the person lost

Emotional And Psychological Impact Of Grief  

Grief triggers an emotional response that can profoundly affect an individual’s psychological landscape. Feelings rise quickly, crashing like waves into the soul of the person grieving.

In the face of these feelings, an individual may experience disruptions in their life.

For example, those grieving may experience symptoms of anxiety and depression. These intense feelings often lead to isolation as others around them aren’t experiencing the same thing. Additionally, the grieving process brings up unresolved issues that can intensify the internal turmoil the individual is trying to navigate.

Consequences Of Unresolved Grief: The Lingering Shadow

It’s easy to see how these emotional and psychological effects if left unchecked, can severely impact the individual in the future.

The long-term consequences of staying in this state include persistent emotional distress, strained relationships, and a diminished sense of self-worth. Individuals may begin coping with substances and other addictions to numb the pain, which only exacerbates their struggle.

Unresolved grief also impedes personal growth and hinders the ability to find joy and meaning in life.

Types Of Grief

Grief encompasses a vast and intricate landscape that has been studied for years. And while there are overlaps, here are some common types of grief you should know about.

  • Bereavement Grief – This is the most common type, arising from the death of a loved one. This involves mourning the physical absence of someone and adjusting to life without them.
  • Anticipatory Grief – This form of grief occurs when individuals anticipate the loss of someone dear, due to circumstances like a terminal illness, which allows them to begin the grieving process earlier.
  • Ambiguous Grief – A form of grief where there is no clear sign of closure, like when a loved one goes missing or in the case of severe dementia, when they lose their identity and memories.
  • Disenfranchised Grief – In some situations, others may not acknowledge the individual’s cause of grief, leading to disenfranchised grief. This usually occurs when the loss isn’t seen by society as being profound enough, like the death of an ex-spouse, a pet, or a non-traditional relationship.
  • Collective Grief – Collective grief is experienced by entire societies after a widespread tragedy, like an act of terrorism, a natural disaster, or a global pandemic.
  • Secondary Grief – This involves feeling the sorrow of others’ losses, often experienced by healthcare professionals, first responders, and caregivers who witness someone else’s pain.
  • Invisible Grief – These emotions arise from personal losses that may not be apparent to the world. It could include the loss of hopes, dreams, or goals.

The Role of Grief Counseling Therapy       

Grief counseling therapy is meant to serve as a structured support system for individuals navigating the complexities of grief. The goal of therapy is to help people heal, build emotional resilience, and empower them to rebuild their lives and return to normal after loss.

The counselor creates a safe space where clients can express themselves openly while receiving guidance to cope with and process their grief.

Ultimately, the purpose of grief therapy is to help individuals find meaning and purpose amidst their journey and stay with the pain so they can work through it effectively and come out the other side.

Therapeutic Techniques And Interventions In Grief Counseling 

Grief counseling employs a range of therapeutic techniques to address an individual’s needs. The most common are CBT, ACT, Group Therapy, grief-focused counseling, EMDR, and expressive therapies. We will discuss these in greater detail in a little while.

However, the most important thing to remember is that the approach, techniques used, and treatment structure will depend on the individual. As such, it’s crucial that grief counseling therapy focuses on a client-centric approach.

Why The Client Should Be The Main Focus

As mentioned before, grief is universal.

But each person experiences it differently and in different phases based on their psychological makeup, circumstances of the loss, their needs and values, and the attachment to the particular loss.

So, a client-centric approach is of paramount importance to tailor the therapeutic process to meet the individual’s specific needs. The therapist must be open and adapt to their client’s requirements while offering empathy and compassion.

They must be able to create a nurturing environment that will help clients express themselves safely so they can seek the healing and growth they need.

By focusing on the client, the therapist can create an environment that fosters recovery and allows the client to take an active role in the healing process.

Evidence Supporting Grief Counseling Therapy

There is empirical evidence suggesting that grief counseling therapy helps lower an individual’s psychological distress, improves coping skills, and builds resilience.

This study found that individuals who received grief counseling experienced a significant decrease in grief symptoms over time compared to a control group.

More importantly, they also found that those who received counseling continued to experience a decrease in grief symptoms even six months after the sessions were concluded.

This points to the possibility that grief counseling can teach individuals to cope even after treatment is concluded.

Grief Counseling Modalities

Let’s look at some of the most common modalities of grief counseling.

  • CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy): Commonly known as talk therapy, CBT helps people identify negative thought patterns associated with grief and develop healthier coping mechanisms and ways of thinking.
  • ACT (Acceptance And Commitment Therapy): ACT focuses on accepting one’s emotions and thoughts while acting in alignment with one’s values. This modality uses mindfulness to help clients stay in the moment and acknowledge their emotions while continuing to move forward, even in the midst of loss.
  • Grief-Focused Counseling: This approach is tailored specifically to bereavement and loss. Therapists provide a space to express grief and allow individuals to process their emotions and the impact of loss. This modality allows individuals to carve a unique path of recovery for their specific case.
  • Group Therapy: Group therapy brings together people who have experienced similar types of loss. Sharing experiences with others who can feel the depth of your grief in the present moment can be profoundly healing. It also helps foster a sense of belonging and facilitates the exchange of coping strategies.
  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing Therapy): While it was initially used to treat trauma, EMDR can also help people process obstacles that complicate the grieving process. This in turn can help reduce the intensity of grief and its symptoms.
  • Expressive Therapy: Art therapy, music therapy, writing therapy, or movement therapy offer alternative channels for people to express their grief creatively. Some may find it difficult to express grief verbally, and artistic expression can help them stay present and gain insights into their feelings.

Each modality provides a unique perspective on the process of recovery, and these insights may be helpful to develop a newer and more holistic form of therapy.

Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP) for Grief: A Promising Path To Healing

KAT is a newer therapeutic modality that combines a ketamine experience with traditional therapeutic modalities to treat a host of mental health conditions.

Ketamine has been proven to effectively treat conditions like PTSD, anxiety, depression, and addiction. The powerful antidepressant effects of ketamine along with the dissociative state it produces may provide a unique way to help individuals move through grief.

Enhancing Outcomes With Ketamine Therapy

When integrated with grief counseling, ketamine-assisted therapy can help improve the effectiveness of traditional therapy.

The dissociative state can help those grieving to step outside their identity, providing much-needed relief from symptoms and giving them a chance to engage more effectively in grief counseling and other therapeutic interventions.

Ketamine has also proven to rapidly resolve grief symptoms due to its antidepressant effects. And often, it takes such a shift for patients to see that it’s possible to return to regular life after a debilitating loss.

While the effect isn’t permanent, the shift in mood coupled with heightened awareness can help clients explore grief from new perspectives, helping them figure out ways to move forward.

Benefits And Risks Of KAT In Grief Counseling

Now we know that ketamine-assisted therapy can aid in the processing of grief. Here are some benefits and risks of using this therapeutic modality to process grief.

BenefitsRisks
Ketamine’s quick-acting nature provides rapid relief from depressive symptoms, creating a more receptive state for grief counseling.Ketamine temporarily induces dissociative experiences which can be unsettling for some participants.
The altered state can provide emotional insights, which can help accelerate the healing process.  The sessions may lead to short-term side effects, like dizziness or nausea, although these dissipate quickly.
The vulnerable nature of ketamine-assisted therapy can strengthen the therapeutic bond between therapist and client, fostering trust and openness in subsequent sessions.While the studies are promising, there is limited material available on the long-term benefits of ketamine therapy.

Addressing Grief Is Essential

In life, we will encounter grief. And grief counseling therapy is a beacon of support to individuals seeking to move through grief in a healthy, holistic manner.

By providing a safe and nurturing space, grief counseling empowers individuals to process emotions, find meaning, and ultimately embark on a journey of healing and growth.

Addressing grief isn’t an option; it’s an essential step toward reclaiming one’s life after loss.

Reach Out   

If you are grappling with grief and loss, we encourage you to seek professional help.

You don’t have to navigate this path alone. We can provide the compassion and guidance you need to help you on this journey.

Our services can provide a better understanding of your own process and allow for hope, healing, and renewal.

The road is arduous, but with the right support, the journey can become transformative and empowering. Reach out and let us in as you embark on this path of healing and growth, and we will help you embrace the possibility of life beyond grief.

Ketamine-Assisted Therapy for Grief in Los Angeles

At the Psychedelica Collective in Los Angeles, we are committed to offering client relief from grief via a range of therapeutic modalities including ketamine-assisted group therapy. Through real-life experience and clinical trials, we have successfully integrated ketamine with other therapeutic modalities. We use this expertise to enhance the outcome of grief counseling and offer new avenues for emotional exploration and healing.

Through our client-centric approach, we tailor each therapeutic session to meet the needs of those seeking support. And we specialize in integrating KAP as an adjunct modality for a more holistic approach to the grief counseling process.

The Promise of Ketamine-Assisted Therapy in Addressing Mental Health Concerns within the LGBTQ Community

Over the past two decades, there has been an increase in public and scientific awareness of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA+) lives and issues.

This heightened awareness can be attributed to sociocultural shifts in understanding sexual and gender identities.

While everyone has a sexual orientation and gender identity, people who identify as LGBTQIA+ often face higher mental health risks.

Why is that?

And what makes ketamine-assisted therapy (KAT) an effective tool for the LGTBQ community?

The State of Mental Health in the LGBTQ Community

Prevalence of different mental health disorders within the LGBTQIA+ community

Numerous studies conducted in the United States and internationally have found that LGBTQ youth report higher rates of symptoms of psychological distress compared to heterosexual and cisgender youth. 

These include

  • Emotional distress
  • Symptoms of mood and anxiety disorders
  • Substance abuse and dependence
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal ideation and behavior

Of course, mental health patterns not only vary across sexual and gender identities. They also extend to racial and ethnic backgrounds, cultural influences, and social class identities.

From “pathology” to the unique stressors contributing to mental health challenges

Historically, the understanding of homosexuality and same-sex attraction has evolved within the field of psychology.

Prior to the 1970s, homosexuality was pathologized and listed as a “sociopathic personality disturbance.”

However, shifting attitudes and pioneering studies led to the removal of homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973.

Over the past five decades, the focus has moved away from perceiving homosexuality as inherently linked to poor mental health. Instead, researchers have turned their attention to understanding the social factors that influence the mental well-being of the LGBTQ community.

We are currently seeing similar debates about gender identity diagnoses that still remain in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

The minority stress theory

According to Dr. Alex Belser, a psychedelic researcher at Yale University who studies psychedelic use among LGBTQ people, “Young gay people are taking their own lives because of the sort of stress, pressure, bullying, and rejection they received in their families, religious communities, schools, and broader political experience in the world.”

This fits with Dr. Illan Meyer’s minority stress theory, which suggests that sexual minorities face unique, chronic stressors related to their stigmatized identities, including victimization, prejudice, and discrimination. Combined with everyday or universal stressors, these distinct stressors can greatly impact the mental health and well-being of LGBTQ individuals.

Meyer further identifies three stress processes, progressing from external factors to internal conflicts:

  1. Objective or external stressors (such as discrimination or prejudice)
  2. Expectations of victimization or rejection and the vigilance related to these expectations
  3. The internalization of negative social attitudes (often referred to as internalized homophobia)

Current Mental Health Treatment Landscape for LGBTQ Individuals

The mental health treatment landscape for the LGBTQ community presents a series of hurdles, making access to appropriate care a complex journey.

Limitations of current therapeutic approaches

Traditional therapeutic modalities to treat mental health concerns often do not fully address the unique experiences and needs of LGBTQ individuals.

These approaches usually operate within a heteronormative framework, which can overlook or minimize the impact of societal prejudice, discrimination, and minority stress experienced by LGBTQ individuals.

Existing therapeutic interventions

Realizing people from the LGBTQ community have specific needs that tend to go unmet in traditional therapeutic approaches, clinicians have set out to create programs that work better.

These modalities validate rather than pathologize queer identities. They are, therefore, called ‘affirmative treatments’.

Below are some examples of LGBTQ-affirmative mental health treatments:

  • LGBTQ-affirmative cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This can include several types of interventions, including EQuIP and AFFIRM. EQuIP (Empowering Queer Identities in Psychotherapy) specifically addresses someone’s reactions to stressors while AFFIRM focuses on reducing depression and promoting healthy coping through collaborative group therapy.
  • Support groups specifically designed for people from the LGTBQIA+ community. These offer a safe haven where people can share their struggles and triumphs.
  • Online affirmative counseling platforms. These provide convenient and accessible mental health services that break down geographical barriers. 
  • Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy

While therapeutic interventions exist, the path is often hindered by numerous challenges.

Barriers to accessing mental health care

Accessing mental health care that meets the unique needs of LGBTQ individuals can be challenging due to multiple barriers.

Here are three significant ones:

  • There is a shortage of culturally competent providers who have the necessary knowledge and understanding of LGBTQ identities and experiences. This limits the availability of professionals who can provide affirming and inclusive care.
  • Financial constraints and lack of insurance coverage can make mental health services unaffordable or inaccessible.
  • The fear of experiencing discrimination or bias from healthcare providers or staff can deter LGBTQ individuals from seeking help. Past negative experiences or the anticipation of encountering stigma can create a reluctance to engage with mental health services.

These obstacles can lead to a large gap in care for those who need it.

Ketamine-Assisted Therapy for LGBTQ Mental Health

As mentioned at the start of this article, KAT could be an effective tool for addressing mental health concerns within the LGBTQ community.

But how can KAT help LGBTQ individuals? And what are the theoretical underpinnings?

Let’s take a closer look.

The theoretical underpinnings: How can KAT help the LGBTQIA+ community?

According to Belser, psychedelics offer a powerful avenue to explore and even reconstruct gender and sexual identities.

Research on KAT suggests that it helps individuals by facilitating neuroplasticity, enhancing emotional processing, and reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Far from the harmful LSD-conversion therapies used in the 60s, KAT doesn’t aim to undo LGTBQ people of their identity but rather help them embrace who they really are.

To quote Belser: “If a person has been fighting their sexual identity, the neuroplastic window of opportunity is a critical period for them to shift to a new way of understanding themselves and relating to other people in their lives. That can be incredibly relieving and quite liberating.”

Integration of KAT within a holistic treatment approach for LGBTQ mental health

To maximize the benefits of KAT, integration within a holistic treatment approach is key.

This involves combining KAT with other evidence-based therapies, support networks, and community resources. Creating comprehensive treatment plans that address the multifaceted needs of LGBTQ individuals leads to more effective and inclusive care.

Find out if you are a good candidate for KAT.

In addition, we need advocacy for policy changes and improved mental health resources. 

This includes raising awareness about the unique mental health challenges faced by LGBTQ individuals and advocating for increased funding and support for LGBTQ-affirming mental health services.

Conclusion

Mental health concerns within the LGBTQ community require special attention due to the unique challenges and experiences faced by these individuals.

For this, inclusive and affirming therapeutic approaches are needed.

Due to its antidepressant qualities and neuroplasticity-enhancing nature, Ketamine-Assisted Therapy (KAT) holds promise as a potential solution to address mental health concerns within the LGBTQ community. To maximize the benefits, integration within a holistic treatment approach as well as further advocacy for policy changes are key.

Join Psychedelica Collective’s LGBTQ+ Ketamine Therapeutic Group in Los Angeles today! It’s an inclusive and confidential space where you can safely explore your mental health concerns while building connections with like-minded individuals. Let ketamine-assisted therapy help you dive deeper into self-discovery, empathy, and holistic well-being. Contact us today and start your journey toward healing.

References

Ketamine Assisted Therapy Vs. Traditional Talk Therapy: Know the Difference

Psychotherapy has greatly evolved from the practice of psychoanalysis initially developed by Sigmund Freud. Over the years, it has grown into a multi-modality approach leveraging different techniques to help those struggling with a variety of issues. From mental illness and emotional support to career and relationship counseling, talk therapy remains an effective tool for everyone. Recent studies and FDA research has innovated traditional talk therapy by combining it with the hallucinogenic effect of ketamine that can lead to powerful insights in a fraction of the time.

In this article, we will discuss the similarities and differences between talk therapy and ketamine-assisted psychotherapy.

Traditional Talk Therapy 

Traditional talk therapy, often called counseling, is the most common form of psychotherapy. It aims to engage patients in deep conversation to explore emotions, behaviors, thoughts, and past experiences.

These conversations promote self-reflection, allowing patients to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and figure out ways to overcome challenges and effect positive change.

What is Ketamine-Assisted Therapy   

Ketamine-assisted therapy is a newer approach that combines the use of ketamine with therapeutic support to build a unique environment that delves deeper into the patient’s psyche and creates meaningful change.

Ketamine is a powerful hallucinogen and anesthetic that can significantly relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety, addiction, and PTSD.

While both types of therapy have shown promising results, they differ in methodology and effect on individuals.

Understanding Traditional Talk Therapy

Traditional talk therapy (TTT) includes a range of therapeutic approaches, each with unique theoretical foundations. Here are the most common techniques used.

  • CBT: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) operates on the premise that our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions are interlinked. It helps individuals identify disruptive patterns contributing to emotional distress and reframe them in a positive and life-affirming context to improve mental well-being.
  • DBT: Dialectic behavioral therapy uses the techniques of CBT while helping patients develop emotional regulation, interpersonal skills, and self-acceptance. This approach is highly effective in treating personality disorders.
  • Psychodynamic Therapy: This therapy focuses on unconscious thought processes, unresolved conflict, and past traumas and how they affect current emotions and behavior. By making issues conscious, individuals can engage in self-discovery, growth, and healing.
  • Humanistic Therapy: Humanistic therapy focuses on an individual’s capacity for growth and self-actualization. The aim is to provide a supportive, non-judgmental environment for individuals to explore their potential rather than focus on curing diseases and disorders.
  • Family Systems Therapy: This form of therapy approaches problem-solving through the lens of relationships and dynamics within family units. It examines patterns of interaction and identifies how they contribute to individual and relational difficulties.

What Does Traditional Talk Therapy Look Like?

A traditional talk therapy session typically occurs in the therapist’s office or online over video.

The therapist and client engage in discussions that develop trust and collaboration so the client eventually feels safe enough to openly discuss their thoughts, emotions, and experiences.

During these sessions, the therapist provides support and helps the client explore challenges and behaviors they struggle with. The therapist helps the client understand their psychological makeup and make necessary changes with the help of various therapeutic techniques.

Over many sessions, the client fosters self-awareness and personal growth and learns effective coping strategies that promote lasting change.

Understanding Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy

Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP) involves the use of ketamine along with traditional techniques to alleviate negative symptoms and improve mental health.

This treatment works because ketamine affects the brain in specific ways that aid in psychotherapy.

For starters, it triggers the release of glutamate, which stimulates the growth and connectivity of brain cells and promotes neuroplasticity. This mechanism is also responsible for the anti-depressant effects of ketamine that tend to last long after treatment.

The neuroplastic effects of ketamine combined with psychotherapeutic techniques allow patients to make more permanent and lasting changes.

To initiate these changes, ketamine puts patients in a dissociative state where they experience a sense of detachment from their bodies and identities.

This state lets individuals take a non-judgemental view of themselves, allowing for a deeper exploration of emotions, behaviors, and repressed traumatic experiences. These insights allow a patient to effect real change without the fear and anxiety that usually comes with confronting these aspects of the psyche.

What A KAP Session Looks Like

KAP sessions usually take place in a medical facility under the supervision of experts who specialize in this form of treatment.

Before the session, patients undergo an assessment to determine whether they are suitable and to figure out the appropriate dosage. They must also establish their therapeutic goals and expectations during the session.

The therapist administers the dose through intravenous infusion, intramuscular injection, or nasal spray, and monitors the patient’s heart rate and pressure throughout the session.

Once the drug is administered, the patient enters a heightened consciousness characterized by deep relaxation and introspection. These sessions are conducted in the presence of a trained therapist who uses prompts to urge the exploration and provides grounding and emotional support when required.

These sessions often last between forty-five and ninety minutes, with some patients experiencing the effects of ketamine for up to three hours.

Clients must engage in multiple sessions to effect real, sustainable change in their lives. And these sessions are followed by regular therapy, where the patient must integrate the insights and lessons during the KAT session into their conscious experience.

As such, KAT sessions are conducted with a treatment plan tailored to an individual’s needs and therapeutic goals.

Comparing Therapeutic Approaches

ParametersKetamine-Assisted Therapy (KAT)Traditional Talk Therapy
MethodologyUses ketamine along with therapeutic support to alleviate negative symptoms and foster profound psychological insightsInvolves verbal communication of thoughts, emotions, and experiences, and uses the information to help induce change
Time FrameUsually lasts between 60 and 90 minutes but effects can extend beyond this time frameUsually lasts between 45 and 60 minutes
Patient ExperienceTakes ketamine in a controlled setting
Enters a dissociative state
Experiences deep relaxation and introspection  
May experience intense emotions
Engages with therapist or mental health professional for support
Follows the session with integration and reflection  
Engages in meaningful conversation with a therapist
Explores behaviors, emotions, thoughts, and past experiences   Gains insights that foster introspection and personal growth  
Establishes a collaborative and trusting relationship with the therapist

Let’s look at where each form of therapy is most applicable.

KAP

While KAP can be used by almost anyone to gain insights into the psyche, it works wonderfully on these specific issues.

  • Anxiety Disorders – Symptoms of generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and PTSD are minimized through KAT.
  • Suicidal Ideation – KAP significantly reduces and even eliminates suicidal tendencies in certain individuals.
  • Addiction – Ketamine can promote lasting relief from addiction due to its neuroplastic effects.

Traditional Talk Therapy

This approach has its place in the therapeutic landscape and has been shown to treat various issues.

  • Depression – Depression and its symptoms can be effectively treated through the exploration of underlying thoughts, beliefs, and emotions.
  • Anxiety Disorders – Certain anxieties can be effectively alleviated through techniques used in CBT and DBT.
  • Personality Disorders – Talk therapy like DBT (Dialectic Behavioral Therapy) can effectively treat personality issues like borderline personality and narcissistic personality disorder.
  • Trauma and PTSD – Certain techniques like EMDR therapy can help individuals process and overcome traumatic experiences.

It’s crucial to note that the effectiveness of each treatment will vary based on the individual. While KAP is effective in treating issues that may be hard to manage with traditional therapy, it is not a magic solution and requires work from the individual undergoing treatment.

Which is Better: KAP or Talk Therapy?

Comparing success rates between KAP and traditional talk therapy is tricky as individuals respond differently to each treatment.

KAP shows a high success rate with individuals struggling with treatment-resistant depression, anxiety disorders, and suicidal ideation. Studies show that people with debilitating depression experience a reduction in symptoms after KAP, persisting months after the treatment.

KAP has also been shown to significantly reduce symptoms of PTSD and relieve suicidal tendencies, providing instant relief in acute and severe cases.

Different forms of talk therapy have also been used to treat a host of psychological issues. Its focus on self-awareness, coping strategies, and personal growth tend to remain long after the sessions, leading to improved mental well-being and a better quality of life.

The Main Difference: Rapidity Of Change

The most notable difference between KAP and TTT is the speed at which results are observed.

KAP shows a rapid effect in alleviating symptoms and promoting change, often just hours or days after the initial session, often allowing individuals to progress with deeper therapeutic work. It is important to note that integration therapy is required in order to process the experience and receive the full benefits of KAP.

On the other other hand, the benefits of talk therapy are realized over a longer period of time. This therapeutic approach focuses on building insights, developing coping skills, and facilitating personal growth, which is a gradual process, and it takes commitment to achieve sustainable results.

Furthermore, the relationship between the therapist and the individual plays a key role in affecting long-term outcomes.

Long-Term Implications

KAP is a promising therapeutic modality that has shown tremendous results in those suffering from more severe mental health diagnoses. And while these changes can often last for months, the long-term effectiveness requires further study.

KAP is most safe and successful when the sessions are conducted in the presence of a trained professional.

Traditional talk therapy is a very established technique proven to make long-term changes by providing insights and fostering personal growth over time. However, it works best when the client finds the right therapist and commits to exploring their psyche and making a lasting change. 

The long-term implications and benefits of each method depend heavily on individual factors, including the condition being treated, the individual’s psychological makeup, and the goals of treatment.

Conclusion    

In conclusion, KAT and TTT are distinct approaches, each with a unique set of benefits and drawbacks.

KAP has been proven to rapidly alleviate symptoms that are difficult to overcome with traditional techniques, making it a valuable addition to the therapeutic landscape. On the other hand, talk therapy has been proven to make lasting change, and is still the most popular form of psychotherapy.

While both techniques have proved their efficacy, it’s crucial to deepen our understanding of each approach and refine its application.

Additionally, there must be an increase in the acceptance of KAP as a regular therapeutic modality.

To learn more about ketamine-assisted therapy in Los Angeles for both individuals or in ketamine-assisted group sessions, give the Psychedeica Collective a call today.