What Does Ketamine Therapy Feel Like?
Ketamine is a powerful hallucinogen that creates a dissociative experience. Thanks to its properties, this multifaceted compound is used for pain management, and to treat psychological symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction.
However, its powerful hallucinogenic properties also make it a popular recreational drug.
Ketamine was derived from phencyclidine, in search of an anesthetic that was safe for human use. The chemists discovered ketamine, and the first human dose was administered in 1964.
Once ketamine was deemed safe, it was used as a drug for pain management during the Vietnam War. However, doctors soon realized that the drug also offered significant relief to soldiers suffering from depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies.
With enough evidence, medical specialists realized that ketamine could be revolutionary in treating a host of psychological issues.
Thanks to its dissociative properties, ketamine is used along with traditional therapy to perform ketamine-assisted therapy.
The therapeutic mechanisms of ketamine allow patients to explore their subconscious without the fear and judgment that usually surfaces during these explorations.
Ketamine is used to facilitate this process for a few reasons:
- It induces a state of altered consciousness where patients can interact with parts of themselves that were previously inaccessible.
- The dissociative experience allows patients to face unpleasant traits or behavioral patterns that may be difficult otherwise.
- The neuroplastic effects of ketamine help patients alter negative thought patterns or behavior to make changes of a more permanent nature.
While traditional therapy has its place, ketamine-assisted therapy allows patients to experience the depth necessary to make changes of a more significant and lasting nature.
The therapist plays an integral role by creating a comfortable environment, facilitating the experience through prompts, and being an anchor to help emotionally regulate the patients.
Before the experience, the participant must undergo a medical assessment to determine whether they are suitable for the ketamine session. This includes reviewing their medical history, current medication, and pre-existing conditions. The evaluation rules out some risks involved with consuming ketamine.
The patient must also undergo a psychological evaluation to assess their mental health and outline any concerns that may impact the session.
Finally, the therapist will provide instructions on fasting before the session and what foods and beverages to avoid.
The best way to minimize the potential risks of a ketamine-assisted therapy session is by being open about your medical history, any fears you may have, and any adverse reactions to hallucinogenic substances in the past.
With the right information, your therapist can mitigate and even eliminate the risks involved. Additionally, patients should spend time sourcing the right therapist to conduct the session. This step is perhaps the most important, as a trained professional can significantly eliminate potential risks.
When ketamine is administered, individuals go on a unique psychological and metaphysical journey called the ‘ketamine trip’.
The effects begin within a few minutes, with most people experiencing peak intensity between twenty and sixty minutes. The initial sensation involves a sense of lightness, relaxation, and a feeling of disconnecting from the physical self.
As the trip progresses, participants typically enter a dreamlike state characterized by vivid surroundings, altered thoughts, and distorted reality. While the experience will differ among individuals, three main things happen during a ketamine-assisted therapy session:
- Visual and Auditory Hallucinations
- Altered Perception Of Time And Self
- Emotional And Cathartic Responses
Hallucinations are one of the defining characteristics of the ketamine experience and can be a bit alarming.
These hallucinations manifest visually as colors, patterns, and geometric shapes or symbols that resonate with the patient. These visual representations are often accompanied by auditory hallucinations, like sounds or waves of music that seem to interact with these patterns.
These hallucinations are often quite personal and can provide the participant with valuable insights into their subconscious mind. Powerful doses of ketamine can even transport participants to a different reality, giving them a sensory array of experiences beyond comprehension.
Another common experience during the ketamine trip is a distorted sense of time and a change in self-perception.
Most participants feel a change in the flow of time, where minutes can feel like hours and vice-versa.
Another common effect is the sense of detachment from one’s identity, which is a key factor in therapy. It allows the patient to get a fresh perspective on their issues when they can view them from the outside.
Patients often describe this sensation as a clear separation from the self.
The cathartic release of emotion is another defining characteristic of the trip.
During the session, participants may come in contact with suppressed emotions or memories. These feelings are often released through cathartic responses.
Releasing emotions in this manner can feel like shedding excess baggage and bring about immense healing and relief. This deep-seated release often leaves the participant feeling liberated and creates the potential for a more permanent transformation.
Such responses are also why a therapist is crucial, to help the patient regulate and release emotions without the fear of being overwhelmed.
After the session, most individuals may continue to experience the lingering effects of the drug.
Some experience better clarity of thought while others may feel sensitive and vulnerable, and require a day or two of rest and recovery before returning to normal life.
The immediate after-effects differ depending on the patient’s disposition and the experience, among other factors.
Most patients report a reduction in symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction. But the best part is that the after-effects of a ketamine trip go beyond symptom reduction.
Participants often report feeling more emotionally resilient and self-aware and experience a greater capacity for self-compassion. These long-term effects can be attributed to ketamine’s ability to rewire neural pathways and trigger lasting change.
While ketamine therapy can seem like a miracle cure, it’s not without its challenges.
The trip causes deep-rooted emotions and psychological triggers to surface that may require further processing. And it’s challenging for patients to integrate the experience into their daily lives.
As such, post-session ketamine integration is often the most tricky part of the experience. Patients must engage in regular therapy sessions to unpack the insights and integrate them into their conscious personalities
It also helps to keep a journal and record changes in behavior after the session so you can track and improve your results. Regular meditation also helps instill a sense of grounding so you aren’t overwhelmed by the insights or the after-effects of the ketamine experience.
As such, it’s crucial to stay in contact with the therapist and build a support network of loved ones for comfort and validation.
It’s worth mentioning again that no two trips are the same and several factors can influence an individual’s experience, including:
- Dosage and administration
- Therapeutic setting
- Patient’s mindset
- Therapists’ experience
- Patient’s psychological makeup and life experiences
- Patient’s physiological state
Additionally, the patient’s expectations and psychological preparedness will significantly influence the subjective nature of the experience.
The nature and degree of individual perceptions may differ, but individuals will find that comparing their trip with others can help foster relatability and make the experience easier to process.
However, comparing can be misleading if you get into the specifics of what the treatment has to offer. Each patient’s experience will be vastly different, and the results will differ depending on the factors mentioned earlier.
So what works for one individual will not apply to another.
As such, while you may have an idea of what the experience is like, it’s unlikely that your results will be the same as someone else’s. So it’s crucial to outline your expectations and discuss with a medical professional and avoid relying on someone else’s experience to guide your own.
Approach the session with an open mind and honest communication so the therapist can tailor the session accordingly. By being receptive to what surfaces, you are more likely to arrive at the solutions and insights you need to live a better life.
Let the therapists and professionals at the Psychedelica Collective assess whether ketamine-assisted therapy is right for you. Conveniently located in the heart of Beverly Hills, our clinic also offers ketamine-assisted couples and ketamine-assisted group therapy sessions. Get started with a free 15-min consultation today but giving us a call or sending us a message.