What is Ketamine Infusion Therapy?

It may be surprising to see “ketamine” and “therapy” in the same sentence. But there is enough research on its benefits for treatment-resistant depression. So, what is Ketamine infusion therapy? And how can it help?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Ketamine in a couple of forms: a nasal spray and an I.V. infusion. This version of Ketamine is not the same as the street drug “Special K.” The ingredients are the same, but the way the medicine is delivered is very different. 

Ketamine As a Street Drug

Ketamine has been around since the 1960s and was beneficial as an anesthetic to soldiers in the field and in hospital operating rooms. It was so effective because it reduces pain and increases feelings of happiness. Like other prescription drugs, they began to be misused by people recreationally.

In medical settings, limited doses are administered. When misused recreationally, people would experience hallucinations, and all senses were heightened. Depending on how much Ketamine they consumed, they could experience this for hours or days.

Some people were taking high doses, some of which caused permanent adverse effects on their brain. Due to the misuse, President Nixon banned Ketamine.

Ketamine for Drug-Resistant Depression

Drug-resistant depression refers to trying multiple other medications and many different protocols to treat depression but has not had any success. Treatment-resistant depression can lead some to consider suicide. A recent example of a person diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression is country singer Naomi Judd, who recently lost her battle with depression.

Ketamine infusion therapy may be the game changer the mental health industry needs. Recent studies support its effectiveness. Participants given Ketamine for depression felt positive effects immediately and were still feeling them at the one-month follow-up.

A multi-study review of Ketamine’s efficacy revealed ketamine infusion therapy is beneficial in treating severe depression. Also, protocols typically involve multiple sessions and may include ketamine-assisted psychotherapy to increase benefits.

What is Ketamine Infusion Therapy?

Ketamine infusion therapy takes place in a clinical setting and is administered by a licensed physician or psychiatrist. You will be taken to a quiet, relaxing room when you arrive for treatment. A nurse will prepare your I.V., and when done, the physician administers the minimum dose of Ketamine through the I.V.

Ketamine is delivered directly into your bloodstream, which flows to your brain. In less than a minute, you may begin to feel the effects.

What Are Ketamine’s Effects?

Ketamine is a dissociative medicine, meaning it can make you feel like you are having an out-of-body experience or like you are floating. Other effects you may experience include a feeling of euphoria, relaxation, calm, and happiness.

The effects typically last around one hour, but you will not be allowed to drive for the rest of the day in case there are lingering effects. What you experience during your ketamine infusion session is not the result of the therapy. The results are the effects that occur when the session ends and over the following days or weeks. It is in this period that the brain continues to react to Ketamine.

Ketamine and the Brain

The brain reacts to Ketamine in several different ways. As it travels through your bloodstream and enters the brain, Ketamine triggers a release of neurotransmitters, or feel-good chemicals, such as dopamine and serotonin.


Glutamate is another neurotransmitter needed by neurons to communicate with each other in the brain. Glutamate is attached to nerve cells and gets them excited. In people with treatment-resistant depression, the glutamate receptors quit doing their job, and the nerve cells are not receiving the message to get excited.

Ketamine infusion therapy reactivates the glutamate receptors, waking up the nerve cells and getting them excited again.

The brain is remarkable in that it can heal when given treatments that support plasticity or change.

How Many Ketamine Infusions Do I Need?

The standard protocol for ketamine infusion therapy is six sessions within a three-week period, followed by booster shots as needed.

One ketamine infusion therapy can last up to a week, but researchers have found grouping them in six sessions can give you many months of positive effects.

Every ketamine therapy session will take place in your doctor’s clinic. You will not receive a prescription or doses to take home with you.

Who Qualifies for Ketamine Infusion Therapy?

Ketamine infusion therapy can benefit many people. However, there is a small population that will not qualify for treatment. Reasons to deny someone ketamine infusion therapy include the following:

  • You are pregnant
  • You have uncontrolled blood pressure
  • You have heart disease
  • You have had a previous bad experience with Ketamine
  • You have a history of psychosis or intracranial pressure

To qualify for ketamine infusion therapy, you must have already tried medications, medication combinations, altering doses, treatments such as brain stimulation, and your symptoms of depression interfere with your daily functioning.

Benefits of Ketamine Infusion Therapy

Other than quick relief of depression symptoms, there are additional benefits many people experience when treated with ketamine infusion therapy. Most importantly, the short and long-term side effects are not harmful. In fact, there are no known long-term side effects. And since the short-term side effects are pleasurable, Ketamine may be an excellent option for you.

The Brain Becomes More Adaptable

Ketamine helps the brain open up and become more adaptable. You have experiences that lead to negative brain changes throughout your life—for example, abuse, trauma, substance misuse, and injuries. Ketamine changes the brain so that it can release the negative changes and make room for positive ones. This allows for healing from emotional distress.

Blocking Pain Signals

Finally, Ketamine blocks pain signals. So those physical and psychological aches and pains begin to fade. It relaxes muscles and relieves tension throughout your body. It boosts endorphins, which are the brain’s natural pain relievers. It makes you suggestible to positive feedback and affirmations.

Getting Ketamine Infusion Therapy

If you have severe depression, give The Mental Health Center a call to determine if you qualify for ketamine infusion therapy. We are excited to talk to you about this therapy that can help you live the happy life you deserve.