Ketamine is a psychedelic compound that has long been recognized by the medical community as a safe and effective anesthetic drug used during surgeries. It is so safe that it is often reserved for children, or for patients who are sensitive to other forms of anesthesia. But if you have been reading the news recently, you will also know that ketamine has another long-standing use: it can be a very effective treatment for various mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and overwhelm.
What is at-home ketamine therapy?
At-home sublingual ketamine therapy is a treatment option for patients looking for something different to treat their diagnosed conditions like PTSD, depression, OCD, and anxiety. It is also being used increasingly as a form of self care, a way to break negative thoughts or patterns, and to help people who just feel stuck, or overwhelmed with life in our modern overstimulated, stress-filled society.
An at-home ketamine treatment plan starts with a telehealth consultation with a qualified physician who will assess your circumstances and determine if you’re a good candidate for therapy with this psychedelic drug. This assessment is crucial, as ketamine is not appropriate in all situations. Uncontrolled hypertension, current suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, or family history of psychosis are examples that may not be the best fit for at-home sublingual ketamine therapy. Sometimes medical monitoring in a clinic can be more beneficial.
If approved, your doctor will design a treatment protocol consisting of multiple doses taken over several weeks. Plans can last from four weeks to a few months, with doses planned for one or more times per week. It may take a few sessions, or even an entire treatment protocol to discover the perfect dose for you, as there are many personal factors that play a role in tailoring the experience to best suit your needs and intentions.
Benefits of at-home ketamine treatments
An at-home ketamine treatment plan offers several advantages:
- Control – You choose the day and time for each treatment. You’re not forced to work around the appointment availability of a clinic. You can complete a session after work, on the weekend, or as you like at the last minute without waiting for an appointment.
- Convenience – You don’t need to recruit a driver and spend time commuting to and from a clinic for each treatment. Just plan on spending some nice time at home.
- Comfort – You’re in a familiar and safe environment. You cannot hope to have a better SETTING than in your own home. You’ll wear your most comfortable clothes and cover up with your favorite blanket. These personal associations help set the tone for a positive ketamine journey.
- Cost – Because ketamine therapy for self-care and mental health disorders are off-label uses of the drug, most insurance plans will not cover the cost, whether it is given at a clinic, or self-administered. At-home treatments are a fraction of the cost of in-office infusions or injections.
Wondering if at-home Ketamine is a good fit for you? Take this quick quiz now to find out if at-home ketamine is right for you!
What does an at-home session look like?
Like with other psychedelic medicines, you will want to curate the optimal “Set” and “Setting” for your journey. “Set” refers to your mindset going into the experience, and “Setting” refers to your physical surroundings.
You’ll begin by setting up your space to ensure you have the right setting. Because ketamine is a dissociative medication, you will be going inward more than with other psychedelics, so comfort, warmth, and lack of distractions are the most important goals. Choose a comfortable sofa or bed, in a quiet low-lit room. I like to lay on the floor on my sheepskin rug with a bolster under my knees, but be sure that whatever you choose will work for up to a 2-hour session. Comfort is the main objective, so do what works for you! Grab your blanket, an eye mask, and headphones. Select soothing music (my favorite playlists are found by searching “ketamine therapy” on Spotify), make sure that you will not hear commercials, and place your phone on ‘do not disturb’. You will not want any distractions to take you out of your experience, as it can be difficult to get back into it!
You also want to cultivate the right mindset before taking the medicine. You want to enter the journey with a blank slate, free from frustrations or big emotions, and with an open, clear, mind. A few minutes of meditation, listening to your favorite music, burning some sage to cleanse the air, diffusing some essential oils, or whatever other self care you use to reset is great. Letting go of whatever has happened throughout the day, and quieting your overstimulated monkey mind is crucial. If you had a rough day, this may take more time….but getting into the right state of mind before you have your ketamine experience is a very important part of this medicine.
You always need to make sure that you have lined up a trusted sitter to be with you throughout your experience. They only need to sit near you, be present for you and support you if any need arises while you are on the medicine. Maybe you would like a hand walking to the bathroom? Maybe you really want the music changed? Maybe the dog needs to go out, or the doorbell rings? Or maybe just knowing that someone has given you two hours of their time to help you on your healing journey is part of the medicine itself. It is certainly a beautiful thing to feel the love of a trusted friend or partner at your side as you enter into your experience.
Before taking the dose, you’ll set your intention for the session. Have in mind a direction or a purpose for the journey, as this will help focus your experience both consciously and unconsciously. Writing the intention down and having it with you at the session is a good idea. Writing it down helps you to focus on it, and having it with you can serve as a reminder. You may have a different intention for each session, or a more general one that can encompass every session. For ketamine, as opposed to some other psychedelic medicines, the more general the intention, the better. Healing, letting go, being more grounded, getting rid of things that are not serving you, being more positive, allowing love, or gaining a new perspective are all powerful intentions that you could set.
The medication will be mailed to your home directly from the compounding pharmacy. When you feel like you are in the right mindset, place the pill under your tongue. You will allow it to absorb into the blood system via your mucous membranes for 10-12 minutes, then you can swallow the saliva you have produced and any remaining medication.
A journey will last approximately 45-120 minutes, depending on the dose and your metabolism of the medicine. During this time, patients report feelings of bliss, feeling surrounded by love, and of being one with the universe and everything in it. Others report dissociating from their bodies, seeing things from a new perspective, and entering new realms. Patients have experienced new insights, as well as spiritual and mystical feelings that enable them to access their inner healing intelligence in order to heal and make change.
Afterward, you’ll journal about your experience. If you are ready, you can discuss the experience with your sitter while the visions and thoughts are still fresh. What thoughts surfaced? What positive and negative emotions came up? What did you see, hear, and feel? Can you even put words to what you have experienced? Drawing what you saw and experienced can also help you to integrate the experience.
Bring your journal entries to your next telehealth visit with your therapist. Ideally you can book a session within 2-3 days, to really get the most benefit out of your ketamine session. Ketamine assisted psychotherapy is essential to acknowledge the lessons to be learned from the thoughts and emotions that surfaced during each journey. Discussing and Integrating the experience with someone trained in working with these medicines is where the real magic happens. They can help you to take what you have learned and apply it to your life, in order to create long lasting positive changes.
How does ketamine therapy work?
With each dose, ketamine triggers new neural connections which may have been lost due to chronic stress, depression, or aging. We didn’t think that any neurogenesis occurred in the brain after 13 years old, until recently. This newer acceptance of neuroplasticity in the brain as we age has had major implications for Alzheimer’s, stroke victims, and those with traumatic brain injury. Now with ketamine therapy, and also with psilocybin therapy, this increased neuroplasticity brings hope for depression, anxiety, and a whole host of other mental health afflictions. Ketamine works on the glutamate system, and at the doses used with at-home therapy, it increases BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) which is what increases neurogenesis, the creation of new neural networks in your brain.
As new neural pathways are forming, we incorporate talk therapy sessions to tie all of the learning and growing together. These integration therapy sessions include discussions of your existing thought patterns and how to create new scripts based on your ketamine experiences that enable more productive ways of functioning going forward. There are various types of therapy that are especially conducive to integrating ketamine as medicine.
When a course of ketamine treatments is paired with talk therapy, aka Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP) a patient is well-poised to adopt lasting changes that will improve their quality of life well beyond the treatment period. Whereas normal therapy dives into the past to discover why you are hurting, why you act or react the way you do, or to unravel trauma, integration therapy looks more to the future. The integration helps to coach you to use what you have learned and experienced with the ketamine to make the changes you want to see in yourself, all while moving forward and looking ahead!
Other things that can further one’s integration of the ketamine experience include yoga, breathwork, art and creativity, spending time in nature, and getting plenty of sleep!
Ready to learn more?
Take the Quiz to find out if at-home Ketamine therapy is right for you!! If you are a good candidate, and are ready to take your mental and spiritual health into your own hands, check out the various offerings at Golden Road Medicine. If you have any questions, feel free to book a ten-minute consultation with Dr. Courtney King to see what would be best for your healing journey!