What Is Ketamine Therapy? Queer People Share Their Experiences With the Practice

For Aaron C., a 37-year-old who was diagnosed with bi-polar IIketamine infusions have helped him treat the periods of depression associated with the condition.

“I was at a last straw with my depressions and how long they were lasting,” Aaron tells Them. “I was at a point where I felt the medication I was on wasn’t working.”

Aaron started with eight infusions over a two-week period, with visits to a clinic where he received an IV, relaxing in a chair with music and an eye mask. “I’m on this journey that feels like a movie that’s constantly in motion,” says Aaron, adding that the psychedelic effects can be hard to describe. He has seen himself from a distance and moved through scenes that helped him see his past and present in an altered light. “It changes your perspective and brings you out of your head and body.”

The resulting impact on his mental health has been profound. A week or so after the initial sessions, his depression seemed to lift, and he felt motivated to resume activities he usually enjoys, like taking a bike ride and cooking, for example, rather than feeling too drained to leave the couch. Now, he goes in for maintenance infusion sessions every four months or so.

Are there risks associated with ketamine therapy?

Ketamine treatment in a clinical setting carries few immediate risksthough there are conditions related to high blood pressure that a physician should screen for before prescribing it. There are also risks for people with schizophrenia or with bi-polar disorder who are experiencing a manic episode, as ketamine can exacerbate psychosis.

The controls placed on KAP make the abuse of prescribed ketamine difficult, but providers would still want to proceed with care when working with patients who have a history of addiction. “If someone has specifically abused ketamine in the past, we want to be really thoughtful about preparation and how they can relate to it as medicine in a therapeutic context,” McBee says.

As the treatment is relatively new, and involves a substance with its own cultural associations, stigma can be another challenge.

“There’s a lot of stigma, especially around ketamine infusions, which caused me to do my own research because I wanted to make sure I feel safe,” Aaron says, noting that the information he uncovered ultimately helped him feel the treatment was right for him. “I’ve learned that it’s good to be open about it. It helps people around me feel okay about having their own mental health problems and that we should all take steps to deal with them.”

Who can access ketamine-assisted psychotherapy?

If you want to start ketamine-assisted psychotherapy, the first step is finding a provider in your area that administers KAP, which you can locate by parsing through databases on platforms like Psychology Today and the American Society of Ketamine Physicians, Psychotherapists, and Practitioners. Once you find a practitioner who performs KAP, they’ll likely have an evaluation session to make sure the treatment is the right fit for you.

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