What is Ketamine?
Ketamine has been used as an anesthetic around the world since its FDA approval in 1970. It has been used extensively for pediatric and adult treatment in surgical applications, emergency departments, ambulances, trauma medicine, and combat zones. It is so widely used that the World Health Organization even lists it as an essential medicine based on safety and effectiveness. Recent research done by institutions like Yale University and the National Institutes of Health has identified ketamine as an important breakthrough in the treatment of mood disorders and chronic pain. Unlike some other antidepressants that can take 3-6 weeks for the therapeutic effects to take place, ketamine is very rapid and for some can improve their depression within hours.
“Of course, the drug does not produce the transcendent experience. It merely acts as a chemical key–it opens the mind and frees the nervous system of its ordinary patterns and structures. The nature of the experience depends almost entirely on set and setting. Set denotes the preparation of the individual, including his personality structure and his mood at the time. Setting is the weather, the room’s atmosphere; (trust for providers); and cultural–prevailing views as to what is real.”
~ Timothy Leary
Ketamine is an NMDA receptor antagonist, meaning that it affects the neurotransmitter known as glutamate. When ketamine increases the level of glutamate, this creates a cascade effect of increased neural activity and communication within the brain. This reawakens portions of the brain that have shut down to the symptoms of anxiety, depression, or trauma. Ketamine stimulates neuroplasticity, which means that it can effectively rewire parts of the brain thought to play a role in depression or mood disorders. It does this by increasing Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a protein that increases connections between neurons and is considered the “miracle grow” of developing new learning pathways in our brain.
Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP)
KAP is a profound therapeutic approach to mental health and well-being that combines the medicinal effect of ketamine with psychotherapy. Ketamine is most effective when given within a safe, caring, supportive and therapeutic setting that emphasizes thorough preparation and stresses the importance of integration.
“Whoever travels without a guide needs 200 years for a two-day journey.” ~ Rumi
Preparation for any journey makes sense. Creating an intention before the ketamine session helps you take an active role in your healing journey. Integration sessions help land the experience so that it becomes grounded in your day to day life.
“Every experience of love nurtures us toward the story of inter-being, because it only fits into that story and defies the logic of separation.”
~ Charles Eisenstein
It is important to note that KAP is an active therapeutic process. It is not a passive act like taking an antidepressant and waiting for it to work. It is vital to note that KAP doesn’t replace the on-going process of psychotherapy, it is rather an adjunct to it. So if you are already in therapy, we will make a strong effort to communicate effectively with your psychotherapist to further maximize the potential of your treatment.
The diagnosis of a terminal illness can often lead to anxiety, depression, severe grief, and the loss of meaning in one’s life. End of life is an important developmental stage just like infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and elderhood. Even when we are dying, it is possible to heal. Often the healing that can happen at the end of life benefits the loved ones and family members surrounding the dying. It can open a window of healing that includes offering/receiving forgiveness, love, and appreciation; tying up loose ends and saying goodbyes. It has been shown that transformative approaches such as KAP not only relieve pain but can also help alleviate those feelings and general distress associated with the thought of dying. For some, this can lead to an increase in purpose, presence and acceptance while also decreasing fear. Some may also realize that even at the end there is still great beauty in life and its transitions. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31090477/)
“Something far more deeply inter-fused with meaning, so while the self may vanish, awareness abides and that experience is ineffable—though we try!”
~ William Wordsworth
Psychedelic substances – sometimes called entheogens or “manifesting the divine within” – can have a profound and integrative impact on a person’s consciousness and life. These experiences can be transformative and healing when held within a safe, caring and present container. Unfortunately, they can also be destabilizing and fragmenting when not fully prepared for or integrated afterwards. (which is unfortunately too common in our culture). Integration involves leaning into these experiences, making sense of them, and applying their powerful lessons to our lives. Integration lasts far beyond the psychedelic experience, and may even be more important than the actual medicine journey itself. Integration is truly a lifelong pursuit.
Ashland Consciousness Medicine is proudly “psychedelic-friendly.” We are a safe environment where, without judgment, you can find meaning in your entheogenic experiences.