Peninsula Integrative Cardiology

Is Ketamine Therapy Dangerous?

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Ketamine therapy is the first novel depression treatment to come along in years. Learn more about its safety.

Ketamine was once known as a “club drug,” used in unsafe and unsupervised ways by people searching for a quick high. Today many people are waking up to its potential benefits in treating health conditions, including treatment-resistant depression and several chronic pain conditions.

This drug is now FDA-approved for treating mental health conditions and chronic pain. Although it has been well-studied since the 1960s, it only recently gained FDA approval for treating depression and other similar disorders. Dr. Daniel Rieders explains ketamine therapy and when it can be a safe choice.

What is ketamine?

Ketamine is a drug that can produce dissociative effects in the user. It was first used as an anesthetic in the 1960s and still is for that purpose on certain occasions. However, when unregulated and unsupervised, this can present certain dangers. And if abused, it can cause a loss of reality and is sometimes considered a “date rape” drug.

But those dangers don’t apply to the legitimate medical use of ketamine in treating mental health conditions. It’s often fast-acting, and when administered in a medical setting, your experience with it is usually over in about an hour. You may still feel out of it for a few hours after receiving the drug, so you want someone else to drive you to and from your appointments.

The types of conditions that ketamine can treat

Ketamine can treat many mental health conditions, especially those not responding well to traditional medications and therapy. Among these include the following:

  • Chronic pain
  • Severe depression (especially treatment-resistant depression)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Ketamine should rarely be considered a first treatment for these conditions, but it can often provide effective and nearly complete treatment when other treatments haven’t worked.

What to expect from ketamine therapy

If you’ve met with Dr. Rieders and he suggests ketamine therapy, it generally means that he expects it to benefit you. Here’s what to expect if you decide to undergo ketamine therapy.

First of all, there are different forms of ketamine administered, and which one you receive is based on Dr. Rieders’ judgment and consultation with you. Most often, it’s administered intravenously. He customizes the amount of the drug that you receive based on your height, weight, and symptoms.

When you come in for treatment, you sit in a comfortable chair while the drug is delivered directly into your bloodstream by an IV. It’s usually a pleasant experience for most people. You may feel dissociated from reality and experience sensations such as mild hallucinations.  

The experience is over in about an hour, although we keep you in the office for monitoring until he determines that you’re safe to go home. 

Most people need several treatments, averaging about 4-12. Six treatments are usually recommended as a bare minimum when treating depression, and he evaluates your condition at that point to determine whether or not you need additional treatments.

If you’re interested in ketamine therapy or have more questions, Dr. Rieders can answer all your inquiries. Contact him at Peninsula Integrative Medicine in San Ramon, California, or request an appointment online.