Ketamine-assisted therapy has emerged as a revolutionary tool in mental health treatment, offering hope for individuals battling treatment-resistant mood disorders, trauma, alcohol use disorder, substance use disorder, eating disorders, and more. People usually respond to IV ketamine therapy within one to three infusions. This fast-acting relief, combined with the significant momentum behind the psychedelic therapy movement, often leads to a mistaken impression that ketamine is a cure when, in reality, ketamine is a medicine that works best in conjunction with other treatment modalities.
Nushama believes transformation is a result of different parts of the process working together:10% ketamine, 10% diagnosis, and 80% therapy and integration. In this special two-part blog series, we will explore the many treatment modalities that come together to enhance the results of ketamine, and discuss why before undergoing ketamine-assisted therapy, you understand the potential of this potent healing tool.
Ketamine-Assisted Therapy: A Powerful Tool in Your Healing Toolbox
Nushama members seeking relief from mental health symptoms via IV ketamine often report wanting the greatest possible relief from their treatment. To maximize the benefits of treatment, a Nushama member undergoing ketamine therapy also commits to additional methods such as integration, self-care, mindfulness activities, psychotherapy, and more. With these integrational tools, the results a person sees from ketamine-assisted therapy can be extended for year-round sustained relief.
How does Ketamine Provide Relief?
To understand the power of ketamine’s healing potential, it is important to understand how ketamine impacts biochemical, structural, and functional transformations within the brain, thereby increasing neuroplasticity. With the assistance of ketamine, scientists theorize that ketamine operates by leveraging neuroplasticity and creating greater openness to therapy and different thought patterns.
Specifically, neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to form new neural pathways. Our brains are shaped by our experiences. One simple example of neuroplasticity is remembering the name of someone you met yesterday. A more complex example of neuroplasticity might be the survival mechanisms a person learns during periods of prolonged trauma. If the brain can change and adapt to respond to trauma, the brain can change again to unlearn the responses rooted in faulty thought patterns.
Dissolution of The Sense of Self and Ego Death
We all have a “Default Mode Network” (DMN) in our brains. The DMN is a network of interacting brain regions associated with self-referential thinking and mind-wandering. It’s essentially a “default” state for the brain when it’s not focused on the outside world. Psychedelics, as a tool that promotes neuroplasticity, appear to reduce the activity of the DMN. This decrease in DMN activity contributes to the temporary dissolution of the sense of self during ketamine therapy.
Ego dissolution, or “ego death,” is the diminished sense of self experienced through psychedelics, meditation, or other spiritual or religious practices. In a state of ego dissolution, a person might feel that their identity or sense of being a separate individual has shifted. They may experience a sense of unity with the universe, a feeling of interconnectedness, and a profound understanding, all often tied to personal growth and self-discovery.
For centuries, various cultures have utilized naturally occurring psychedelics in religious and healing ceremonies, placing great importance on the unique experiences they induce. The impact of these profound subjective effects, often referred to as “mystical experiences,” on therapeutic outcomes has been extensively studied through qualitative interviews with patients undergoing psychedelic-assisted therapy. The wealth of historical, anecdotal, and qualitative evidence strongly supports the value of these subjective mystical experiences as a powerful tool for healing.
The significance and meaning attributed to mystical experiences have been thoroughly established in controlled laboratory environments. Researchers from Ohio State University have discovered that individuals who score highest on questionnaires assessing the “mystical and insightful aspects” of their psychedelic journeys report significant improvements in their symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Set and Setting
“Set” refers to an individual’s mindset, disposition, attitudes, and beliefs that they bring to a psychedelic experience. “Setting” refers to the physical, social, or cultural environments that shape the experience. Together, these elements form the concept of set and setting, which play a great role in the outcome of a psychedelic experience.
When examining cross-cultural characteristics of shamanic set and setting practices, we can identify many features that are indicative of evolving psychology. By incorporating these foundational practices into our toolbox today, we can optimize set and setting, thereby enhancing the effects of ketamine-assisted therapy. The similarities between shamanism and psychedelic practices highlight the importance of considering shamanic principles when structuring contemporary psychedelic therapy.
Why Ketamine is a Tool and Not A “Cure”
A cure is defined as a treatment that makes a health problem go away permanently without any additional work. This simple definition eliminates ketamine as a cure-all. The results from engaging in ketamine-assisted therapy are best when someone commits to a treatment plan with preparation and integration, which takes time and effort to maximize and extend the relief from mood disorder symptoms. Often a person’s dedication to personal development is a big predictor of the medicine’s success.
It is also important to acknowledge that ketamine-assisted therapy has its limitations. While it can provide significant relief and facilitate transformation, it may not be effective for everyone or every condition. Response rates can vary, and individual factors such as treatment history, co-occurring disorders, and personal circumstances can influence the outcomes.
Each person’s experience with ketamine therapy can vary subjectively. While many individuals experience swift and substantial symptom improvement, others may not respond as quickly or effectively. Your care team should discuss any impact on therapeutic results they may identify during your intake, and they will make the necessary recommendations so you can have the most efficacious journey possible. So, rather than a “cure,” the focus could be on how to leverage ketamine as such a powerful healing tool.
Look Inside Our Toolbox
In the second part of our blog series, “Ketamine-Assisted Therapy: A Promising Tool, Not a Cure-all,” we’ll visit some specific treatment modalities you can combine with ketamine treatment for optimal results. Visit the Nushama Blog in two weeks, when we will be opening our toolbox again and sharing some of our favorite treatment modalities with you.