Navigating the Journey: What to Expect During a Ketamine Infusion Session

Navigating the Journey - What to Expect During a Ketamine Infusion Session | HealthSoul

Ketamine infusions are increasingly being used to treat a variety of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD. During an infusion, a patient receives low doses of ketamine intravenously over a period of 40 minutes to a few hours, under medical supervision. The psychedelic effects of the drug lead to rapid reduction in symptoms for many people.

While ketamine infusions offer new hope for those suffering from stubborn mental health issues, many people feel uncertain about what to expect during the experience. Understanding the step-by-step process can help ease pre-infusion anxieties. Here is an outline of what you can anticipate before, during, and after a ketamine infusion session:

The Initial Consultation: Setting the Stage

With its rising global usage, it’s no surprise that many are curious about the initial stages of ketamine treatment. Let’s explore what the first steps look like.

The initial consultation is a crucial step in beginning the ketamine treatment journey. This stage sets the foundation for the entire process by allowing medical professionals to understand the patient’s unique needs. Factors like medical history, body weight, age, and prior treatment experiences help determine the ideal first ketamine dosage. While this consultation sets the tone, understanding the duration and actual experience of ketamine sessions is equally vital. 

Duration and Experience of Ketamine Treatments

From 2007 to 2010, ketamine was the second-most popular drug of abuse in Hong Kong. This statistic underscores the importance of understanding the treatment’s duration and what patients can expect during the session.

For mood disorders like depression, anxiety, and PTSD, the initial ketamine therapy in Boston treatment session typically lasts 45 minutes to 1 hour. Patients receive an intravenous infusion of ketamine while seated in a comfortable reclining chair in a peaceful, supervised setting. Many clinics provide blankets and eye masks to further enhance relaxation.

During the infusion, patients often describe a pleasant, dreamlike state and a sensation of bodily warmth and weightlessness. Some experience perceptual changes but remain fully conscious and aware. This dissociative effect is believed to contribute positively to ketamine’s rapid antidepressant effects.  

For chronic pain management, ketamine infusions are longer, typically lasting 4-6 hours. As ketamine has anesthetic properties, longer infusions at higher doses can provide significant pain relief in conditions like fibromyalgia, migraines, arthritis, and nerve pain syndromes.

Patients may opt for repeat ketamine sessions depending on their diagnosis. For example, depression or mood disorders often require a series of 4-6 initial infusions, followed by maintenance treatments every few weeks or months. Finding the optimal duration and frequency is an important part of ketamine therapy.

Navigating the Journey - What to Expect During a Ketamine Infusion Session - Post | HealthSoul

Source: Author’s expertise and experience

Before the Infusion

Prior to your appointment, avoid alcohol for at least 24 hours. You will also need to fast for 6 to 12 hours beforehand. Your medical team will provide instructions on exactly how long to abstain from food and drink.

Arrive On Time and Check In

Be sure to arrive 15 minutes early for your infusion appointment to complete any remaining intake forms and preparations. The infusion room is specially designed to be calming and comforting, often with soft lighting, comfortable seating, and peaceful music.

Meet with Your Team

Before the infusion begins, you will meet with the doctor/anesthesiologist overseeing your treatment. They will discuss your goals for the session, current medications, and any final questions or concerns. An IV line will be started, usually in your arm or hand, in preparation for the infusion.

Pre-Infusion Dose

Most ketamine treatment centers administer a small pre-infusion dose of ketamine (around 10mg). This test dose helps identify any unlikely allergic reactions before the full dose is given. If no issues arise after 10-15 minutes, the remainder of the dose will be administered.

Psychological Preparation

Even with a pre-infusion dose, it is normal to feel some anxiety leading up to a ketamine session. Your medical team will provide support in mentally preparing for the experience and settling into a relaxed state. Breathing exercises, eye masks, weighted blankets, and calming music are often utilized.

Administering the Full Dose

Once the pre-dose check goes smoothly, the anesthesiologist will administer the main ketamine dose over a period of 5-10 minutes. Doses given during mental health infusions are substantially below those used for anesthesia, typically 0.5mg to 1mg per kg of body weight. Dosage can be adjusted across sessions depending on individual response and sensitivities.

The Infusion Experience

Within about 5 minutes of receiving the full dose, you will begin transitioning into a psychedelic state. Ketamine infusions induce a dream-like intoxication, often described as a “dissociative” experience. You may observe visual hallucinations, distortion of time and space, vivid fantasies, and other perceptual effects. Some people even report out-of-body sensations. Your rational mind remains intact, though your thinking and sensory processes feel altered.

You will be encouraged to relax into the experience as fully as feels comfortable. Some people prefer to close their eyes, meditate, and “journey inward.” Others become very engaged with the perceptual changes and music in the room. Your provider will be nearby through the session to ensure your comfort and safety.

Peak Experience

The psychedelic peak occurs 30-45 minutes into the infusion lasting 15-30 minutes. Ketamine reaches peak concentration in the brain during this time. The intensity of the dissociative, psychedelic effects crescendo during the peak before gradually subsiding.

Coming Back

After the peak effects, you will start gaining more clarity and control over your experience. The dissociative sensations slowly begin dissolving over the next 30-60 minutes. You may continue processing thoughts and insights from your session during this time. Normal cognition fully returns within 1-2 hours after infusion.

Post-Infusion Integration

After ketamine infusions, it is common to feel open, inspired, and emotionally sensitive during the re-orientation process. Having an intention or inner focus can help integrate insights from your psychedelic journey. Some people journal or talk through reflections with their provider. Others prefer silent mindfulness. Gaining closure on your experience facilitates the therapeutic process.

Discharge Once completely coherent and steady on your feet, you will be discharged from the clinic. You will need someone to drive you home safely. Make sure to follow your provider’s guidance on eating, drinking, and resuming normal activities. Refrain from driving or operating heavy machinery for the rest of the day.

Follow Up Appointment

Your treatment team will schedule a follow up appointment, usually within 1-2 weeks of your infusion. This allows you to review your experience, assess progress, and determine next steps in ketamine therapy. Most people undergo a series of 4-6 infusions over several weeks for long-lasting mental health benefits.

What to Expect After the Infusion

For the remainder of the infusion day, rest and take it easy. Prepare for mental fogginess similar to emerging from anesthesia. Drink plenty of water and eat a light, healthy meal when ready.

Many people report an afterglow effect the day following ketamine treatment, including improved mood, mental quietness, and optimism. However, as ketamine leaves your system, it is normal to experience some ups and downs. Your provider can make dosage and frequency adjustments to stabilize the benefits.

Over a series of 4-6 infusions, you can expect gradual and lasting relief of your mental health symptoms. Ketamine also facilitates neuroplasticity, helping break rigid negative thought patterns. With this treatment, many people find a renewed ability to engage in talk therapy, strengthen relationships, and make positive life changes.

What are the Risks?

Ketamine infusions are very safe when medically supervised, especially at the low doses used for mental health treatment. Side effects during the session may include:

  • Nausea/vomiting – can be mitigated with anti-nausea medication
  • Blurred vision
  • Unsteady gait – you will be assisted when walking post-infusion
  • Confusion – dissipates shortly after the infusion
  • Elevated blood pressure – monitored by your provider
  • Headaches, muscle stiffness – typically resolve within hours

There are also minimal risks of long-term frequent recreational ketamine use at very high doses. However, these risks have not emerged at the doses and frequencies used in medical settings. Your psychiatric and anesthesia team minimize risks by screening patients, monitoring vitals, and overseeing dosage/frequency.

Taking the Next Steps 

Ketamine infusions can provide rapid, lasting relief from crippling mental health issues when other treatments have failed. Although the dissociative psychedelic experience differs from person to person, medical guidance makes ketamine administration safe. 

An effective treatment for depression, anxiety, OCD and more, ketamine offers new hope for those in need. By understanding the step-by-step process, you can navigate your infusion journey confidently.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is it common to feel drowsy after the treatment?

While some patients may feel tired after the infusion, most feel mentally alert and are able to resume normal activity rapidly. Drowsiness is not a typical side effect.

2. How does the “dissociation” effect contribute to the treatment’s effectiveness? 

For most individuals, this dissociative effect contributes positively to their ketamine treatment, yielding a beneficial antidepressant response. It’s considered a normal part of the process.

3. Are there any risks associated with ketamine treatments?

Ketamine is administered in very low doses compared to anesthetic use. However, it’s essential not to drive post-treatment until fully recovered. When protocols are followed, it is considered a safe therapy.