How will I feel during my treatment? This might be one of the first questions that springs to mind if you’re new to psychedelic therapy.
The short answer is that ketamine produces a sense of dissociation from one’s ordinary reality. But of course, it’s a lot more complex than that.
That’s why in this post, we’ll (try our best to) explain what you’ll experience during your treatment, and also, what happens during your first visit to Mindbloom.
Introduction to psychedelic ketamine experiences
Ketamine is the only clinician-prescribed psychedelic medicine currently available to mental health professionals. Ketamine is fast-acting and has shown impressive clinical efficacy across many conditions. This is likely because ketamine increases neuroplasticity (the ability to create new neural connections) and suppresses the default mode network (DMN), which is often the culprit of negative and ruminating thought patterns. Learn more in The Neuroscience of Ketamine.
Ketamine creates a unique experience due to its biological, experiential, and psychological impacts. Ketamine is dissociative, which means it alters your perception of reality. In other words, it can open you up to seeing yourself, and the world, in a whole new light, thereby opening up new possibilities for change.
The spectrum of ketamine experiences range from very mild to complete dissociation (typically only targeted in anesthesia), and Mindbloom’s clients most frequently achieve moderate levels of dissociation described as “trance” or “transformational” states, described below. While every journey is different, there are common mental and physical effects, which we’ll now explore in greater detail.
How Mindbloom clients typically feel during treatment
Our clinicians at Mindbloom collaborate with clients to find the right dose. The right dose is important because it will help the client achieve a therapeutic state that best meets their psychotherapeutic needs. For the initial session, the dosing is typically light to moderate.
The initial session
Mindbloom clients typically enter a trance state during their initial session. When in a trance state, people often report positive feelings such as reduced mind chatter, relaxation, euphoria, love, and empathy.
Explaining the trance state further, Dore et al. say that, “Depending upon dose, ketamine promotes a time-out from ordinary, usual mind, relief from negativity, and an openness to the expansiveness of mind with access to self in the larger sense.”
Depending on a client’s psychotherapeutic needs, clinicians might target a transformational state for clients. This is a deeper psychedelic state that is accessed with higher sublingual dosing or intramuscular (IM) injections. The transformational state is characterized by the reduction of body and sensory awareness of an ego. Clients can also have experiences that help to liberate their conceptions of themselves and the world from rigid societal norms, and sometimes these experiences are described as highly spiritual. Using IM dosing, a full out-of-body experience can be reached.
The 2014 paper, “Do the dissociative side effects of ketamine mediate its antidepressant effects?” suggests that the level of dissociation that takes place during treatment is actually correlated with more robust antidepressant effects.
How long does it last?
Each person’s ketamine experience will be different. You’ll start to feel the effects of the dose within 10-15 minutes, and the peak experience will last approximately 30-45 minutes. Most clients return to their ordinary level of awareness within 1-2 hours following administration and can resume normal activities. However, we suggest you clear your day to reflect and take advantage of your fertile brain state!
In some cases, mild side effects may linger until you’ve had a full night’s rest, so our clients agree not to operate a vehicle or heavy equipment until the next day.
Side effects and safety tips
Anyone taking a mind and body altering drug should always take extra care to remain safe. Side effects of ketamine can include confusion, disorientation, dissociation, loss of coordination, agitation, nausea, and elevation in heart rate and blood pressure. We require our clients to take these side effects very seriously, since disorientation and lack of balance can lead to accidents if Mindbloom guidance is not carefully followed during every session, especially after they transition to undergoing their dosing sessions at home.
At Mindbloom, we’ve put some extra measures in place to ensure the safety and comfort of our clients. We carefully monitor the safety of our clients during virtual treatments and have medication available if unpleasant side effects emerge (we can also prescribe anti-nausea medication as needed for clients’ at-home sessions). And we require that all our clients have a peer monitor close at hand whenever they do a remote treatment at home.
Will I feel the same way each time?
Ketamine is slightly different for everyone and experiences may vary from session to session based on your mindset and setting. The preparation for the treatment and the work you do between treatments, such as intention setting and journaling, will influence your experiences and help you achieve greater therapeutic benefits.
Your subjective experience, such as how dissociated you feel, might not always be an indicator of therapeutic results. That’s because even a mild experience could significantly impact your mood, feelings, and perspective in days to come.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. If you are in a life-threatening situation, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at +1 (800) 273-8255, call 911, or go to the nearest emergency room.
Important FDA Safety Information
Ketamine is not FDA-approved for the treatment of depression or anxiety. Learn more about off-label uses here.
Side effects of ketamine treatment may include: altered sense of time, anxiety, blurred vision, diminished ability to see/hear/feel, dry mouth, elevated blood pressure or heart rate, elevated intraocular or intracranial pressure, excitability, loss of appetite, mental confusion, nausea/vomiting, nystagmus (rapid eye movements), restlessness, slurred speech, synesthesia (a mingling of the senses).
Do not proceed with ketamine treatment if any of the following apply to you:
- Allergic to ketamine
- Symptoms of psychosis or mania
- Uncontrolled high blood pressure
- CHF or other serious heart problem
- Severe breathing problem
- History of elevated intraocular or intracranial pressure
- History of hyperthyroidism
- Other serious medical illness
- Pregnant, nursing, or trying to become pregnant
Ketamine has been reported to produce issues including, but not limited to, those listed below. However, lasting adverse side-effects are rare when medical protocols are carefully followed.
While ketamine has not been shown to be physically addictive, it has been shown to cause moderate psychological dependency in some recreational users.
- In rare cases, frequent, heavy users have reported increased frequency of urination, urinary incontinence, pain urinating, passing blood in the urine, or reduced bladder size
- Ketamine may worsen problems in people with schizophrenia, severe personality disorders, or other serious mental disorders.
- Users with a personal or family history of psychosis should be cautious using any psychoactive substance, including ketamine, and discuss potential risks with your MindBloom clinician before proceeding with treatment.
- The dissociative effects of ketamine may increase patient vulnerability and the risk of accidents.
To promote positive outcomes and ensure safety, follow these ketamine treatment guidelines:
- Do not operate a vehicle (e.g., car, motorcycle, bicycle) or heavy machinery following treatment until you’ve had a full night of sleep
- Refrain from taking benzodiazepines or stimulants for 24 hours prior to treatment
- Continue to take antihypertensive medication as prescribed
- Avoid hangovers or alcohol intake
- Refrain from consuming solid foods within 3 hours prior to treatment and liquids within 1 hour prior to treatment
- Ketamine treatment should never be conducted without a monitor present to ensure your safety