You’ve made the decision to look into whether psychedelic therapy might be right for you. You’ve done some research, looked at some potential avenues, but keep seeing the stipulation that these treatments are available for “eligible candidates.”
What exactly does being a candidate for psychedelic therapy mean? This post explores the requirements of becoming a candidate, and what you can do if you find out that you are, or are not, a candidate for psychedelic therapy treatments.
Qualifying Psychedelic Therapy Candidates
There are a number of regulations, requirements, and eligibility criteria that go into determining whether or not someone is a candidate for a particular type of psychedelic medicine or a specific treatment protocol. Different medicines will have different criteria, as will the method of administration or treatment protocols that you may be interested in.teams
An important distinction to begin with is whether you are applying for candidacy with an organization or service such as Mindbloom or IV/IM ketamine clinics, or whether you are looking into clinical/scientific research studies.
As research studies are far more focused on their hypothesis and what they are seeking data for, they will often have more rigid candidacy requirements. These might include particular age ranges, particular conditions to work with, or other significant demographic/psychographic requirements. As such, it is often more difficult to be an eligible candidate for research studies, though it is not impossible.
For medically available psychedelic therapy protocols, such as ketamine treatment, there are a few broad categories that help determine whether someone is an eligible candidate or not.
The first category is the existence of any contraindications for the medicine or the treatment protocol. Contraindications are indications in the mind/body that demonstrate an individual would not be a fit for this particular treatment, or that the treatment itself presents potential safety concerns. This fit should only be determined by a licensed clinician.
Contraindications can include things like existing mental conditions, family history of certain illnesses, prescribed medications, or physical considerations such as resting heart rate, blood pressure, epilepsy, or other conditions. For a more comprehensive overview, see our full write-up on contradictions here.
A variety of conditions, including treatment-resistant versions, such as anxiety, depression, treatment-resistant cases, PTSD, and others are available for treatment with ketamine therapy, while studies are underway to legalize additional psychedelic medicines. However, given that ketamine is a Schedule 3 compound by the DEA, clinicians must be able to support their diagnoses and prescriptions.
As a result, there are standardized assessments —such as the GAD-7 (anxiety), PHQ-9 (depression), and PROMIS Scores (depression & anxiety)— that clinicians will use to gauge whether someone fits the reported condition, and if ketamine treatment is the appropriate treatment protocol.
On many candidate surveys, you will see the systems of measurement used. These initial baseline tests provide clinicians a glimpse of what symptoms a candidate is dealing with and if they are potentially appropriate for treatment. In some cases, some people may be screened out based on these initial surveys. For those that do meet the pre-screening eligibility criteria, the clinician has final discretion to determine appropriateness of treatment which is usually after completing an evaluation.
Evaluation with the Clinician
The mental health assessments and questionnaires that are provided by clinicians aren’t the only qualifier. The prescriber ultimately determines whether or not they deem an individual as a potential candidate for psychedelic therapy. There will be an initial in-person or virtual consultation as part of this process. This gives the clinician more opportunity to meet the potential candidate, and make a more informed decision about their care.
If there are indications that this wouldn’t be the right fit, such as a more severe case than the initial notes indicated, or if there is a lack of confidence that the individual will adhere to the treatment protocol, the clinician may deem them ineligible for candidacy.
If they require additional support, or if they have a unique set of circumstances, the clinician may create stipulations for candidacy, such as an individual may be a candidate if they are also working alongside a licensed therapist for additional support, for example.
Ultimately, the decision to make someone a candidate comes down to the sole discretion and decision of the licensed clinician who will be prescribing the course of treatment.
What If I Am A Candidate?
If you have moved through the application and screening process, and your clinician has deemed you a candidate, you are now in the position to decide your next steps.
Being a candidate means that if you so choose, you are able to move forward with this particular treatment program and protocol.
Of course, this decision to move forward is yours, and yours alone. This is a decision for your healing and wholeness, and one that should be made with good intention and adequate information.
If you are an eligible candidate for treatment, you might take one of the following next steps.
If you are confident in the clinician and the protocol, and understand the process, you can begin your treatment and move forward on your healing journey.
If you have any questions or concerns about the process or the protocol, now is a good time to ask. You want to make informed, safe decisions for yourself that you are comfortable with. If you have any questions, ask the clinician or the care team that will be working with you alongside your program.
You are not required to begin a treatment if you are a candidate. Perhaps the timing isn’t right, or maybe you are unsure of the particular program. All of this is okay, if you have concerns, it’s best to be safe and make wise decisions. As always, being a candidate does not force you to move forward with the process, it simply means that you can if you so choose.
If you are a candidate for psychedelic therapy, it means that you do not have any contraindications for the treatment, and that the clinician feels you are a fit for the treatment, and that the treatment would be beneficial for you. At this point, if you wish to, you can move forward and begin your treatment program.
What If I’m Not A Candidate?
At some point throughout the application and screening process, you may be told that you are not a candidate for this treatment or for this medicine. Though this can be challenging or disappointing news to hear, it does not necessarily mean that your healing journey stops here.
There are a number of ways to move forward beyond this if you find out that you are not a candidate. You might consider one of the following actions.
There may be a particular reason, such as an existing contraindication, that disqualified you. Asking why can help highlight other possible steps, such as finding a different medicine or protocol that has different eligibility requirements. There may be a stipulation, like lowering your blood pressure, that is the only thing that needs to be addressed. With a bit of time and effort, you can change that and become a candidate.
Look at options
Each medicine and program is unique, and as a result have different requirements. Just because you are not a candidate for one form of medicine or treatment does not mean there isn’t a potential option out there for you. Take a look at all of your options.
Other healing options
Though psychedelic medicine is one option for mental health, it is not the only one. There are many available healing modalities: psychotherapy, pharmaceuticals, natural remedies, lifestyle changes, and different health decisions that may be just as effective on your healing journey. When one door closes, another one opens, and there is something out there for everyone.
If you are not a candidate for psychedelic therapy, you have options available. Understanding why is the first step, and then looking for potential avenues forward beyond that brings this process back into your control. Finally, if psychedelic therapy isn’t the right fit at this time, you have many other healing options and treatments available to you.
Find out if you’re a candidate today
Being a candidate for psychedelic therapy is just the first step on your healing journey. It lets you know that you are able to move forward with the treatment process if you choose to. Though it is only the first step, it is an important first step nonetheless. A bold step towards your own healing, growth, and wholeness.
If you’re looking into psychedelic therapy and would like to know whether or not you are a candidate for ketamine treatment, you can take Mindbloom’s candidate survey today.
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