When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a nasal spray derived from ketamine to treat depression in 2019, several news reports call it the first materially new option to treat depression in up to five decades. Let that sink in for a minute.
Now, let’s look back. From ketamine’s early use in the 1970s through the 1990s as a battlefield anesthesia and in emergency medical calls, interesting long-term responses swirled up from patients, including reports they had a significant positive shift in their mental outlook. Clinical trials commenced. By 2011, ketamine was legally administered to patients with severe depression in three states as an off-label use of its FDA approval for anesthesia.
In 2015, an estimated 60 ketamine clinics operated throughout the U.S. Within three years there were more than 300. By early 2022, with post-pandemic headlines giving broad attention to mental health issues and patient and trial results showing impressive data, private ketamine clinics in the U.S. numbered more than 550.
The first time I saw a news segment highlighting clinical trials of psychedelic drugs, (it was psilocybin), to treat PTSD, chronic pain, and severe anxiety, I was riveted.
My nightly internet searches turned to psilocybin. Everything I found left me more intrigued and a bit leery. My only knowledge of psychedelic drugs at that point was images from the 1960s of recreational use and the sometimes-frightening outcomes from these substances. I read scientific articles and patient blogs. I listened to podcasts about psychedelics and found news programs about people micro-dosing mushrooms to successfully manage chronic conditions. I watched documentaries and scoured YouTube for patient testimonials. I read the history. In addition to absorbing information about natural and lab made compounds, I learned about trials, outcomes, and theories of how mind-altering options work for long-term benefits. Clearly, patients are ready for new, bold, and very welcome treatment options and ketamine therapy is part of this new dawn.
More than a year and a half after I saw that first news segment, an obscure internet search led me to a licensed counselor focused on altered states of consciousness who asked if I had looked into ketamine. This option, this word, had somehow sailed past me in my fascination with psilocybin. Ketamine, at times considered within psychedelics as a “dissociative” was legal, already in use, and available at medical clinics in my state.
While pursuing my own course of ketamine therapy, I was ready to submit a graduate degree thesis proposal. I created a study in a topic that I knew I could cover with great interest and enthusiasm and I felt could have real value for ketamine patients. After hundreds of hours of informal research, I crafted my focus on personal journaling as an adjunct exercise to support the outcomes of ketamine therapy.
More months of intense review of ketamine patients discussing their experiences and outcomes and my awe and respect for this medically directed treatment only grew. Patients readily provided reference to visuals, feelings, sensations, knowing, and vastness. Their expressions were helpful to explain the mystery swirling around ketamine treatment. I found an ease that is too complex to explain; an ironic merry-go-round of inadequate language. Believing a journey of the mind truly happens while not physically moving out of a chair is critical to understanding why a journal might be helpful to record and extend the experience.
CONNECTED, the outcome of this project, is intended for patient use in consultation with a medical doctor, a professional mental health counselor, and under the direction of a licensed clinical program. So please, dive into your own research, as information increases every day. Be fully aware of the potential high highs and low lows of this therapy and what is expected for your specific condition. At the other side of a completed program, I truly hope you arrive at a new chapter in your life and find the relief, clarity, and peace you so deserve.