Anxiety is nearly a universal problem and has only increased since the COVID pandemic. In the United States, nearly 1 in 5 Americans suffer from anxiety. Unfortunately, medications for anxiety are either addictive or often don’t help enough. But, in recent years ketamine has shown promise for anxiety disorders, and what’s even more promising is ketamine is a short-term intervention that you only need to take for a few weeks.
Ketamine was first used in the early 1970’s for emergency medical procedures, as well as for soldiers who were injured during battle. It’s a powerful anesthetic that has many properties including sedation, relaxation and even pain cessation. However, it wasn’t until more recently that ketamine treatment for anxiety was discovered.
Ketamine is rapid-acting and in many cases can help with immediate relief from anxiety which has been demonstrated in clinical trials. Many medications for anxiety come with problematic side-effects and also can result in habit formation. Ketamine does not come with the same long-term side effects as other medications and operates completely differently on the brain with anti-inflammatory processes. Additionally, rumination and worry are common symptoms of depression and anxiety. Ketamine has been shown to downregulate brain structures involved in obsessive rumination. 
Medications for anxiety have clearly saved many lives. The largest issue with mainstay anti-anxiety medications are they are either highly addictive, take many weeks to work, don’t work at all, or come with very unpleasant long-term side effects.
A handful of ketamine clinical trials have focused on generalized anxiety and social anxiety. The results of these trials are generally encouraging, although more research is clearly needed to confirm these early results.
Dore et al (2019) reported a case series of ketamine outcomes for patients who were suffering from a variety of types of anxiety including social anxiety, generalized anxiety, and PTSD, with statistically significant benefits. Their work was significant in that all of their 235 cases were ketamine-assisted psychotherapy, not ketamine alone. In a 2018 open label investigation by Glue et al, one to two subcutaneous doses of ketamine per week over a 3 month period produced a 50% reduction in generalized anxiety and social anxiety. This study is important because it shows that recurrent dosing of ketamine can be effective for anxiety.
Figure: Glue et al 2017
“My current dose of meds weren’t cutting it anymore. I didn’t want to up my dose, but I needed a helping hand in calming my reactive body and mind. Within six hours of my first Ketamine session, I felt dramatically better, more grounded, less repetitive thoughts, and the darkness of depression significantly reduced. It was very reassuring to have the Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapist “holding the space” when I was under the ketamine. In addition, having someone to help me process what I experienced during the treatment led to greater insights about my visions. I think people should embrace Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy as a great tool in the toolbox. I had fears about experiencing dark thoughts that would overwhelm me, but in all of my Ketamine sessions the opposite happened: I felt comforted and rejuvenated. And, knowing there was a therapist by my side at all times made it a very safe and nurturing environment.”
“I started at IPC with severe depression, low self-confidence, and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. After my ketamine treatments, I finally stopped having suicidal thoughts. I have a positive outlook and feel a connection in my relationships. I also see how my degree is useful, and I’m connecting the dots between school and career. It was really nice to have a therapist to talk with throughout the Ketamine sessions about how to be my best self.”
“I had treatment-resistant depression for my entire life. I know it sounds cliche but I was only seeing dark clouds. The ketamine sessions allowed me to start functioning again with the desire little by little to get off the couch and re-engage with life. I don’t think there would have been any effect without the therapist. The ability to discuss my experiences and to continue to work on these issues within the integrative sessions was invaluable.””
“I struggled with depression. The ketamine sessions helped me gain more perspective. I’m now able to see my life and my existence in a larger context and pick up on things I couldn’t previously do. During the sessions, it was really helpful to have a therapist to create a safe container, guide me through the rough spots, and explore the deeper areas.”
“Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy had a profound effect on my life. I struggled with chronic depression and was on meds for twenty years. I did the Ketamine series about a year ago and have not had any depression since the treatment. My baseline emotional affect has lifted. I gained tools along with new perspectives. My therapist was so supportive and understanding talking me through what I call the Ketamine world. We talked through how my new insights could be useful and help me with depression.”
“Last summer, my twenty year old daughter was struggling with a horrible depression. She was having a hard time functioning, and pharmaceuticals didn’t work for her. We decided to have her try ketamine therapy at the Integrative Psychiatry Center. After six sessions, I saw my daughter completely emerge from her depression and she remains so all these months later. Due to the therapeutic assistance that she received during these sessions, she also seemed resourced to meet her life in new ways. I’m so grateful that IPC offers Ketamine treatment, and I highly recommend this therapy to others suffering from depression.”
“Before Ketamine therapy I was struggling mostly with depression that had come on very suddenly and was very debilitating. After the Ketamine sessions, I noticed the depression I had been experiencing began to let up, I noticed I was able to make art again, and socialize with others much better than I had before. Having a therapist present made me feel safe and helped me negotiate some of the experiences I had while on the Ketamine, and also helped me negotiate my relationship with the traditional role of a therapist.”
“I had been struggling with severe treatment resistant depression for many years before the Ketamine treatments. I had tried a large number of medications but none of them seemed to work for any length of time. I had been struggling with intermittent severe depression and suicidal thoughts just prior to the ketamine sessions. My mood lifted substantially during and after the sessions. I stopped having frequent suicidal thoughts. I also became more able to make changes in my life. The ketamine treatment was very freeing in this regard. I am a longtime binge-eater and have trauma and was able to work on these issues during the Ketamine sessions which really helped me make changes during and after the ketamine treatment.”
“I decided to get treated at IPC specifically because they had a psychotherapist present during the ketamine administration. Following up with the therapist during and after the ketamine treatment was critical in reinforcing the changes that the ketamine was allowing me to make in my life. Having a therapist present was also important for helping me deal with traumatic memories that came up during the ketamine therapy. All of the staff at IPC were very caring and supportive. I had a wonderful transformative experience.”
Choosing a medical provider can be a stressful experience. We want to help you find the right ketamine provider for your needs. Although there are an increasing number of places offering ketamine, there are several key things that make our clinic different which are important to consider when determining if IPC is the right place for your care:
1. Harvard Medical School, 2007. National Comorbidity Survey (NCS). (2017, August 21). Retrieved from https://www.hcp.med.harvard.edu/ncs/index.php. Data Table 2: 12-month prevalence DSM-IV/WMH-CIDI disorders by sex and cohort.
2. Hamilton et al. Depressive Rumination, the Default-Mode Network, and the Dark Matter of Clinical Neuroscience. Biological Psychiatry. 2015 Aug 15;78(4):224-30.
3. Jennifer Dore et al. Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP): Patient Demographics, Clinical Data and Outcomes in Three Large Practices Administering Ketamine with Psychotherapy, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 51:2, 189-198, DOI: 10.1080/02791072.2019.1587556.
4. Glue, P., Neehoff, S. M., Medlicott, N. J., Gray, A., Kibby, G., & McNaughton, N. (2018). Safety and efficacy of maintenance ketamine treatment in patients with treatment-refractory generalised anxiety and social anxiety disorders. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 32(6), 663–667.