Ketamine Infusion Therapy: IV Ketamine Drip, What Is It, Therapy Benefits & More | Actify Neurotherapies

What is ketamine infusion therapy?

About the Author Dr. Steven P. Levine is a board-certified psychiatrist internationally recognized for his contributions to advancements in mental health care. Though he is a psychiatrist who places great emphasis on the importance of psychotherapy, medication is often a necessary component of treatment, and he was dissatisfied with the relatively ineffective available options with burdensome side effects. Dr. Levine pioneered a protocol for the clinical use of ketamine infusions, has directly supervised many thousands of infusions and has helped establish similar programs across the country and around the world.

Ketamine infusion therapy has taken the medical community by storm and is often touted as the future of depression treatment. There are now over a thousand clinics in the country offering ketamine as medication for mental health, providing ample options for patients in need of a rapid-acting solution for hard to treat depression and other mood disorders. Treatment-resistant mental health conditions can leave patients with few options, which is where ketamine infusions come in. Actify Neurotherapies is proud to be the largest network of ketamine treatment centers in the country, having treated over 3,500 patients with over 35,000 ketamine infusions at our nine locations nationwide. The treatment protocol we follow for ketamine infusions is upheld by peer-reviewed research and delivers relief for symptoms of major depressive disorder in a matter of hours, rather than weeks. In this article, we will review the ketamine infusion therapy experience, preparation and possible side effects, and the difference between intravenous (IV) and intranasal ketamine.

Preparing for Ketamine Infusion Therapy

Preparing for treatment is an important aspect of Actify Neurotherapies’ patient consultation process. We want our patients to be comfortable with the procedure; however, ketamine infusions are not the same type of procedure you have going to a surgeon or dentist. Because the procedure only involves an IV, the risks are drastically lower than a surgery wherein you are purposefully unconscious to prevent pain and movement. Ketamine is so safe as an anesthetic that much higher doses are frequently used to put patients to sleep before surgeries. Such doses are often times 4 times higher than what we administer at Actify Neurotherapies. For mood disorders and chronic pain treatment, evidence suggests low dose therapy is most effective.

Ketamine Side Effects

During the Treatment: Ketamine Side Effects

During the infusion, you will be encouraged to get comfortable in your reclining chair. Many people listen to calming music or music that puts you in a positive state of mind. Feel free to bring any family into the room with you, so long as they have a calming presence during this time. Talking and excessive stimulation is often discouraged, especially during the first treatment unless it becomes your preference. If you need to use the restroom, please inform the infusion nurse or psychiatrist so that you may be assisted as needed. At all times you will be able to move and walk; nevertheless, Ketamine can impair your balance, and you will be connected to an IV, so it is important that you ask for assistance before walking. As a side note, while the nurse or physician is in the room to check on you, it is important to let them know of side effects during the infusion like nausea, feeling faintness or a headache. Similar to the quick onset of dissociative sensations near the beginning of the infusion, you will find that these sensations dissipate rather abruptly near the end as well. After your infusion, you may feel groggy and that is why having a driver or other third-party transportation is essential after the infusion. Most times, the grogginess completely dissipates within 3 hours after the infusion and very rarely lasts into the next morning. Of note, alcohol can contribute to a continued groggy feeling the next morning so please abstain from drinking alcohol before or after Ketamine therapy. A similar effect is possible with benzodiazepines such a Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Valium, and Librium — be careful to avoid these to prevent side effects. Because this description is meant to be succinct, writing down any outstanding questions and having a thorough discussion with your Actify Neurotherapies psychiatrist is recommended before the first Ketamine treatment.

Ketamine Infusion Experience

At the beginning of the infusion, you may not feel the Ketamine immediately but after a few minutes, you may experience a benign tingling sensation in your lips and/or extremities. Soon after, some patients describe a sense of “feeling heavier”. You may even feel as though your mind is detached from your body. Though this sounds quite strange, most patients find this calming and even soothing and very rarely do patients feel uncomfortable. Some patients express concerns about a “bad trip” or “hallucinations,” but really those words are not appropriate given Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic rather than a hallucinogen like LSD or psilocybin mushrooms. Inasmuch, Ketamine has not been shown to directly affect the same receptors that are affected by popular hallucinogens. Rather, patients may have mild illusionary experiences, meaning that light or other senses are perceived in a less than normal or enhanced way.¹ This is why often times in preparation for infusion, light will be minimized by dimming, providing the patient with an eye mask, or other various ways. On the other hand, do not be surprised if you do not feel these effects as is the case with many patients. The evidence is still lacking as to whether these illusionary experiences are correlated with better response, so it is important to let expectations go if you are getting an antidepressant response.

IV Ketamine vs Intranasal Ketamine

At Actify Neurotherapies, we use IV Ketamine. This means that an IV will be placed for a short period of time, but don’t worry, this isn’t painful after placement and has a very low risk of infection when performed by a nurse or doctor. We use IV Ketamine because oral and intranasal routes have unreliable and variable absorption from patient to patient due to complex genetic and environmental variables that change gastrointestinal tract or nasal absorption. IV administration is also preferred over other routes because of the most robust trials to date use IV Ketamine.² Read Does the Route of Administration Matter? to learn more about how we treat mood disorders and some types of chronic pain conditions. “Recent data suggest that Ketamine, given intravenously, might be the most important breakthrough in antidepressant treatment in decades.” – Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health References

  1. Krupitsky EM, Grinenko AY. Ketamine psychedelic therapy (KPT): a review of the results of ten years of research. J Psychoactive Drugs. 1997;29(2):165-183.
  2. Singh JB, Fedgchin M, Daly EJ, et al. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, dose-frequency study of intravenous ketamine in patients with treatment-resistant depression. Am J Psychiatry. 2016;173(8):816-826. doi:10.1176/appi. ajp.2016.16010037.