By Shira Jacobson
Choosing a Ketamine Clinic? Here’s What You Need to Know
Ketamine therapy is rapidly emerging as an effective and viable option for patients suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD, end-of-life distress, chronic pain and substance abuse issues. It is especially targeted for patients who have not responded to two or more antidepressant medications.
The American Psychiatric Nurses Association describes ketamine infusion therapy as “the administration of a single infusion or a series of infusions for the management of psychiatric disorders (e.g., major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, acute suicidality).”
Ketamine therapy treatment usually includes several in-clinic dosing sessions under clinician supervision, integrated with preparatory and follow-up counseling.
What Does Ketamine Therapy Do?
Ketamine targets depression using a different mechanism than that of conventional antidepressant drugs.
Conventional antidepressants work to increase levels of naturally occurring chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. This allows for better communication between brain cells and has a subsequently positive effect on the patient’s mood.
Ketamine, on the other hand, operates by blocking NMDA receptors. This increases levels of glutamate, the most abundant chemical messenger in the brain, and also activates AMPA receptors to release other molecules that help brain cells communicate along new pathways. The process, known as synaptogenesis, is effective for treating depression because it positively impacts patients’ mood, thought patterns and cognition.
How Is Ketamine Therapy Administered?
The most common and effective type of ketamine therapy is IV infusion therapy. IV infusion sessions typically last for about 40-60 minutes and patients feel the effects almost immediately. While IV infusion type of therapy has not yet received FDA approval for targeting depression, it may be used for non-FDA approved indications at the discretion of the administering or prescribing physician.
A secondary method of ketamine therapy is administered via a nasal spray called esketamine (Spravato). Esketamine received FDA approval for treating depression in 2019, and while is a relatively newer treatment option, it has been seen to produce rapid, effective results.
A third method for ketamine therapy allows patients to receive treatment via in-home telemedicine therapy. Potential patients undergo an online screening process and are then prescribed tablets of sublingual ketamine for at-home use. This treatment option is especially helpful for patients who have a hard time leaving their home, for physical or emotional reasons. However, a drawback to this method is that there is no skilled staff on-site during dosing, a factor that many consider necessary for proper administration and treatment.
Treatment protocol for all types of ketamine therapy usually includes a few initial sessions followed by maintenance sessions, as needed
How Much Does Ketamine Therapy Cost?
Ketamine therapy is often not covered by health insurance. As such, the cost can be a major factor when deciding which clinic to choose.
According to the American Society of Ketamine Physicians, $500-$800 is a reasonable cost to pay for each 40-60 minute session, depending on the level of personalized care and dosage of the drug.
However, some clinics charge as little as $350 per treatment (of which you will need 4-6, or more) while others may charge over $1000
How Do I Know Which Ketamine Clinic To Choose?
Recent years have seen a rapid increase in the number of ketamine therapy clinics around the United States. The fact that many ketamine clinics may appear to be similar to each other, both in terms of service language and price ranges, can make it somewhat challenging for patients to choose between them.
However, experts in the field explain that there are some key differences to note.
For example, Abid Nazeer M.D., FASAM, Founder/President of Illinois’ APS Ketamine and Chief Medical Officer of Wesana Health, a data-driven life science company pioneering drug development and clinical therapies utilizing psychedelic medicine for mental health care, recommends the following:
“Be cautious if a clinic promises or guarantees results, charges very high out of pocket prices, does not have appropriate screening and evaluation prior to starting the treatment, lacks involvement of any mental health practitioners, does not track outcomes and communicates to all patients that they will need monthly maintenance treatments no matter what. High quality clinics address all these issues, offer more comprehensive services and expertise in treating depression, focus on improving access to care by lowering costs and view the treatment as a tool to assist therapy alongside other treatments in a holistic approach.”
Reid Robison, Chief Medical Officer of Novamind, a full-service psychedelic medicine contract research organization dedicated to emerging mental health therapies, offers similar advice, especially regarding the clinic’s healthcare team:
“When seeking ketamine treatments for mental health conditions, it’s important to have a skilled treatment team in place that is experienced in assessing these types of conditions. My recommendation is to find a clinic that offers ketamine-assisted psychotherapy, rather than ketamine treatments alone. Regardless, if the ketamine clinic itself is not staffed with mental health providers, I recommend having a psychotherapist on board before beginning a course of ketamine treatments who can work closely with, and whatever comes up along the way, in order to integrate any ketamine-related insights into day-to-day life.”
The right clinic will examine each patient thoroughly, including checking medical records, ordering lab tests and understanding the patient’s physical and mental condition. Adhering to this protocol can help the clinic determine whether ketamine treatment is indeed the best route for that patient.
What Questions Should I Ask Before Choosing A Ketamine Clinic?
Patients may find it helpful to ask ketamine clinics the following questions in order to understand which clinic will offer them the most effective treatment:
- Does your clinic follow APA and ASA guidelines for ketamine treatment in terms of patient selection and evaluation, monitoring, assessment and care?
- Do the healthcare professionals running your clinic have the knowledge, expertise and experience necessary for administration of ketamine treatment?
- How long has your clinic been open?
- How many treatments has your clinic administered?
- What is your clinic’s standard protocol for administering treatment?
- How many ketamine therapy sessions will be necessary?
- Will there be follow-up sessions following treatment?
- What are your clinic’s statistics for patient improvement?
The answers to these questions will give patients an indication of whether they will receive the safest and most effective treatment, both in terms of proper dosage and personalized mental health care. This is especially important today, as ketamine-assisted therapy becomes a more widely available treatment option for patients in need.
How Do I Find A Ketamine Clinic Near Me?
Patients interested in finding a nearby clinic can visit the Ketamine Clinic Directory for more information.