What Is Psychedelic Assisted Therapy?

We've got the inside scoop on this fascinating phenomenon.

People have long been afraid to try Ketamine Assisted Therapy as an alternative form of therapy and with good reason. What is it exactly? Is it safe? Does it have side effects? We interviewed Dr. Mike Dow, a certified Psychedelic Assisted Therapy Expert, to give us the rundown on this fascinating phenomenon.

What is Ketamine Assisted Therapy…. and is it safe? 

Ketamine assisted psychotherapy is now approved for use in Canada, so yes, it is safe. Ketamine is the only psychedelic approved in Canada for use in treatment-resistant depression, though it’s been around since the 50’s. It’s a super fast-working therapy that has shown significant improvement in patients in just 24 hours! It can also be co-prescribed with other antidepressants for a more profound effect.

Ketamine therapy entails combining the open, empathic, and dissociative state of a psychedelic with psychotherapy to maximize the effects. Therapeutic doses of ketamine boost glutamate, a neurotransmitter that is often overshadowed by the more famous serotonin and dopamine. Boosting glutamate prompts the brain to make new neural connections and boost the levels of many different neurotransmitters.

What is the Process of Getting this Therapy, and Who’s Eligible?

In Canada a referral from a physician is required. This referral is usually only given if the patient has failed two other depression treatments, like regular therapy or medication. If a patient is approved, they undergo a medical intake with a psychiatrist (which is covered by OHIP). 

The actually process of therapy entails 6 ketamine-assisted psychotherapy sessions and 4 integration sessions. The integration sessions are exclusively therapy, and help the patient to make sense of what happened in the last ketamine-assisted session. Generally, the treatment process takes place over a few months.

How Effective is this Treatment?

Before treatment, the average level of depression in patients is generally “severe” depression using a standard assessment. After sessions, the average was “minimal” depression. There are similar improvements in anxiety as well. These improvements are still apparent one month later in follow-up appointments of patients. In short, it works well, and on people who have historically struggled to treat their depression. It can also work in conjunction with other treatments, so can be incorporated into other treatment plans. 

Does it Affect Different People Differently?

Some people have a very strong spiritual experience that changes the way they view the world or themselves for the rest of their life. This is particularly common if the root of depression or anxiety is trauma. For the more biological and antidepressant effect, the results can vary from a couple months to a year depending on the person.

If you Suffer from Depression…

Don’t give up. The brain is our most complex organ, so doesn’t it make sense that treating a condition that involves the brain, our personality and our life can sometimes be difficult? Mental health is like creating a slow cooker recipe. You must find the right ingredients to make that perfect recipe. For some people, a dash of exercise is enough. For others, it’s just talk therapy. For others, maybe you need to add a little ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. Keep going until you find the right recipe.