Recently we’ve been receiving questions about Ketamine Assisted Therapy and its use for treatment resistant mood disorders, especially depression, debilitating anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and alcohol use disorder (AUD).

We have used Ketamine Assisted Therapy at Hanya House (and before) for many patients and the results have been extremely positive. As well as using Ketamine Assisted Therapy for specific disorders, we have also seen the benefit of Ketamine Assisted Therapy as a tool for people ready to wean off of anti-depressants (where appropriate and in conjunction with input from a psychologist).

Understandably though, many people are wary because Ketamine, as well as being a life-saving drug since the late 1960s, has been used recreationally in various illegal forms as a street drug.

A Brief History of Ketamine

Ketamine is one of the most widely used drugs in the world, administered in medical settings most often as an anaesthetic. In the 1970s, during the Vietnam war, Ketamine really proved itself an essential medicine in a medic’s bag; it could be used on the battlefield because it alleviated pain while maintaining heart and lung function. So, as well as being effective it was much safer than other anaesthetics in this respect.

The Anti-Depressant Effect of Ketamine

In the 1990s research started to show the anti-depressant effects of Ketamine. By blocking the NMDA receptor in the brain, activating the μ-opioid receptor, and blockading the dopamine transporter, Ketamine created a dissociative, neuro-protective, anxiolytic, and euphoric effect. Altogether, this neurochemistry led to a strong anti-depressant effect. 

Researchers found that Ketamine provided immediate relief to people with suicidal ideations. In fact, for a range of treatment resistant mood disorders, Ketamine proved to be fast-acting and long-lasting. 

Ketamine Assisted Therapy at Hanya House

Ketamine Assisted Therapy is relatively new in South Africa, but has been used in other countries, especially the United States, for several years already. As a team (Medical Doctor, Dr. Rav James, and internationally-qualified Life Coach, Ryan James) we have been researching Ketamine for over two years, consulting with professionals in the USA and here in South Africa. Both Dr. Rav and Ryan have undergone training in a transpersonal approach to Ketamine Assisted Therapy through the Polaris Insight Centre in California, where much of the cutting-edge research into this method is taking place.  

Ketamine Assisted Therapy is a supported journey. In our own practice, we advocate an extremely personal approach where a Medical Doctor and Life Coach help the patient to integrate their experience in a setting that is safe and peaceful.

While arguably the most common way to administer Ketamine for mood disorders is intravenously, at Hanya House we administer sub-lingually (in liquid form under the tongue). A medical doctor and a Life Coach are present with the patient for the full session and this allows for “talk therapy” to accompany the treatment. Whereas in other clinics the patient is left alone for the experience, in our experience the presence of a qualified Life Coach offers a critical support component, both in terms of recording the experience of the patient, and providing a safe and constructive space for the patient to talk through the experience.

The Ketamine Assisted Therapy approach is not a golden ticket to improved mental health, but the transpersonal quality of the experience allows many people to see their lives and their life events from a different, and often extremely enlightening, perspective. When we can look at life differently, we are invited to set in motion different practices and responses that lead to more presence, and less painful and “stuck” stories.  

Looking at the brain (and the world) in new ways.

It is important to know that Ketamine Assisted Therapy is not an elective therapy; it is prescribed by a medical professional and it is recommended as complementary to an existing programme with a qualified psychologist.

We have chosen to include Ketamine Assisted Therapy as an alternative treatment option for specific patients who have run out of other options and it’s important to say that for many people we have seen really good progress for depression and anxiety simply by cleaning up the diet, improving sleep patterns, supporting mindfulness practices, and restoring critical chemical processes in the body. 

While Ketamine is a well-known drug with a good safety profile it is an anaesthetic agent so it must be given in an appropriate clinical environment by a medical professional.

If you have questions about our Ketamine Assisted Therapy process and safety procedures please feel free to be in touch. Remember that mental health is as important as physical health. If you feel like your mental health could be better, or needs some support, reach out.

Together let’s see what the options are and where we can guide a process for you.

*Dr. Rav James Inc. is a member of the American Ketamine Society of Physicians, Psychotherapists & Practitioners

*South African Suicide Crisis Hotline: 0800 567 567