How Does Ketamine Work

Psychedelic therapy is having a renaissance. Esteemed institutions including Johns Hopkins, University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford are researching psychedelics and how they rewire the brain to provide lasting transformation in individuals with treatment-resistant depression, PTSD, OCD, anxiety, and more. The renewed interest is largely due to what’s actually going on in the brain during a psychedelic therapy session. 

Ketamine has been around since the 60's

Ketamine has been used in medicine for over 50 years its primary use was as a surgical anesthetic. The compound was known to trigger a glutamate release into the synapse, however, researchers at the time had yet to discover that glutamatergic dysfunction was implicated in depression. When they discovered this in the 1990s, researchers at Yale began exploring ketamine’s treatment in much smaller doses on people living with depression. This helped launch the psychedelic resurgence we’re in today.

Ketamine and your brain

Ketamine targets the glutamate system and essentially rebuilds neural connections in the brain. 

The brain has billions of neurons that need to send messages to each other, and the way they do that is through neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers. Glutamate is the most common excitatory neurotransmitter, and it also plays a role in neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to form new neural connections.

Stress releases cortisol, which over time makes neurons in the prefrontal cortex shrink. This makes it harder for neurons to connect and send messages to other neurons. When the prefrontal cortex shrinks, it makes it harder to make decisions, control emotions, hold attention, and create memories. This results in what we know as depression and anxiety.

Ketamine triggers a release of glutamate into the synapse (pathway from one neuron to another), which ultimately allows the brain to reform these damaged neural pathways and regrow the prefrontal cortex. It’s actually reversing the damage done to neurons from cortisol and stress.

In clinical trials with intravenous ketamine, anti-depressant effects have been shown to appear within hours of treatment with peak mood elevation occurring 24-36 hours after treatment

Beyond repairing your brain, ketamine helps uncover new insights

Guided ketamine experiences, like the approach we take at Curio are meant to create a psychedelic, mind-altering state that enables people living with anxiety and depression to explore and discover new (or long lost) states of mind that can lead to personal growth.

Before we get started, we work closely with members to personalize a program to meet their specific needs and goals. Prior to each ketamine experience, our coaches and clinicians will support members in setting their intentions to make the most of each experience.

After the experience, members get access to individual coaching, group coaching, community support, and support coordinating with their existing mental health providers in order to integrate breakthroughs into their daily lives to create real change.

Curious to see if ketamine can support your mental health journey. Fill out a brief assessment and connect with a Curio clinician.

Photo by Hal Gatewood

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