Talking to Family and Friends about Ketamine Therapy

A guide to help you talk about wanting to try ketamine therapy with loved ones.

Having a conversation about your mental health can be challenging, however involving your support system of family and friends can create many potential benefits.

If you are interested in having a conversation with loved ones, here are some common questions / topics that might come up and some thoughts on how to start the conversation:

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What is ketamine-assisted therapy?

Ketamine-assisted therapy (KAP) is an active approach to treating conditions including depression, anxiety, and PTSD that generally encompasses two broad approaches.

  • The first approach is using ketamine as a lubricant in therapy to help process certain emotions or experiences that might otherwise be too difficult to process. At specific doses, ketamine can induce or enhance feelings of creativity, purpose, perspective, inspiration, empathy, insight, or serenity. Under these conditions a trained psychotherapist that you have a therapeutic relationship with can help process and resolve the psychological material that arises while taking ketamine.
  • The second approach is to use ketamine to produce a psychedelic experience. At certain doses, ketamine might also produce states with a dream-like quality which could include visual, auditory or other sensory effects that are not typical to your everyday experience. Patients often report an experience of dissociating or dissolving from their body. Under these conditions a clinician is often working as a psychedelic guide to help you make sense of the visions and experience you have while taking ketamine. Ultimately this approach is still focused on identifying any actions you can take to improve mental wellbeing.

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Isn’t ketamine a recreational drug?

Ketamine was first produced in the 60’s and has been FDA-approved in the United States for use as an anesthetic since the 70’s. However, given its psychedelic properties, it was also adopted by the counterculture as a recreational drug. While some might choose to use it as a recreational drug, ketamine is actually a very flexible molecule and when used as a therapeutic tool by trained clinicians can treat depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other psychiatric disorders.

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Is it safe?

Ketamine when properly dosed and used in a clinician-moderated setting is generally safe with no evidence of cravings in studies. However, like any other medication, there are still potential risks that should be screened and monitored for. This includes:

  • elevation in heart rate and blood pressure
  • urinary tract complications and liver toxicity (infrequent in low-dose usage)
  • trigger psychosis or manic episodes (for those with a personal or family history)
  • feelings of intoxication, lowered inhibition, confusion, decreased concentration and unwanted perceptual disturbances
  • At Curio, we have in place numerous safeguards and support systems to help ensure you have a safe and productive experience with ketamine.

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Why do you want to try ketamine-assisted therapy (or any different approach to mental health)?

This is similar to approaches you might take for general conversations about your mental health. Regardless of whether you are still contemplating or have made the decision to try ketamine-assisted therapy, in our experience it often makes sense to contextualize it to one’s own personal mental health journey.

Some approaches that might be helpful:

Speak personally, using “I” statements.

  • Opening up to others can be scary and difficult but speaking with “I” statements keeps the conversation rooted in your own personal experience. Trying your best to avoid vague terms helps the other person realize the personal impact of your experience and could be crucial to them providing appropriate support.

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Be specific.

  • Mental health and ketamine can be topics that many people have misconceptions about.
  • It’s helpful to be direct about how mental health has impacted your life. For example, “I feel alone” versus “Even when I am surrounded by people that I love, I feel like I don’t have the energy or excitement to interact with them. I feel like I have nothing to say to them.”
  • Unfortunately, many people only known ketamine within the context of its use as a recreational drug so it might be important to share the other side of the story. Approaches to ketamine treatment for various mental health conditions have been endorsed by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Additionally, the body of research continues to grow with research being conducted at institutions including Yale, University of South Carolina, University of British Columbia, and McGill on ketamine-assisted therapy protocols. Furthermore, forward thinking companies like Dr. Bronner’s (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/28/health/ketamine-bronner-bros.html) have started to offer it as a mental health benefit to employees.

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Share where you are at in your decision and how you got there.

Consider:

  • What you have tried
  • What was the experience like
  • What you are currently looking into
  • How you think about the decision
  • What you are doing next

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How do you want the other person to support you?

Sometimes it’s hard to know what you need before you start a conversation. However this is something that can be helpful to think about beforehand while recognizing that this might change as the conversation progresses.

Support can look like anything from:

  • Being open minded and listening without judgement or suggestions
  • Allowing you to be open about your experience
  • Providing emotional support
  • Helping to make payments for therapy or ketamine treatments.
  • Being a watchful eye when you are undergoing each treatment (alongside your Curio Coach).
  • Having open conversations with you after each experience

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Ultimately conversations about mental health can be tough. But being open about your struggles in maintaining your mental health and the decisions you are thinking about can foster a stronger more authentic support relationship with those around you.

Photo by Kate Kalvach

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