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A Different Type of Treatment: IV Ketamine

IV ketamine therapy is the newest treatment in my toolbox. Initially, I was hesitant given the fact also a street drug. However, research has shown it helps with chronic pain. I already take nasal ketamine spray for pain, and find it somewhat helpful, but it does not last as long as I’d like. Eventually, I decided to give it a try after a lot of contemplation and research on my end.

IV ketamine therapy is the newest treatment in my toolbox. Initially, I was hesitant given the fact it is also a street drug. However, research has shown it helps with chronic pain. I already take nasal ketamine spray for pain, and find it somewhat helpful, but it does not last too long for me. Eventually, I decided to give it a try after a lot of contemplation and research on my end.

The first time I went to the surgical center, I was quite nervous. I was also having a lumbar epidural. I was nauseous, dizzy, and hungry from not eating all day – it was 4 or 5pm at this point. My doctor helped to ease my nerves and I got settled into a bed and went through pre-procedure health information (e.g. allergies, medications, health issues). I had an IV set up and then received a test dose. I suddenly had this high sensation. It took me by surprise. I was then wheeled back for the procedure. I was told to roll over from one stretcher to the bed in the procedure room – initially I was not sure if I would be able to do it. The procedure went well, despite some pain. With epidurals, despite the numbing, I always feel pain. 

Afterwards this machine was brought over (see picture below). It has a large syringe filled with the ketamine and it slowly pushed a pre-measured dose based on my weight into my system.

The infusion gave me a high sensation, but afterwards there was NO pain. It was incredible to think there is this switch from pain to NO pain. I realize it is likely gradual, but there has to be this moment when the pain just stopped. I also noticed a major improvements in my depression, anxiety and PTSD symptoms. 

After the treatment was done, the high sensation dissipated quickly. I was there for a bit to relax and to wait until I was okay to leave. Throughout the whole time, my blood pressure and heart rate were monitored. I was then given some juice and crackers – finally something to eat and drink after waiting all day.

Infusion Impact

Afterwards, I feel less pain. I can’t say my head pain is always fully gone, but it’s less and that is something to celebrate. There are also small changes

  • My doctor notices changes in my light sensitivity and how much I can keep my eyes open
  • I’ve noticed improvement in my mental health. Unfortunately, I have needed to get IV Benadryl/Reglan, nerve blocks and trigger point injections in-between the infusions to break some severe migraine attacks, and I am still on preventatives and using abortives. 
  • The infusions last for about a week or two, but then the pain starts to come back. I’m hoping with more infusions, I will build up the medication in my system and will require less infusions over time.

Tips?

  1. Bring headphones and listen music on your cellphone. I can zone out and ignore the outside stimulation.
  2. Wear sunglasses or an eye mask (or like I do sometimes, pull the blanket over my eyes). This helps with my photophobia, all the bright lights and helps with the overstimulation I feel with the ketamine. 
  3. Talk with your doctor, make sure you feel comfortable with your treatment plan and the center where you are receiving ketamine. I have changed the dose before and experienced strange and uncomfortable side effects. I need to make sure I am always comfortable. 
  4. Have a trusted family member or friend to bring you home afterwards, just to make sure you are okay and check-up on you.
  5. Wear comfortable clothes – at the center I go to we change into a surgical gown, hat, socks, but changing into something comfortable afterwards is great. Also, I’ve spoken to other patients who wear their own clothes during the infusion so something comfortable throughout the infusion can help with comfort. 

Future Treatment Plans?

I’ve had IV ketamine repeated six times to date, with a week or two between each infusion. I will be having my seventh next Tuesday. I’m hopefully this will continue to help and I’ll keep you all updated on improvements I see. 

However, with COVID-19, my treatments have been paused. I hope that in the future I will be able to continue them.

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