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The Ketamine Therapy Industry: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

In the United States, most recent estimates say that there are between 200 and 300 ketamine clinics as of 2023, with an estimated 500 total for the year 2025. With changes in policy and market demand, this prediction could evolve drastically, but it is already a significant number, with many people turning to clinics for treatment-resistant depression and anxiety.

In 1999, ketamine was changed to a Schedule III substance under the Controlled Substances Act, but it was already being used recreationally in liquid and powdered forms since the 1980s. Special K, Super K, Vitamin K, and Kit Kat—it goes by many names, and rave-goers and partiers used it for its psychotropic, dream-like states and distortions in perception of time and space. 

There is one thing for certain. Ketamine clinics are a byproduct of rapid changes in the fields of mental health and psychology, as it paves the way for other therapeutic psychedelics of the future, such as LSD and psilocybin. 

In this article, we are going to get into the nitty gritty of the ketamine therapy industry and cover what you should look for in a clinic, the pros and cons of ketamine therapy, and even the laws and effects surrounding ketamine use. 

Background on Ketamine Clinics & Psychedelic Laws

Ketamine has been used for hundreds of years and is now used world-wide as one of the cheapest and most intensively researched anesthetics and pain-relievers for surgeries and medical procedures. Through this extensive research, it was discovered that, with the right dosage, ketamine acts similarly to hallucinogenic psychedelics because of its dissociative qualities.

However, ketamine is not a traditional psychedelic like DMT or LSD, which remain Schedule I substances. These Schedule I substances, like psilocybin and MDMA, are illegal according to the federal government, even in spite of certain states and jurisdictions decriminalizing them. 

Ketamine, on the other hand, is a Schedule III, which allows for off-label use. This means that it has a lower potential for abuse than Schedules I & II, and that usage outside of its originally intended medical context is allowed.

To put the federal scheduling into perspective—which is supposedly based on the substance’s susceptibility to abuse—Fentanyl is a Schedule II while cannabis remains a Schedule I.

What metrics the government used to determine levels of abuse is uncertain, but we are pretty sure it had little to do with research or statistics on the safety and potential beneficial uses of each substance.

To get back to the original point—in more recent years and as a result of the swap to Schedule III, ketamine clinics have been rapidly popping up all over the US, and there are even at-home programs.

Since it is highly associated with psychedelics (and since there is a buzz around psychedelics recently), many are turning to ketamine clinics since it is the only legal way to have a psychedelic experience in the US. 

However, this association can be a bit misleading for those looking for a genuine intentional psychedelic experience. Understanding how ketamine and k-clinics work can be useful when trying to decide the right avenue.

The Effects of Ketamine or ‘Special K’

Because of its dissociative properties, most users say it creates distance between the mind and the body, while most alternative healing practices like meditation and even other psychedelics increase the mind-body connection. 

However, this different approach can be helpful when someone needs distance in order to resolve a problem or when someone’s body is suffering from nervous system dysregulation, like in cases of PTSD.

As discussed in a recent podcast episode, “What are the Benefits and Pitfalls of Ketamine,” it allows the user to approach difficult problems with a level of gentleness and detachment for greater objectivity.

For example, if someone has struggled with treatment-resistant depression for years and feels stuck, ketamine could help the person temporarily escape from the negative patterns and establish new, more positive ones. Interestingly, a “k-hole” is the name for a profound, peaceful mental space invoked by ketamine use. 

While this space can absolutely be reached through other psychedelics, k-holes are known as a place of supreme quietude, stillness, warmth and safety, not unlike being in the womb. 

In general, ketamine disengages the user from their reactivity and personal attachment to the issue, allowing for a chance to feel the weight of the burden lifted. It is important to note, however, that ketamine can be abused and depended on like many other substances, which brings us to the problems of ketamine clinics. 

The Pros and Cons of Ketamine Clinics 

When it comes to any medicine—whether it be psychedelics, prescription drugs, or different therapy modalities—know that any medicine is simply a tool or aid to help your mind and body heal itself. Imagine you are preparing to go on a 10 mile hike. You pack up your necessities, grab your hiking stick, and hit the trails. 

Now, think of your hiking stick. Is it heavy or lightweight? Is it slippery or does it have easy-grip handles? The quality of your tool determines if it will be a help or a hindrance on your journey. Likewise, when it comes to ketamine and any other psychedelic therapy, not just the quality of the substance, but also the quality of the environment and surrounding support is extremely important.

Furthermore, there is a misconception that ketamine, psychedelics, or prescription drugs can “heal” someone’s depression or mental health issues, and people are commonly hoping for a quick-fix.

Most importantly, we need to bring the focus to the innate resilience of the individual and their own internal healing potential. Providing the right tools and environment allows the healing process to unfurl naturally like a flower. 

In this section, we will address the pros and cons of ketamine clinics to help you better understand what needs and expectations you have for your journey and if this route is right for you.

    1. Ketamine is not a traditional psychedelic.

If you are coming to ketamine with the intention of having a psychedelic experience, you may or may not be dissatisfied. We recommend studying the differences between dissociative drugs and serotonergic psychedelics.

In a past article, we discussed how to choose which substance is right for your psychedelic journey, but ketamine is generally a different type of experience than those on substances like LSD or magic mushrooms.  

    1. The ketamine trip is a much shorter experience. 

Ketamine treatments last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, whereas LSD can last from 8 to 12 hours. The effects of psilocybin mushrooms, on the other hand, usually last from 4 to 6 hours.

The particular dosage of each substance along with the choice of substance can drastically change the duration of the experience, and a shorter trip could be considered positive or negative depending on the desires of the user. 

    1. There are multiple models of ketamine-assisted therapy.

In a clinical-only model, little to no support services are offered beyond the ketamine treatment itself, with the focus being solely on administering ketamine infusions and monitoring patients’ vital signs during the treatment. 

While this approach can be effective for some, it may not be sufficient for others who require additional assistance and resources. Patients may need to find support elsewhere such as with a therapist or a psychedelic guide

Some other clinics, however, offer a supportive model in which the patient receives some level of guidance during preparation and integration as well as during the actual treatment.

While these clinics can provide a more comprehensive approach to care, it may be difficult to find a clinic that provides these additional services given that the industry in general leans toward a clinical approach.

The last type of ketamine therapy is an at-home model, in which the ketamine is mailed to your home, usually in the form of ketamine lozenges or nasal spray, after a virtual consultation. As with the clinical-only model, doing ketamine at home with no professional support can be challenging and even dangerous, and the label “therapy” seems inappropriate for this model. 

    1. Ketamine therapy pricing can be complicated.

Ketamine treatments usually require a minimum of 6 sessions, with each session ranging from $300 to $2,000. As seen on Ketamine Clinics Directory which was updated in March of 2023, different pricing brackets are typically available based on the type of dosing you are looking for, whether for depression or pain-relief

The average price for a depression treatment is $500 to $700 per session, while a pain-relief dose ranges from $800 to $1,000 on average. In comparison to other psychedelic pricing, ketamine isn’t really a cheap option. 

The most budget-friendly option is usually the at-home model. However, it is most important to balance your budgeting needs with your needs surrounding quality of support. In other words, skipping out on support may be cheaper, but it also may increase the likelihood of the whole experience being unhelpful, unsafe, or just lackluster.

Depending on your specific insurance coverage, ketamine treatments may or may not be covered under your plan. It is recommended to check with your insurance company and the clinic to determine if you are eligible for coverage.  

    1. The quality of therapeutic support is important.

One thing that is crucial to any psychedelic-assisted therapy or therapy in general is that the patient needs to feel like they are in the hands of a true expert who can handle any problems that arise. 

Lasting change—which most people are seeking when exploring these new therapies—is only attainable when the substance and journeyer meet in such a way that fosters a profound positive experience (even if it is a “bad trip”).

There are a few questions you should ask your potential ketamine clinic in order to understand if they are the right providers for you. Firstly, ask what level of care you will receive during the journey, whether they simply administer and monitor during the session itself, or if they provide practical and intangible support before, during, and after the treatment. 

Secondly, inquire about the personal experience that the provider has with ketamine and what kind of training they went through to prepare them for a treatment-assistance role in dealing with delicate mental health issues. 

Lastly, ask if you will need to outsource your support for your journey and how they are providing appropriate context and environment for a potentially vulnerable and intense experience. Of course, there are many other questions that would be beneficial to ask at your clinic, so we encourage you to adequately prepare for any consultation beforehand.  

    1. There are potential side effects to ketamine therapy.

It is important to understand that ketamine does have associated side effects such as nausea, dizziness, dissociation, anxiety, and difficulty breathing. While serious side effects are rare, it is important to know the risks of any substance with which you seek to experiment. Ketamine can also be subject to abuse and dependency like with many drugs.

What Are Your Options For Seeking Legal Psychedelic Therapy?

In a previous article we discuss how to prepare for a psychedelic journey and cover the considerations and options available. Aside from ketamine clinics, there are clinical trials and professionally-guided psychedelic journeys which both give you access to other substances if ketamine doesn’t appeal to you. Most importantly, we want to make sure you know your options and make an informed and empowered decision in alignment with your goals.

Explore How It Feels To Be Connected

Here at Psychedelic Passage, we offer resources and a carefully curated network of pre-vetted psychedelic facilitators who specialize in harm-reduction and aiding you in your journey. We offer a step-by-step process in supporting clients.

If you are seeking a safe way to experience the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics, book a consultation with one of our psychedelic concierges today to discuss the best plan for your process. And finally, check out our resources page for more information on the diverse topics on the world of psychedelics.

Frequently Asked Questions About Ketamine Clinics

1. Is ketamine therapy safe treatment for people with mental health conditions?

While ketamine has been shown to be an effective treatment option for depression and other mental health conditions, it is not without risks. Common side effects include nausea, dizziness, and dissociation. More serious side effects are rare but can include high blood pressure, breathing difficulties, and allergic reactions, as well as potential addiction and abuse.

However, when administered in a controlled medical setting, ketamine is generally considered safe. The best way to ensure safety is to be closely monitored during and after treatment to minimize the risk of adverse events.

2. How much does ketamine treatment cost? Is it covered by insurance?

Ketamine treatment can be expensive, with prices ranging from several hundred to a couple thousand dollars per session, and treatment usually consists of 6 sessions or more. If you are seeking treatment for pain-relief, the cost is generally more expensive because the dose is higher, whereas a depression-targeted treatment generally costs less per session.

Insurance coverage for ketamine treatment varies depending on the provider and the patient’s insurance plan. Many treatment facilities may require patients to pay out of pocket.

3. Alternatives to ketamine therapy for depression & other mental conditions

There are several alternative treatments for depression and other mental health conditions, including traditional antidepressant medications, talk therapy, and alternative therapies like mindfulness and meditation. 

Many people are drawn to psychedelic-assisted therapy because of recent promising research. Ketamine and psychedelic-assisted therapy can be a more effective or faster-acting treatment option.

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