Not only does infusion therapy have much higher bioavailability — it is, after all, injected directly into the bloodstream — but it may also be the only method of administration for certain patients. Those who experience chronic health conditions may have difficulty swallowing, which can make it impossible to take oral medication.
Infusion therapy can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions. For instance, Pasithea Clinics administers ketamine infusion therapy to treat symptoms of treatment-resistant depression (TRD)—in addition to various other psychiatric conditions.
If you are curious about this novel treatment approach, keep reading our guide. In it, we’ll cover what infusion therapy is, what it can be used to treat, and what you can expect during your infusion therapy treatment.
What Is Infusion Therapy?
Infusion therapy is a method of administering medication. It uses a needle — or a catheter — that is attached to a large bag containing the medication solution. The needle is inserted into a vein to allow for the continuous flow of the medication. This is otherwise referred to as intravenous (IV) therapy.
Infusion therapy is usually administered in cases where the patient experiences specific illnesses and is not able to take medication orally. This is usually the case when a patient is treated for severe dehydration, late-stage cancer, or severe bacterial or viral infection.
However, infusion therapy may also be administered due to its high bioavailability rate of 100%. This is much higher than other routes of administration, such as intramuscular (IM), nasal, and oral.
Various settings provide infusion therapy. This can be a hospital, an outpatient setting, specialized infusion centers, or even a mobile clinic.
What Does Infusion Therapy Treat?
Infusion therapy can be used to treat a variety of conditions. It may be necessary in cases where the patient is not able to take medication orally. Because of its high mode of onset and bioavailability rate, it can be used to deliver medication — in addition to fluids, vitamins, and minerals — more quickly than through oral administration or an injection to the muscles.
Here are just some of the conditions that can benefit from infusion therapy:
- Severe dehydration: Infusion therapy can deliver fluids, electrolytes, and nutrition much quicker than the traditional oral route. This can quickly induce a state of hydration. This is especially useful post-surgery, where the patient remains without fluids for many hours.
- Hyperemesis: This is a condition that occurs during pregnancy. It is marked by severe nausea and vomiting, leading to significant fluid and electrolyte loss.
- Arthritis: This is a chronic autoimmune condition that does not always respond to medication. To increase its rate of efficacy, the medication may be administered through an infusion.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBS): This is a condition with no known cause, which makes treating it especially difficult. Many patients do not respond to conventional treatments. As such, the more effective infusion therapy may be used as an alternative.
- Cancer: Chemotherapy and immunotherapy are most often delivered through an IV infusion, which allows the medication to be administered over a longer period of time.
- Other chronic conditions: Infusion therapy is incredibly effective in treating other conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, congestive heart failure, ulcerative colitis, extreme fever, hemophilia, and many others.
In recent decades, there has been a significant proliferation in research showing that ketamine infusion treatments can be effective in treating symptoms of treatment-resistant depression (TRD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and several anxiety disorders.
In the following section, we’ll review everything you need to know about treating symptoms of psychiatric conditions with IV ketamine.
What Is Intravenous (IV) Ketamine Infusion Therapy?
Ketamine was originally synthesized as an anesthetic and analgesic in 1962. While its antidepressant effects have been known since then, it wasn’t until the most recent decade that clinicians began using off-label ketamine to treat symptoms of treatment-resistant depression (TRD).
TRD affects a significant proportion of those diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD). While it is not an official diagnosis — unlike MDD — it is defined as resistance to conventional antidepressant treatments.
Conventional antidepressant treatments have about a 30% efficacy rate. In addition, they take several weeks in order to take effect. The latter especially poses a problem in treating severely-depressed patients who may experience suicidal ideation.
As an alternative treatment, ketamine begins working almost immediately. In addition, it has an almost 64% efficacy rate in patients with TRD. One reason for this is that — unlike conventional antidepressants — ketamine affects multiple systems and processes in the brain. While researchers don’t fully understand how ketamine works, we know that the mode of action implicates the brain’s glutamate system.
Ketamine works by inhibiting the brain’s NMDA receptors. These receptors are found in specialized brain cells called GABA-ergic neurons. GABA is a chemical that can cause an inhibitory response in the brain and body.
When the NMDA receptors are blocked, another group of neurons — the pyramidal neurons — become activated. As a result, they release a chemical called glutamate, which excites the brain and body. Glutamate affects multiple processes in the body, including learning, memory, and neuroplasticity.
The latter is especially important in the depressed brain, which is associated with dysfunctional structural and functional changes. However, the increase in glutamate allows the brain to literally create new connections while getting rid of old ones, which can have significant antidepressant effects.
During a ketamine infusion treatment, this medication is administered for 40 minutes by a trained medical professional. To prevent the patient from experiencing anesthetic effects, ketamine is administered at subanesthetic doses of about 0.5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. With Pasithea Clinics, ketamine infusions can be administered from the comfort of your own home.
What Happens During Infusion Therapy?
What happens during infusion therapy varies depending on the setting. At Pasithea Clinics, our ketamine infusion treatments include three phases: (1) screening, (2) treatment, and (3) follow-up.
To be eligible for a ketamine infusion treatment, you must meet the diagnostic criteria for treatment-resistant depression (TRD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In addition, you must be between 18 and 65 years old. Last, you must not have a history of substance abuse. You may discuss all of these things during your initial screening with one of our board-certified psychiatrists.
If you are eligible for ketamine treatment, you will be able to schedule an appointment for a day and time that works best for you. In addition, since Pasithea Clinics is a mobile clinic, you may have the treatment performed in your home, office, or anywhere else you feel comfortable.
Once you are cleared for treatment, you will undergo a comprehensive physical evaluation by your treating provider. Your provider may even reach out to your physician to receive a full medical history. Ketamine is a safe drug, and very few medical conditions are contraindicated for a ketamine infusion treatment.
On the day of your actual treatment, one of our highly-credentialed infusionists will come to your home or office to administer the infusion. You will be asked to lie down on a comfortable surface. During the treatment, you can completely relax — everything will be taken care of for you.
The ketamine will be administered intravenously for 40 minutes. You might experience some side effects such as calmness, relaxation, and sleepiness. Although it is rare, some patients experience slight dissociation—described as a feeling of detachment from the body and from the outside world. The latter may be important in ketamine’s antidepressant effects.
Your highly credentialed infusionist will monitor you closely to make sure that you are not experiencing any physical side effects. After the session, you will be able to discuss what you felt during the treatment and to bring up any concerns.
A ketamine infusion treatment can come with profound changes in consciousness. Discussing these changes with a clinician can help you make significant progress in your healing journey. As such, several days after your initial treatment, you will be able to meet with your providing clinician to discuss the effects that the ketamine infusion treatment has had on you.
While one treatment is enough to produce significant changes in symptoms of TRD, you may choose to do additional treatments to maintain the results. In most cases, patients do bi-weekly ketamine infusion treatments over the course of three weeks. However, this is something that you will determine along with your providing clinician.
How to Prepare For Ketamine Infusion Therapy
If you are preparing for ketamine infusion therapy, then there are several things you can do to make sure that you get its full effects. Here are some best practices to follow before, during, and after your treatment.
Avoid Drugs and Alcohol
Mixing ketamine with other substances can be dangerous. Because many substances take a while to exit your system completely, we recommend avoiding drinking alcohol and consuming any drugs at least 24 hours before your treatment. If you are taking medications, it is important to discuss how they can affect you during a ketamine infusion treatment with your primary care provider.
Eat a Light Meal
To reduce your risk of nausea and vomiting, make sure that you don’t eat anything heavy for at least four hours before your ketamine infusion treatment. The same applies to eating after you receive your treatment. That said, make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.
Avoid Driving After Treatment
After your ketamine infusion treatment, you might experience slight drowsiness, dizziness, and light-headedness. Avoid driving until the sensations subside completely to avoid putting yourself at risk. If your ketamine treatment is not administered in your home, make sure to arrange for transportation after it.
Reflect On Your Treatment
For the best results, make sure to take some time to reflect on any insights you may have had during your ketamine infusion treatment. Although speaking with a psychotherapist is one of the best ways to do this, you can also journal about it or meditate on it.
Come Back for Treatment As Needed
Although many patients experience profound effects from a single ketamine infusion treatment, maintaining your results may require several sessions. Make sure to keep in contact with your providing clinician in order to decide how often you should come back for treatment.
Infusion therapy is an effective way to treat various medical conditions. One option for infusion therapy is ketamine infusion therapy, which is incredibly efficacious in relieving the symptoms of treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Schedule a free assessment with Pasithea Clinics today to discover if you are a candidate for this novel therapy.
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- The Prevalence and National Burden of Treatment-Resistant Depression and Major Depressive Disorder in the United States | Psychiatrist
- The Role of Ketamine in Treatment-Resistant Depression: A Systematic Review | NCBI
- How the ‘Plastic’ Brain Rewires Itself | Scientific American
- Sustained rescue of prefrontal circuit dysfunction by antidepressant-induced spine formation | Science
- The role of dissociation in ketamine’s antidepressant effects | Nature Communications