Request An Appointment Today!

Does Ketamine Therapy Get You High?

ketamine therapy dissociative effects

Written by Dr. Ladan Eshkevari

In this Post:

Ketamine was introduced in the 1960s as an anesthetic for patients undergoing surgery. People began misusing it as a street drug around the same time. Ketamine for depression, however, is relatively new, and patients are understandably confused about how it works. One common question people ask is, Does ketamine therapy get you high? 

At lower sub-anesthetic doses, ketamine elicits a dissociative “high” characterized by a detachment from one’s body and surroundings. The compound can also cause sensory changes and hallucinations. 

This article examines ketamine’s dissociative and sensory-altering effects. It also compares the therapeutic ketamine experience to recreational use.  

The Psychology of Getting High

ketamine brain dissociation

The term “high”  describes a sense of euphoria, excitement, or intoxication. People can experience this extreme joy from various peak experiences, like spiritual epiphanies, artistic flows, athletic highs, connection with nature, and sex. But most people associate getting “high” with mind-altering substances.

Psychoactive “high” states manifest through various effects, including:

  • Euphoria: An intense sensation of pleasure or excitement.
  • Sensory distortion: Alterations in how people perceive the surrounding world.
  • Relaxation: A sense of calmness and tranquility.
  • Impaired judgment: Difficulty making sound decisions.
  • Impaired coordination: Challenges in movement and body control.

How Ketamine Can Induce a “High” State

ketamine therapy dissociative effects

Ketamine is a type of psychoactive substance that exerts a dissociative effect on the brain. Dissociative drugs like ketamine disrupt the mind’s perception of reality, causing people to feel detached from their bodies and surroundings. 

Some ketamine patients feel a loss of control. Many describe a sensation of floating. Others experience hallucinations similar to psychedelic journeys

This combination of hallucinations and dissociation generates a high that recreational users refer to as a “Special K trip.” If the experience gets too intense, they sometimes describe it as a “K-hole.” Avesta describes this occurrence as a “K-home” because its clinical ketamine patients often feel safe and supported enough to explore deeper levels of consciousness. Many emerge from the K-home with new insights and calmer mind states.  

Scientists are still unraveling the precise mechanisms by which dissociative drugs like ketamine produce this high state. However, researchers attribute the effects to ketamine’s neurological mechanisms.  

Studies show that ketamine blocks glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain. This action disrupts signal transmission from the conscious mind to the brain, potentially inducing mental detachment from one’s surroundings. 

What Does a Ketamine High Feel Like?

ketamine therapy high infographic

Patients undergoing ketamine therapy can experience a “high” sensation. However, the safe and controlled medical environment contrasts sharply with Special K trips. 

During ketamine infusion therapy, clinical practitioners administer the drug intravenously, monitoring the patient’s vital signs- blood pressure, heart rate, and blood oxygenation, and titrating the dose up or down to enhance the outcomes. 

Dissociative and psychedelic symptoms during ketamine therapy can include:

  1. Sense of detachment from oneself and surroundings
  2. Alterations in time perception
  3. Floating sensation
  4. Feelings of euphoria.
  5. Intense visuals 
  6. Alcohol-like intoxication

These effects seem unusual for medical treatment. However, ketamine infusion therapy has garnered positive feedback from many individuals. Patients often report a sense of clarity and ability to process emotions better and cope with mental health challenges.

One patient described his experience as:

“It’s almost like a dream you can control… You can steer your mind in different directions, as you’re still cognitive and rational, and you can even move thoughts around with your hands, head, and eye movements.”

Another expressed gratitude, saying:

“I found a better life through this therapy. It gave me the support and tools I needed to navigate life’s challenges. It’s amazing how accessible and effective it can be.”

Ketamine Infusions in Bethesda, MD, McLean, VA and Washington, DC

Why Dissociation May (or May Not) Matter 

Some researchers believe ketamine’s dissociative effects play a role in its antidepressant efficacy. They think this because ketamine works differently from other antidepressants, quickly improving mood.

Although ketamine’s mechanisms are not fully understood, one possibility is that ketamine’s dissociative effects help interrupt negative thought patterns. This disconnection from the usual inner dialogue could help patients let go of unhealthy beliefs and shift to more productive paradigms.

However, the link between ketamine dissociation and the compound’s antidepressant power is still a theory and hasn’t been conclusively proven. 

Having treated close to a thousand patients, Avesta believes that ketamine’s dissociative state can be helpful. However, it is not crucial as the drug itself changes the brain in profoundly healing ways. 

Differences Between Therapeutic and Recreational Ketamine Use 

recreational ketamine vs ketamine therapy illustration

The main difference between therapeutic and recreational ketamine use is intent, outcome, and degree of safety.

  • Recreational ketamine users often consume larger doses in order to experience the high, without regard for potential risks. Many seek dissociative K-holes to tune out and escape from life. Some become addicted or overdose as a result. Others become frightened and experience extreme paranoia or anxiety.
  • Ketamine infusion therapy patients, on the other hand, receive regulated doses under the supervision of clinical, licensed professionals to treat chronic pain and mental health disorders. These patients don’t necessarily seek psychoactive experiences as their primary objective. But they welcome it as a potential healing modality.

Most people turn to ketamine therapy for relief after traditional pharmaceuticals and talk therapy have failed. And the results are incredible. 

A 2019 study found that ketamine significantly improved depression, anxiety, and the severity of illness in 25 male patients with severe depression after two weeks and one month of treatment. 

Another study demonstrated that ketamine infusions can quickly reduce suicidal thoughts. 88% of participants who had suicidal tendencies and received a ketamine infusion in the emergency room experienced a significant reduction in their suicidal ideation within just 90 minutes.

How Ketamine Infusion Therapy at Avesta Works

avesta ketamine patient infusion

Avesta’s trained, licensed practitioners deliver ketamine infusion therapy to patients intravenously in their serene Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia clinics. The therapy typically lasts 40 to 60 minutes.

Here is how the process works: 

  1. Patients first receive a consultation with an Avesta provider to determine safety and suitability for the treatment. Not everyone is an ideal ketamine candidate, so Avesta reviews every client’s medical and psychiatric history carefully. 
  2. Once the patient is approved, Avesta’s team schedules six to eight sessions over two to three weeks, following research-based protocols. 
  3. Before each infusion, the practitioner checks the patient’s vital signs, such as blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygenation, to ensure safety and efficacy.
  4. When the IV line starts, the effects kick in almost instantly. Patients generally wear eye masks and listen to a ketamine-specific playlist during the session. 
  5. Staff intermittently monitor patients, and provide emotional support if needed. 
  6. Upon termination of the infusion, the staff again checks vital signs, and the provider engages in a short debrief. This includes highlighting and anchoring important revelations so the patient can delve further with their mental health provider.
  7. After the protocol ends, Avesta’s care team stays in touch, offering personalized maintenance and booster plans to prevent relapses and ensure long-lasting benefits.

Is Ketamine Therapy Safe?

Several studies show that ketamine infusions are safe and effective, especially when delivered slowly and within recommended dosage limits in a clinically monitored setting. However, some people experience side effects such as high blood pressure, nausea, double vision, and mild hallucinations. These side effects generally resolve on their own within minutes to hours of the infusion.

Ketamine is safe for most people. But not every patient is an ideal candidate. Certain pre-existing conditions may make ketamine ineffective or unsafe. These include:

  • Uncontrolled hypertension or heart disease
  • Uncontrolled Hyperthyroidism
  • Schizophrenia or bipolar disorder in the manic phase
Ketamine Infusions in Bethesda, MD, McLean, VA and Washington, DC

Final Thoughts on Ketamine Therapy and Its Psychoactive Effects

Ketamine therapy, when administered under controlled conditions and with medical supervision, is safe and effective for various mental and physical conditions. Yes, ketamine therapy gets people high. But most people respond well to the experience, and some believe ketamine-induced dissociation is therapeutically beneficial. 

Are you considering ketamine therapy for your mental health? Speak with an Avesta expert to learn about IV ketamine and Spravato for depression, PTSD, anxiety, and chronic pain.

Latest Posts

Text Us