When faced with the prospect of death, most people feel anxiety and fear. They may also experience pain or other symptoms from medical conditions that make their day-to-day experience unbearable. Many conventional palliative medical treatments for end-of-life patients include higher doses of opioids and sedatives to keep them calm and pain-free. Though these medications can help the patient feel relaxed in their final days, they can also reduce alertness and cognitive function, making it more difficult for patients to stay coherent and say goodbye.
Thankfully, there's an alternative treatment that has the potential to alleviate some end-of-life patient anxiety and help them feel more at peace with death, without affecting their ability to stay alert and engaged with family and friends. Ketamine may be beneficial for the palliative care population because it has the potential to treat multiple conditions that are common in terminal patients. In addition, ketamine also has the potential to help patients process emotions, creating stronger mental health resilience and wellness. Ketamine is a psychedelic medication that commonly has a low side effect profile and may offer relief and hope during difficult times.
Ketamine is neither a barbiturate nor an opioid but instead blocks NMDA receptors in the brain. Essentially, ketamine may work by regulating Glutamate, an amino acid connected to certain mood disorders, like depression and anxiety. Ketamine also has the potential to reset the brain’s pain receptors, decreasing a person’s baseline degree of pain.
After therapy, many patients reported a reduction in unpleasant symptoms like nausea, vomiting, agitation, confusion, and shortness of breath. Therapy may also provide some relief from severe depression or other psychological distress. It also has the potential to help reduce the time spent in the hospital.
Some patients who use psychedelic drugs and their derivatives, like ketamine, report that their ability to cope with existential concerns increased. Patients who receive psychedelics as part of their terminal illness treatment have also reported that they fear death less. Many patients have reported that ketamine was one of the more meaningful experiences of their life, and report feeling an increased sense of peace and connection with the universe. Ideally, a reduction in existential anxiety and a reduction in pain or illness symptoms will improve the patient’s quality of life significantly.
Ketamine therapy may not only help the patients themselves, but also offer benefits for their family members, who are likely experiencing extreme stress during this difficult transition. Psychedelic therapy has the potential to reduce the feelings of guilt, anger, and sadness that are often associated with the death of a loved one. When we can learn to cope and connect fully with what's going on, stress can melt away, strengthening relationships and bringing closure.
Facing death is never easy, but it doesn't need to be unbearable. The right treatment can ease suffering and offer relief from distress, allowing patients and their families and friends to find peace with the situation. The end of life is a time for sharing memories and enjoying those final moments together.
Better U provides evidence-based therapies to help combat a multitude of life stressors. Psychedelic therapy consists of breathwork, personalized programs, and medication (ketamine) when appropriate. The cost of ketamine therapy may be a deciding factor for many end-of-life patients; however, Better U offers affordable options and trained clinicians that will offer compassion and guidance through the entire process. There are no complicated medical procedures or long waiting times to receive treatment.
If you or a loved one are going through end-of-life care, please let us know how we can help.
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Learn about Exploring the Synergy of Ketamine Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in Mental Health Treatment.
Learn about IFS and Ketamine Therapy: The Role Internal Family Systems Therapy Plays Before, During, and After Ketamine Therapy.
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