Ketamine produces a sense of disconnection from one’s ordinary reality and usual self that may induce or enhance feelings of creativity, purpose, perspective, serenity, insight, inspiration, gratitude, empathy, connection with others and the world, openness to new ideas, psychological rebirth, and traveling outside of one’s self, among others. You may also experience visual, auditory, and other sensory effects.
Depending on the dose of ketamine and the time between your last session, you may experience anything from being more aware of how your body feels, quieting of the mind, feelings of love and gratitude, all the way to feeling connecting to the Universe/God, death of your ego, and reliving past experiences from a different perspective.
Ego death, connection to God, increased body awareness? What’s that all about? And why does this happen when you get ketamine treatments?
The simple answer is: ketamine’s dissociative properties.
KETAMINE-INDUCED NON-ORDINARY STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS:
“WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO GET KETAMINE INFUSIONS”:
Ketamine has a long history of use as an anesthetic agent for medical procedures and surgery. How ketamine allows for sedation during these procedures is due to its dissociative property. This dissociative property “disconnects” the mind from body by disrupting the action of the neurotransmitter (aka brain chemical) glutamate. When ketamine is used for non-anesthetic indications (KNAI), it can create novel experiences for the patient. Because of this property, patients become dissociated and can have a “ketamine-induced non-ordinary state of consciousness.” According to Dr. Eli Kolp there are a few types of experiences aka states:
EMPATHOGENIC EXPERIENCE (EE):
Awareness of body
Comfort and relaxation
Reduced ego defenses
Empathy, compassion, and warmth love and peace
Mind is dreamy with non-specific colorful visual effects
OUT-OF-BODY EXPERIENCE (OBE):
Complete separation from one’s body.
Significantly diminished ego defenses.
Visits to mythological realms of consciousness
Encounters with non-terrestrial beings
Emotionally intense visions (e.g., deceased relatives, spirits)
Vivid dreams of past and future incarnations
Re-experiencing the birth process
EGO-DISSOLVING TRANSCENDENTAL EXPERIENCE (EDT):
Ecstatic state of the dissolution of boundaries between the self and external reality
Complete dissolution of one’s body and self (soul)
Transcending normal mass/time/space continuum
Unity with Nature/Universe, Sacredness
During these experiences, a patient may relive memories, emotions, and stories which may contain unprocessed and/or repressed feelings. While this may not sound very appealing, this release allows for an opportunity to work through or process these past experiences and feelings.
KETAMINE’S DISSOCIATIVE PSYCHOTROPIC EFFECT RESULTS IN BETTER OUTCOMES:
Is this dissociation and non-ordinary states necessary for recovery and healing? Some doctors and providers who administer ketamine infusions believe that this is a side effect of ketamine, and that the real change and improvement in symptoms are a result from the the biochemical, neurological phenomena (i.e neuronal changes). In a study by Lukenbaugh, the data from 108 patients with treatment-resistant depression and bipolar disorder who received a single subanesthetic ketamine infusion were analyzed. The study showed people had a more robust and sustained antidepressant effect when they experienced dissociation during the ketamine infusion compared to those who did not. All of the subjects reported that these ketamine-induced experiences were important, to varying degrees, in their personal self-understanding. Studies like these point to just more than the biological-neurochemical effects of ketamine in allowing for improvement in pain, anxiety, and depression symptoms. The new perspectives, insights gained, and releasing of repressed memories and emotions coupled with the biological changes probably contribute to why ketamine is so much more effective than other traditional treatments.