Getting Relief

Ketamine as a medical treatment. An interview with NeuroRelief Founder Dr. Austin Harris


How did you get involved with ketamine and infusion therapy?

During my medical school, internship and anesthesiology residency, I developed an interest in Ketamine due to its unique properties, methods of action, and the fact that it was the only medication of its kind in existence. I learned a great deal about its potential to be much more than just an anesthetic. During cardiothoracic anesthesiology fellowship, I came to believe that ketamine could be used even in smaller, general anesthesia cases.  I applied this in private practice over the following years, and the results were astounding.  Patients coming for small operations, such as knee arthroscopy, could have their depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and substance abuse dependency converted to near-normal levels, simply by using ketamine as the anesthetic regimen, instead of the common techniques.

We were then was able to perfect an outpatient protocol that could be done comfortably in the office. Combined with a customized, client-centric care-model, this new therapy is revolutionizing mental health, chronic pain, and substance abuse recovery treatment.

Many folks hear ketamine and think of it as a club drug. How does administering the drug in a medical setting work?

The field of ketamine therapy has had to overcome many stigmas commonly associated with this medication. Like any drug, there is always potential for abuse. Those that abused ketamine were often attempting to escape their own mood-disorders, and other struggles. Once we realized this, as a field, we understood that better treatment for the underlying condition was the key, not demonizing the agent that was assisting in providing relief for that individual. However, ketamine (Special K), which is made in illegal labs, is of very low quality, not dose-controlled, and filled with impurities. In the clinic, we utilize only anesthesia grade Ketamine HCL, directly from the manufacturer. This is the same tool that we have come to know, and utilize, in the medical setting. In addition to full monitoring (pulse oximetry, EKG, and blood pressure), every infusion is carefully curated by the anesthesiologist, constantly adjusting, to guarantee the perfect results and experience.

“Ketamine has been proven effective in three major categories of clients.  Those suffering from mental health, chronic pain, and/or substance abuse struggles.” 

What conditions does ketamine treat?

Ketamine has been proven effective in three major categories of clients. Those suffering from mental health, chronic pain, and/or substance abuse struggles. Many clients are dual-diagnosis, meaning they struggle in more than one category. In the mental health arena, and in addition to treatment-resistant depression, ketamine is also amazingly effective at treating PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety disorders, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), and bi-polar/post-partum depression. For those living with many different chronic pain syndromes, those linked to an overactive sympathetic nervous system, ketamine is an amazing tool to reset peripheral nerve pathways, to counteract the over-sensitization process often seen in chronic pain. Similarly, with substance dependence, ketamine resets both the receptors that have become dependent on the substance, as well as the reward-system pathways in the brain.  This allows for an individual to regain their enjoyment of life’s daily joys, without the necessity for outside substances.

Is it addictive?

The short answer is no. And this is an important topic. A common misconception occurs regarding the difference between substance abuse, and addiction. Human beings can “abuse” almost any substance they can get their hands on, and often do. Abuse just means excessively using a substance outside of the parameters set, either by a prescribing physician, or authoritative health recommendations.  Obviously, since “club ketamine” is illegal, that would be considered substance abuse. However, addiction requires that this substance causes development of a physical and psychologic dependence on continued use of that substance.  In other words, if the substance use abruptly stops, that individual would suffer physical and psychologic withdrawals. We now know that this is not the case with ketamine. There are no real withdrawal symptoms from stopping ketamine use.  However, the underlying psychological struggles, that may lead to ketamine abuse, will still be left in need of treatment. We strongly encourage people not to abuse ketamine in a recreational setting, and instead to seek assistance from professionals. This is where NeuroRelief can come into play. Having a  trained practitioner to be a guide, helping you to recover from such struggles, is where we specialize. And in the right hands, ketamine can be a very powerful tool to assist in that cause.

On average—how long does one need to be in treatment to remedy a condition?

Over the past 15 years, immense research has been performed in this field.  The goal is to discover how ketamine can best be utilized to achieve the goals set by a physician and their client. There is now great consensus that the first step is to complete a “Stabilization Protocol.” This involves 6 sessions, over the course of 3-4 weeks. The vast majority of individuals experience excellent results from this treatment plan. For some clients, we continue to follow-up, and the clients will reach out if they feel any recurrence of symptoms.  They then receive a one-time “booster” session. This is usually only utilized every few months, and only by some patients.  Almost all of our patients achieve great personal growth through our process. The new tools and coping strategies that each client attains will maintain their positive trajectory for years to come. 

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