Adjuvant therapy with ketamine helped me get rid of depression.But it is still expensive and controversial


This first-person article is the experience of Julian Uzielli, associate producer of CBC Radio’s podcast playlist.For more information about CBC’s first-person story, see common problem.

When I leaned on the leather recliner, my limbs felt heavy. The high dose of ketamine I just took made it more difficult for me to move, so it was difficult for me to wear headphones and eye masks. The soothing music made me enter deep relaxation, because my consciousness began to drift away from my body into a world of rotating lights, colors and images.

I’m not in a new age music festival, nor in a dilapidated underground poisonous den. This completely legal experience is conducted under the medical supervision of Toronto Field Trip Health, which provides psychedelic adjuvant therapy for those suffering from difficult-to-treat mental illnesses such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

This clinic is the first of its kind in Canada and opened last year. Since then, similar clinics have been opened in Quebec, Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Nova Scotia.

More than 50 years ago, ketamine was first approved as a general anesthetic in Canada and the United States. Since then, it has won the reputation of party drugs, with names such as special K or vitamin K.

Today, it is increasingly used as a quick and effective treatment for depression. But this is not without controversy.

Last resort

For most of his life, including his teenage years, Uzielli struggled with depression. (Julian Uzielli)

As long as I can remember, I have been dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts. By the fall of 2020, after months of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic have paid the price, my depression is as severe as ever.

I can no longer work normally. I have difficulty completing simple tasks and lack the basic motivation to take care of myself. More and more vivid suicidal thoughts began to loop in my mind.

I am ready to try anything.-Julian Uzielli

“A bad day is when you can’t get up,” my wife Danielle said. “It literally means frustrated too much to move.”

It was in this state that I visited the website of Field Trip Health Clinic for the first time. I was dubious at first. I am generally skeptical of any content you might have mixed under the umbrella of “alternative medicine,” and the website’s use of modern health phrases such as “your journey to recovery” raises some red flags.

But pseudoscience is not the case.Psychedelic adjuvant therapy is getting more and more support striking scientific evidence.

Besides, I am ready to try anything.

One of the dispensing rooms in the clinic feels more like a high-end spa or technology startup than a medical institution. (Field visit to health)

Medically approved drug travel

The treatment lasted for three weeks, including six courses of ketamine and an intermediate course of non-drug talk therapy. Each course of ketamine lasts two to three hours.

At the beginning of each treatment, I will get a paper cup with ketamine tablets. I will let them dissolve in my mouth and gargle for about 10 minutes.

With the action of the drug, I felt that my consciousness seemed to be separated from the body. This reminds me of “Sunken place“Horror movies from 2017 Go outBesides being not scary, it is relaxing and peaceful.

This experience is deeply influenced by the music carefully selected by the therapist. When it expanded to crescendo, I felt like I was rising with it, at the tip of the rocket launching into space. When it calmed down, I felt like I was floating.

By the end of the three weeks, I felt like a newcomer.-Uzielli

Although it sounds strange, this experience had a huge impact on my mental health. After the first class, I feel that my mood has improved. After the second time, I feel that my view of life has also improved. By the end of the three weeks, I felt like a newcomer.

Of course, like any medical procedure, this treatment method is not suitable for everyone. There are also mental and physical conditions that can disqualify you, such as schizophrenia or uncontrolled high blood pressure.

But for me, the ultimate effect is to be able to solve my problems and heal my trauma-not just bandage them like I use traditional antidepressants.

How does this work

When I asked Dr. Yuliya Knyahnytska about the effects of ketamine as an antidepressant, she smiled.

“The very, very simple answer is that we actually don’t know, because it works on many levels,” she said.

Knyahnytska—her patients call her Dr. K—studies the effects of ketamine on depression. She is a clinician and scientist at the Toronto Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

She said that when administered in a clinical or therapeutic setting, ketamine can safely and effectively relieve depression symptoms within a few hours.

But scientists have not fully understood how or why it is so effective.

One theory has to do with synaptic plasticity—the brain’s ability to form new connections and repair existing connections. As we all know, ketamine triggers a surge of glutamate, a neurotransmitter that exists in more than 90% of the synapses in the human brain.

“It creates new connections and improves connections in the brain,” she said. “How did it do it? We don’t know yet.”

Dr. Ishrat Husain is a clinical scientist and psychiatrist at the Toronto Center for Addiction and Mental Health. tell current March Although some psychedelic treatment studies including ketamine are promising, they should be viewed “critically.”

He said that according to clinical trial standards, many studies involve a small number of patients, and usually do not include a placebo group, nor do they include comparisons with standard available treatments.

Obstacles and worries

Given the current knowledge and ignorance of the drug, scientists are complicated by the recent surge in private ketamine clinics.

Unfortunately, lack of supervision and lack of supervision may cause some harm to patients.-Dr. Yulia Knynicka

“This is very tricky. People need treatment,” Knyahnytska said, noting that the pandemic has Depression rate Reach an astonishing level.

“It is understandable that people are seeking treatment, but it is difficult to obtain treatment. People need to be hopeful about certain things.”

Knyahnytska pointed out that when abused, ketamine can be addictive and may have unintended consequences, such as mental illness.

“This is not something we need to take lightly. Unfortunately, the lack of supervision and supervision may cause some harm to patients,” she said.

There is another problem: cost.

My treatment cost me US$4,700. It’s worth it, but I know how honored I am to be able to pay that kind of cash in the first place.

The prices of other clinics I checked in Toronto are similar.few hospital The establishment of a free grant funding program for patients has begun, but the waiting list can be as long as several months.

‘A different person’

Five months after I completed the program, positive changes still exist-for now.

I no longer struggle to get up, I feel motivated to take care of myself. I have a more optimistic outlook, and I have been planning for the future-this used to be meaningless to me. People around me have noticed.

My parents were “stunned.” My wife said that I was like “a different person”. My therapist even used the word “magic”.

Danielle said that after receiving ketamine treatment, Julian is a “completely different person, in the best way.” They attended the wedding before COVID here. (Submitted by Julian Uzielli)

If there is no long-term study on the effects of ketamine treatment, there is no guarantee that my depression will not recur at some point.

But I have personally experienced the power of this treatment. Therefore, if my depression does recur, I will be prepared.


About the producer

Julian Uzielli is the associate producer of CBC Radio’s Podcast Playlist. He has previously worked at The Current, As It Happens and Tapestry. He lives in Toronto with his wife Danielle and their dog Maggie.

This documentary was mixed and edited by Andrew Friesen and Acey Rowe. It contains from Bojack Horseman, Trainspotting, “Into Silence” by Iceblink, This Harvard Theological Seminary, Doctor, Al Jazeera, Vice, ABC and City News.



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