North Naples doctors says ketamine has benefits, not for everyone

Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
(AP Photo/Teresa Crawford)

Ketamine is known as a party drug, but research shows it can also treat depression.We spoke with a patient here in Southwest Florida about the benefits. And a doctor told us why it’s not for everyone.

“I know people are tired of taking pills,” Britain Valentine said. “It’s hard to ween off them after you feel better.”

Valentine from North Fort Myers said she has struggled with mental health for years.

“I had depression and anxiety,” Valentine said.

Valentine wanted to try something different than traditional treatment.

“I didn’t really like taking pills,” Valentine said.

So she makes the drive from North For Myers to North Naples for ketamine infusion therapy a RiKai Theraputics.

“I feel a lot better now than I did before,” Valentine said. “I wasn’t in the right state of mind.”

Dr. Gary Lawson, leader of the private practice in North Naples, said he often sees those results.

“The whole goal of ketamine infusion is that you stop your medication,” Lawson said.

Lawson is talking about anti-depressants, which can come with unpleasant side effects. He said ketamine — developed in the 1960s as an anesthetic — can get people off those types of drugs in small doses.

“Dosing is what’s important,” Lawson said.

And the whole process is regulated by a device. Once it comes on, it delivers the medicine based on weight and illness.

“You want to use the fewest doses that you can in order to get the best benefit for the patient,” said Dr. John Mann at Columbia University.

MORE: The Promising Potential of Ketamine

Mann said while ketamine can be useful in the short-term, he’d like to see more research done.

“We don’t have a very good idea of the long-term safety of repeated administrations of ketamine,” Mann said.

And Dr. Lawson tells his patients, ketamine is not for everyone, which is why they’re very careful in evaluating who might benefit and who might not.

Right now, insurance companies do not cover ketamine infusion therapy. So anyone interested will have to work with their doctor to figure out a payment option because it could cost a patient thousands of dollars.

Dr. Lawson said it can also raise ones’ blood pressure, which is why they monitor patients closely during the treatment.

So far, Valentine said she is thankful for the therapy. Valentine hopes it can help others get their lives back too.

“No suicidal thoughts, no depression, no anxiety,” Valentine said. “It really helps a lot.”

RELATED: Ketamine for Depression: Does it work?

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