The aptly named Field Trip Health clinic in Toronto is attempting to change the mental health narrative by providing clients with a ketamine-based therapy to treat depression and anxiety.
The Field Trip Health team's ethos, as stated on their website, is to "take a step-by-step, integrated approach to using ketamine-enhanced psychotherapy to bring you back to life."
Ketamine is a general anaesthetic that was originally used on soldiers during the Vietnam war. It is often misrepresented as a horse tranquiliser, though it is used as an anaesthetic for surgery on a whole host of animals, horses and humans included. It has gained notoriety for its illicit use as a party drug, during which it is said to create a dreamlike or hallucinogenic state.
Executive Chairman of the clinic Ronan Ley explained "in addition to its anaesthetic properties, ketamine is also a dissociative psychedelic, so much like other classic psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD, it actually creates a dissociative state that opens people's minds, typically suspending the ego from a psychological perspective and slowing the default mode network from a neurochemistry perspective."
Ketamine has an advantage over other psychedelic drugs due to its use in surgery. This qualifies the substance as legal to conduct experiments and studies on.
Early results show that ketamine has huge advantages over traditional anti-depressants. "So what's really exciting about ketamine and actually all psychedelic-enhanced psychotherapy care, is that it solves and avoids many of the traditional limitations and downsides and negative side effects of the care that is, typically that most people experience, which is the use of anti-depressant medications like SSRIs, benzodiazepine and other molecules," explained Ronan Ley.
A typical treatment at Field Trip Health would require 8-10 sessions of therapy and 4-6 doses of ketamine. It would start with a discussion in which the patient would typically share his or her goals and experiences. A dose of ketamine would then be administered. This would normally take around an hour to kick in.
Footage shows a patient being provided with headphones, blankets and an eye mask, and subsequently being monitored while experiencing the drug. After the experience, the patient is debriefed before some more therapy takes place.
Initial tests have allegedly shown remarkable results, so much so that Field Trip Health have already lined up locations for expansion into Los Angeles and New York City, which is unsurprising when one considers that 19.1 per cent of U.S. adults experienced some sort of mental illness in 2018 according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).