Let’s Talk About Ketamine

How a party drug is changing the therapy scene.


CW: depression, sexual assault, addiction

Ketamine is an anesthetic commonly used to induce and maintain sedation. Since the late ‘70s, ketamine has been a popular party drug as well as gaining a reputation as a “date rape drug” due to its amnesia-inducing properties. With traits like that, it’s pretty surprising that ketamine could be life-changing for folks living with long-term depression and addiction.

Last week, mental healthcare history was made with the opening of the UK’s first clinic to make psychedelic-assisted therapy available to the public. Awakn Life Sciences, located in Bristol, offers treatment for anxiety disorders, depression, and addiction with the use of ketamine.

So, what does it entail? Dr. Laurie Higbed, Awakn’s lead psychologist, told Daze it’s generally “10 sessions across six weeks.” After some introductory sessions, clients have therapist-supervised sessions while under the influence of ketamine. They’re free to talk with the therapist or just listen to music and have “an internal experience.” If it doesn’t come up on its own, they’ll be “gently encouraged” to think about their trauma during this time. But, Dr. Higbed says “what needs to come up for healing tends to come up naturally.” 

According to Dr. Higbed, “In psychedelic research we often talk about these compounds as shaking the snowglobe. So as we grow, and we have experiences, some of which might be traumatic or adverse, we tread a certain path through the snow.” She went on to say, “Psychedelics shake the snow globe and throw all that up in the air and then allow that snow to resettle. Then you can create a new path through the snow. I really liked that analogy because it’s showing that those compounds just create the environment and the opportunity for the individual to create a new, hopefully more helpful path for themselves.”