Read Sober Psychonaut disclaimer for people in sobriety exploring psychedelic medicin
It all started last summer when I responded to an ad for ketamine for depression with clinical therapists, all guided and overseen but from the comfort of home.
Better yet, it was reasonably affordable. The cost of a six-session ketamine therapy program through Mindbloom is $386 x 3 - charged to my card over the course of several months. Like I said, reasonable.
Why was I interested in ketamine for depression? I've been curiously following the whole psychedelic medicine movement, noticing it gaining traction in more mainstream circles and hearing about its myriad applications for mental health issues from anxiety and depression to PTSD and other types of trauma, to addiction to alcohol and drugs.
I'm sober 30+ years, so my interest isn't so much in dealing with alcohol addiction. Fortunately, that craving was lifted from me in early sobriety. What has lingered heavily, however, over the last five years, is residual depression triggered by a car accident and exacerbated by perimenopause.
For some reason, I feel like I have to defend my decision to choose ketamine therapy and psychedelic medicine as a "last resort" when in fact⏤the more I read and understand about psychedelic medicine⏤if I could have chosen it first, I might well have done so.
Although I have eschewed the associated stigma of psychedelics, I'm still rationalizing it in my brain, like:
"You wouldn't be doing this if you didn't have issues with existential depression. You wouldn't have any 'excuse,' otherwise."
As if⏤my other viewpoint says (the one I actually believe)⏤one needs an excuse to have a mind-expansive experience that elevates mood, triggers new neuronal firings, and enhances the brain's neuroplasticity (ability to make new connections).
If you're wondering if I really tried hard enough to deal with depression in other ways, here's more about my journey to ketamine therapy as a sober psychonaut.
So what have I actually gotten from trying psychedelic medicine?
Ketamine, while not exactly psychedelic in the sense that LSD and mushrooms are psychedelic and produce elaborate visual and auditory experiences, is usually spoken of as a psychedelic drug.
It has been used as a legal anesthesia medication in hospitals since the early 1970s and only in recent years was discovered to be effective in lower doses as a treatment for anxiety and depression, among other maladies.
Unlike some LSD or psilocybin (mushroom) journeys, taking ketamine involves about 20 to 30 minutes of mental and physical preparation (think, nice shower, lighting candles, writing in your journal) and only about an hour-long period during which you're under the influence, if you will, of the medication.
I had my first ketamine for depression treatment in December and I have just completed my fifth out of six total treatments. I have also explored other types of psychedelic medicine, including psilocybin, in search of similar benefits.
Here are the best things I've gotten from trying psychedelic medicine:
Oh right⏤and I'm completely OFF of all antidepressants!
A multi-years' long cocktail of Prozac and Wellbutrin, and later Gabapentin for neuropathy/pain issues.
I won't denigrate the moments in between (it's true: I've still struggled with chronic pain, stress, a gloomy mindset) but prefer to allow for the fact that I have had some benefit from my experiences with psychedelic medicine these past few months.
And on it goes. The ride ain't over.
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Navigating the psychedelic medicine universe as a sober person