The 4 Mechanisms of How Ketamine Works

At Reset Ketamine, we believe there are 4 mechanisms which help to explain how ketamine works to treat chronic pain, depression, and anxiety. You can think of these mechanisms as theories or frameworks to help you understand how this medicine transforms lives.

#1 Biological Mechanism:

Ketamine blocks activity of glutamate (a neurotransmitter), which blocks the stimulation of the NMDA receptor and results in increased Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF).

Increase in BDNF results in increased neurogenesis and neuroplasticity. This helps those with chronic pain and depression to restore their neuronal activity and synaptic strength in the prefrontal cortex, restoring and resetting their brain back to a healthier state. Want to learn more? Check out our blog and video on this very topic.

#2 Functional Mechanism:

Ketamine blocks activity of the Default Mode Network aka DMN. The DMN is a portion of the brain which can become overactive with negative thoughts, and some believe the DMN is where the ego resides. When ketamine is given, this area becomes less active, and gives the individual a chance to take a break from these thoughts and detach from the ego which can aid in healing. Check out our blog on the DMN to learn more!

#3 Psychological Mechanism:

In this model, each individual has a conscious (what we are aware of) and unconscious (what we are unaware of) part of the mind.  Ketamine allows the individual to take a peek or even experience entering into the unconscious mind via its dissociative property.

Accessing the unconscious allows for exploration of memories, emotions, and stories which may contain unprocessed and/or repressed feelings of pain and sadness. Exploring the unconscious mind allows one to clean, clear, and integrate traumatic events which leads to healing.

Ketamine also gives you an opportunity to gain a new perspective on a traumatic or unpleasant situation. Under the dissociative effect of ketamine, a patient may enter a mind space where one sees the situation from an entirely different and possibly healing perspective.

Scroll to the bottom to check out a quick video on this mechanism!

#4 Spiritual Mechanism:

This mechanism of how ketamine works requires a couple things: belief in the soul and being comfortable with not having a hardcore scientific explanation.

Our hypothesis is that ketamine allows for healing of the soul and reconnection to the universal. Pain and depression can be a result of disconnection and spiritual injury (insert belief beyond science here).

Under the effects of ketamine, some patients have experienced feelings of connection to God, the Universe, or Source all around them. Some have seen people from their past or met spiritual beings. One of our patients experienced seeing their guardian angel and felt safe and calm. Because of this experience, the patient reported feeling a relief they had not felt for many years.

Could you find scientific data explaining this? No. Will we ever be able to fully explain this mechanism? Probably not. However, this mechanism explains why many individuals who have sought out traditional Western medical treatments for their depression and pain did not find relief and healing.

Scroll to the bottom to check out a quick video on this mechanism!

In summary here are the 4 mechanisms:

1. Biological - aka hardcore science. Ketamine blocks activity of glutamate, increases BDNF resulting in regrowth and reconnection of neurons lost from chronic pain and depression.  In turn allowing for neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.

2. Functional - Ketamine decreases the activity of the Default Mode Network (DMN) of the brain, resulting in calming of negative ruminating thoughts and temporary disconnection from the ego.

3. Psychological - Ketamine opens one up to access the unconscious mind, allowing the patient to process and clear difficult memories and feelings buried deep within the unconscious part of the mind.

4. Spiritual - Ketamine creates a mystical, ineffable experience for the patient which fosters healing of the soul and reconnection to the Universe/God/Source, which can potentially result in reducing symptoms of pain, anxiety, and depression.

Each mechanism explains an aspect of how ketamine works. Alone, each one is not enough and would be an oversimplification. Some of these explanations are easier to accept than others for some, especially the spiritual aspect. Understanding that ketamine works on many levels can further explain why it works so well compared to traditional treatments.

Learn something new? What do you think of what you just read?

More into videos? Check out the two videos below, where Dr. Ko explains more about the psychological and spiritual mechanisms of how ketamine works!

So how does the psychological mechanism explain how ketamine works to treat chronic pain and depression? In this model, each individual has a conscious (what we are aware of) and unconscious (what we are unaware of) mind. Ketamine allows you to take a peek or even experience entering into the unconscious mind via its dissociative property.
To understand how ketamine works on the spiritual level requires a couple things: belief in the soul and being okay with not having a hardcore scientific explanation. Our hypothesis is that ketamine allows for healing of the soul and reconnection to the universal.

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