I Tried It: At-Home Ketamine Therapy

Ketamine therapy

Verywell / Madelyn Goodnight

I Tried It is a series that features accounts of real experiences with innovative new treatments, techniques, or practices that are making waves in the mental health world. Each installment in the series is unique to the writer's experience and may not be representative of the experiences or views of others.

I'm someone who has always had a positive relationship with drugs. In my early 20s, I used psilocybin as mushrooms to move through major teenage trauma. What I experienced in a week accomplished more for me than two years of previous therapy did.

I continued to enjoy drugs recreationally into my mid-20s when my body decided enough was enough, without ever developing a problem that required outside assistance. My drug usage felt like a generally functional and fun element of my youth.

A decade later, in my early 30s, my doctor offered me ketamine for neurological pain related to Lyme disease. I was astonished that a drug I'd only ever heard of in the context of a "k-hole," and had been far too afraid to try accordingly was suggested to me by a western medicine physician. I was taken aback by this new usage of a substance I knew of as a dangerous street drug, and though I filled the prescription, I never tried it.

Of course, it's common for the role of drugs in society to change over time. Coca-Cola originally contained a form of cocaine, and heroin was once given to children as a health tonic for coughs.

Such has been the case with ketamine, which in recent years has been heralded as a cure for depression and anxiety. So when a PR firm offered me a month's supply to test for free, despite my general lack of interest in drugs these days I figured, hey, what could go wrong? Little did I know: quite a lot.

What Is At-Home Ketamine Therapy?

In recent years, ketamine has proven successful in an assortment of studies at treating depression and anxiety. It's particularly useful for treatment-resistant depression, and as such, it was legalized for medical use. When this happened, companies began to spring up all over the internet offering people the ability to do ketamine at home, outside of a controlled therapeutic environment, at a high cost.

Despite my general lack of interest in drugs these days I figured, hey, what could go wrong? Little did I know: quite a lot.

One company offered me a one-month subscription at $400 for four pills, which came with a month's supply of an anti-anxiety supplement, a sleep mask, a blood pressure monitor (without batteries), an empty journal, and access to a website with guided meditation and relaxing musical tones for your "journeys."

A decade prior, I paid $25 for 30 pills with my doctor's prescription by the medical office's compounding pharmacy. Even though there is no actual therapy involved, ketamine companies charge as if there were.

The Screening Process

I filled out a brief online survey to discern whether I was a candidate for ketamine. The survey results said I was a match, which led me to schedule a telehealth consult. Less than two minutes into my consult, the practitioner told me I was an excellent candidate. She didn't ask me about the medication I take, which I'd listed on my form: Lyme disease killed my thyroid, and I take a daily quantity of T3 hormone that mimics nearly the entirety of what one's thyroid should produce.

Surprised that I was declared a candidate so quickly, I asked the provider what would disqualify someone. She answered that disqualifiers included severe mental health problems like suicidal ideation and physical issues like high blood pressure. With no further questions, she told me my kit would soon be in the mail.

What Happened When I Tried Half a Dose

I'm one of the only people I know who doesn't suffer from depression. Instead, I have very mild anxiety that I control through lifestyle habits such as exercise or meditation. I thought that based on the research I'd reviewed and the marketing of the supplier, maybe ketamine could help me not have to manage anxiety at all.

Though it's been a long time since I learned about k-holes, which occur when you have dissociated after taking ketamine to the point where you're temporarily paralyzed, I was still afraid of landing in one. I decided that a half dose would be safer for me.

The drug came in the form of a lozenge that you have to hold in your mouth and swish around for 10 minutes before swallowing. Online reviewers had described it as tasting like Drano, and even though most people have never tasted drain cleaner, this lozenge was exactly what I imagined it would be like. I lasted eight minutes before I had to swallow the dissolved lozenge or risk vomiting.

For the next hour, I felt a bit woozy. I was very cozy and happy, telling my friend—who the company suggested I have by my side—"This is nice," a few times. We chatted throughout the hour, as I found the music provided on the journeys to be annoying and too "woo" for my taste. I did not enter a k-hole, and about 45 minutes later, I felt mostly normal again. Or so I thought.

What Happened AFTER I Tried It

I took the ketamine in the afternoon because sleep can be tricky for me on occasion, and I didn't want to risk any potential insomnia. My friend left, and as the evening wore on, I found myself worrying about everything in my life. I problem-solved everything that came up. For example, when I thought, "I have so many articles to write this week! How will I ever do it?" I referred to my spreadsheet, where I calendar out my months, to reassure myself that my workload was under control and not an actual problem.

My worry continued through the evening, overwhelming me to the point where I couldn't process anything else around me. Barely able to eat dinner, I took a hefty dose of magnesium before bed because I was worried about falling asleep, and found myself still unable to.

It was the middle of the night before I dozed off—I normally go to bed at 10 p.m.—and I awoke quite early. My heart was pounding, I felt charged with energy, and embarked on a full day of Sunday adventures with my partner, surprised at how much I wanted to do and how little I wanted to eat.

My worry continued through the evening, overwhelming me to the point where I couldn't process anything else around me.

Three days into the frenzy, I finally recognized what was going on: As someone with thyroid disease, I realized these were hyperthyroid symptoms. My medication hasn't changed in years, but initially, it took some work to get to the right dosage. My anxiety, lack of appetite, insomnia, and tachycardia were all hyperthyroid symptoms I'd experienced when my medication was too high.

I decided to skip my thyroid pill. On the second evening off of it, I crashed hard, finally finding the relaxation and sleepiness I'd been missing all week. The next day, I returned to taking it like normal, and within another few days, I felt fairly back to my usual self.

Why I Wish It Hadn't Been Offered To Me

Ever the researcher, I looked into whether ketamine is a good choice to give to thyroid patients. "Alarming reactions" have occurred, and The American College of Emergency Physicians considers the use of ketamine in patients with a thyroid disorder or receiving a thyroid medication "a relative contraindication due to enhanced sympathomimetic effect produced by ketamine."

Sympathomimetic is a complex term for what I experienced: a system that feels like it's on overdrive. Even other ketamine providers note that thyroid issues can be a problem for its usage.

Without going into the long and terrible conversation I had with both the PR firm and the ketamine company, I felt that they took no responsibility for my terrible experience. I was left far worse for the wear after taking ketamine, and I did not experience any benefits from it. Having to go back and forth about why they should have at least warned me, and the danger I was put in as a result, only served to make everything worse.

Patients rely on providers to use their knowledge, which laypeople don't have, judiciously. Even though a medicated thyroid disorder is only a "relative" contraindication, I'd warn a patient about potential side effects at the very least if I were a provider. The last thing I want in my life is to mess with a medical issue that's otherwise handled well, and that's exactly what taking ketamine did for me.

There's a fine line between drug use and substance misuse. Even though recreational drug use is discussed casually here, it isn't always a casual matter. If you're experiencing a potential problem with drug usage, help is available.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Drug Enforcement Administrative Museum. Coca.

  2. Holland B. 7 of the most outrageous medical treatments in history. HISTORY.

  3. Mandal S, Sinha VK, Goyal N. Efficacy of ketamine therapy in the treatment of depression. Indian J Psychiatry. 2019;61(5):480–5.

  4. Taylor JH, Landeros-Weisenberger A, Coughlin C, et al. Ketamine for social anxiety disorder: a randomized, placebo-controlled crossover trialNeuropsychopharmacol. 2018;43(2):325-333. doi:10.1038/npp.2017.194

  5. Kaplan JA, Cooperman LH. Alarming reactions to ketamine in patients taking thyroid medication—treatment with propranololAnesthesiology. 1971;35(2):229-230. doi:10.1097/00000542-197108000-00030

  6. Green SM, Roback MG, Kennedy RM, Krauss B. Clinical practice guideline foremergency department ketamine dissociative sedation: 2011 updateAnn Emerg Med. 2011;57(5):449-461. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2010.11.030

By Ariane Resnick, CNC
Ariane Resnick, CNC is a mental health writer, certified nutritionist, and wellness author who advocates for accessibility and inclusivity.