Ketamine II

It's now the next day and I've received a call from the doctor himself who is spearheading the study. He wants to get me in quickly because he will be vacationing out of the country. If I don't schedule now, I'll have to wait several months. We worked out a tentative appointment for Monday of the next week. When Monday arrived I made the drive to the facility which is a lengthy, trafficy, mind-numbing venture both to and from.

I have to say, all the people that I dealt with that day were extremely kind and informative. The doctor was pleasant if not a bit mechanical. He had me fill out the necessary paperwork and consent forms. An interview ensued for a good amount of time with the usual questions. Then two young assistants took me on a long walk through the medical center's various buildings to get blood work and an EKG done. After that, we ventured to another building to get an MRI scan of my troubled brain. This would be the first of three scans, each of which would take almost an hour. Luckily I don't have any claustrophobic issues. I learned there were ten people in this study and I was #10. I was there for about four hours just in time to rejoin the snarled freeways during the early evening rush hour for the long, congested commute home.

Three days later I received a call from the other doctor in charge informing me that all the tests looked fine and I qualified for the infusion. I was scheduled to be there the following Thursday at 6:00am for an all-day visit which would include additional brain scans and more blood work in addition to the infusion. I'm not allowed to drive home that day so my amazing wife will be joining me for support and to chauffeur me home.

At this point I just feel numbness. I can't allow my hopes to heighten. I don't want to be set up for another fall. It's quite a literally a "one shot" opportunity with this drug. I've been reading about it and relying on its promise for several years. Now, suddenly, I'm a qualified candidate. It's a bit surreal. Even if it should transform me for a few days or hours, it's not FDA approved for depression and may not be for years so I won't be leaving with a long-term prescription. I won't be leaving with anything— except the experience. The only thing to look forward to is an ever so brief and possible taste of what relief might be like if it does what it's supposed to do, but I must be cautious and realistic. This could go either way as all other options have.


At this writing, it's exactly four days before the Ketamine infusion. I'm compelled to put my thoughts in writing having mixed emotions about the whole thing. Of course, I fear it won't work and will be another dismal disappointment. I'm trying to prepare for this so as not to be so devastated. Then again, I fear it will work but I won't have any access to the medication so it will be a futile tease. I'm questioning why I'm even taking part in this at all because it will be so open ended.

The only benefit I can justify this with is the hope that the medication will give me a brief respite from the heavy sorrow and darkness that I've grown so accustomed to. Maybe the slightest glint of hope will renew my faith in life itself. I suppose this is why I'm doing it.

Ketamine I

Back in August of 2010, I created a post called "Psychedelics." It dealt with scientists revisiting hallucinogenic drugs long abandoned from the ’60s and ’70s due to their abuse and stigma. Some of the base chemicals in these drugs have been shown to be effective in treating depression. One of them has been around a long time. Primarily used as an animal tranquilizer by veterinarians, Ketamine made its way into the recreational arena and became known as "Special K." It's still around in the streets and used as a party drug like Ecstasy.

When I first mentioned it in this blog almost four years ago, it was making headlines as a "breakthrough" treatment for depression that quite literally showed positive results in hours instead of days or weeks. Now Ketamine is really gaining steam and being tested by more and more scientists, doctors and clinics. I just read about Ketamine being administered in a nasal spray form. There are similar drugs in the same family being tested with the same results. The only problem for me was there was no testing or clinical trials in my area. Most were being conducted in the midwest and northeast. I'm in California which you would think would be on the cutting edge of this type of research. For several years I've been checking clinical trial sites, emailing clinics and doctors trying to find out where and when Ketamine would be coming to a theater near me.

Finally today, I happened upon a link that had the attached flier.

At this point in my miserable journey, I don't get excited about potential "breakthroughs" or even remotely get my hopes high. I read the flier, studied the website it originated from and then decided to make the call—full well knowing I would be diving back into the red tape ladened bureaucracy that is the medical field.

There are two doctors listed on the flier. I actually got a human on the other end and asked for the first doctor. That doctor was not at that location which was confounding. I then asked about the second doctor which of course I could only leave a voicemail for. As each hoop was placed in front of me I jumped through them like a trained circus animal.

Surprisingly, two days later I got a call back from the secretary of the doctor I left the message for. She asked if I was under current psychiatric care. I replied not at this time. She then told me it's mandatory that I have a referral from a psychiatrist. I told her nowhere is that information anywhere on their website or on the flier. She said she would ask the doctor if an exception could be made and would call back in a couple of hours. Hours later, after not hearing back, I called and managed to contact the same lady. She reiterated that it was mandatory to be under psychiatric care for follow up reasons. Perplexed, I asked what the role of the doctors were in this trial if they're not following up on the results. She said there would be a short visit with the doctor "after the infusion" but the main follow up would be with MY doctor. This now means I have to either find a new psychiatrist or contact the previous one I had in order to participate in this study.

This is why I loathe the psychiatric machine. It's cold, demeaning and bureaucratic. These people are in the profession to help the downtrodden and yet one can literally be driven crazy by the process itself. It stinks and should be changed.

After the weekend, on a Monday I left a voicemail with my former psychiatrist. Amazingly, she called me at day's end and was happy to help in any way she could. She gave me her email address to send her the details of the study so she could transmit a written referral. The next day, I got in contact with the trial doctor's assistant and told her the referral would be faxed to them in the next couple of days. That was good enough to prompt a pre-screening on the phone which I apparently passed. The next step after they received the referral was to make an appointment. I'll be damned if this wasn't speeding along fairly quickly.

As I thought, a little hiccup had developed. I must be under current psychiatric care in order to participate but understandably, my ex psychiatrist won't fib about that. I asked her to state in the referral that she'd be willing to follow up with me after the trial. She obliged and sent her referral to the doctor. That was good enough to clinch an appointment for a consultation for the trial. So far I've been surprised at how quickly this process has progressed.