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  • Writer's pictureJeff Lundgren

Contraindications for Ketamine-assisted Psychotherapy

Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy (KAP) represents a novel treatment approach for several psychiatric conditions, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD. It offers hope for individuals who have not found relief from traditional treatments. However, it's not suitable for everyone. Understanding contraindications can support the safety and effectiveness of this novel treatment.

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Active Substance Abuse

Patients with active substance abuse issues, including alcohol, cannabis, and non-prescribed medications, are generally not considered good candidates for ketamine therapy. Patients who are in a suitable state for treatment are good candidates, as KAP can support addiction recovery. Substance abuse can alter the effects of ketamine by blunting its effect or increasing the risk of adverse reactions.

History of Psychosis

Ketamine can exacerbate symptoms in individuals with a history of psychosis. As ketamine can induce dissociative states, it may trigger or worsen psychotic episodes in some individuals. Therefore, patients with a history of psychosis are advised against undergoing ketamine treatment.

Increased Intracranial Pressure and Neurological Conditions

Individuals with increased intracranial pressure or symptomatic traumatic brain injury should avoid ketamine therapy. The drug's effects on cerebral blood flow could potentially worsen these conditions. Similarly, those with neurocognitive disorders like dementia are also contraindicated due to the potential for exacerbating symptoms.

Cardiovascular and Hypertensive Disorders

Ketamine has been shown to increase blood pressure and heart rate, posing risks to individuals with uncontrolled hypertension or acute/unstable cardiovascular disease. A thorough medical assessment is essential to identify underlying cardiovascular conditions before initiating KAP.

Pregnancy and Other Health Conditions

Pregnant women or those planning to become pregnant are advised against ketamine treatment due to the lack of data on its effects on fetal development. Additionally, patients with a history of allergic reactions to ketamine, severe hepatic impairment, or recent cardiovascular events are also considered ineligible.

Compliance with Treatment Protocol

The effectiveness and safety of ketamine therapy depend on strict adherence to pre-treatment and post-treatment protocols. This includes dietary restrictions, abstaining from certain medications, and ensuring post-treatment observation. Patients unable or unwilling to comply with these protocols may not be suitable candidates.


Certain medications are contraindicated due to their potential to interfere with ketamine's efficacy or increase the risk of adverse effects. Benzodiazepines, often prescribed for anxiety or insomnia, can diminish the antidepressant effects of ketamine. Opioids, prescribed for pain management, can exacerbate the sedative effects of ketamine, increasing the risk of respiratory depression. Additionally, certain monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) can interact with ketamine, leading to heightened blood pressure and heart rate. A thorough review of all current medications is important before initiating ketamine therapy.

Pharmacology of Ketamine

Ketamine is an NMDA receptor antagonist that modulates a strong increase in glutamate, a neurotransmitter implicated in the pathophysiology of depression and other mood disorders. By blocking NMDA receptors, ketamine produces rapid antidepressant effects, often within hours or days. , Its dissociative effects can be helpful for individuals, creating a gap between "the problem" and the "self."

Ideal Candidates for Ketamine-assisted Psychotherapy

Ideal candidates are those with depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicidality, existential crisis, and who have not found relief from traditional medications or therapies like EMDR, TMS, CBT, or medication. Ketamine therapy offers a faster onset of relief, making it a valuable option for those seeking immediate improvement.

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