Newly opened Awakn Clinic in Bristol is offering a course of low-dose ketamine treatments alongside therapy sessions for people suffering with addiction, anxiety, depression, PTSD and eating disorders.
While the treatment is currently only available privately for around £6,000, the company’s ultimate aim is to have it available on the NHS in order “to help as many people as possible.”
This article explains what ketamine-assisted therapy is and how you can access it.
Who are Awakn?
The UK’s first ketamine clinic is run by Awakn Life Sciences, a clinical-biotech company that researches and develops “evidenced-based psychedelic medicine” for the treatment of addiction and other mental health conditions.
Along with offering ketamine-assisted therapy, the company is studying MDMA’s effect on addiction with a view to offering MDMA-assisted therapy once it is approved for use by the government, which could be as early as 2022.
Supported by a scientific advisory group of experts in the field, led by Professor David Nutt (who was fired as a senior UK government drugs adviser for saying magic mushrooms were less dangerous than crack cocaine), Awakn’s goals include building a chain of 15 to 20 medical psychedelic clinics across the UK and EU.
What is ketamine?
Ketamine (ketamine hydrochloride) is a potent anaesthetic and analgesic (pain killer) used medically across the globe in both animals and humans. Developed in the 1960s, it was soon being used as a recreational drug for its dissociative and psychedelic properties.
Ketamine remains the only psychedelic drug in the UK that’s been licensed for use as a medicine. In late 2019, a ketamine-like drug named esketamine was licensed for use as a rapid-onset treatment for major depression due to the fact it works in hours rather than the weeks or months it takes traditional antidepressants, although the effect does not last long-term.
Psychedelic-assisted therapy combines a psychedelic drug experience with a number of psychotherapy talking sessions. The therapy helps the patient make sense of the psychedelic experience and to integrate the perspectives for lasting change.
A recent study found psilocybin-assisted therapy to be four-times more effective at treating depression than antidepressants. Results like this have only added to the expectation that psychedelic-therapy will revolutionise mental health treatment over the coming years.
Psychedelics such as ketamine, psilocybin and DMT are a natural complement to psychotherapy. This is because they enhance brain cell growth and increase synapses in the brain, improving memory and cognition while allowing new neural pathways to be formed.
How does ketamine-assisted therapy work?
A treatment course at Awakn is quite intensive. It lasts six weeks and includes four ketamine-assisted sessions in between six therapy sessions. There’s also one follow-up session at week nine.
Ketamine injections are used by the clinical staff, who all have decades of experience with psychedelic-assisted therapy and are there to guide you through the experience and keep you safe and comfortable.
How to access ketamine-assisted therapy in the UK
(Summarised from awaknlifesciences.com)
1. Get in touch with Awakn Clinic here
Start by booking a call with the clinical team who will be able to answer any queries you may have about the treatments. You will then be asked to provide a summary of your medical history from your GP, which you can get yourself. The team will discuss your case and speak with you in more detail about your issues and previous interventions tried.
An in-person medical assessment will be set up for you with a consultant psychiatrists to confirm if psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is right for you.
3. Treatment design
Your consultant psychiatrist, consultant psychologist and you will jointly design your bespoke treatment programme.
4. The therapeutic treatment
Your ketamine-assisted psychotherapy will be a mix of drug-assisted sessions and regular therapy appointments. Integration sessions are key to building upon new perspectives gained during the drug-assisted sessions.
5. Post-therapy guidance
After completing your nine-week programme, you will be ready to support and engage in positive lifestyle changes. You will be provided with follow-up sessions to further embed and capitalise on gains and changes made during the therapeutic process.