River Oaks Field Trip Health Clinic Brings Ketamine Therapy to Treat Depression

Opening May 10, the River Oaks facility will be home to Houston’s next Ketamine Enhanced Psychotherapy Clinic. Here, patients can undergo psychedelic therapy in a specially designed space. It is located at 4310 Westheimer Road, Suite 220.

While ketamine is currently a Schedule III drug under the Controlled Substances Act and is approved for use in hospitals and other medical settings as an anesthetic, FTH administers a nasal spray drug derived from ketamine called Esketamine which recently got FDA approval for people on treatment. resistant depression.

Esketamine is already used by some healthcare professionals to treat depression outside of a therapeutic setting. It delivers fast results, said Dr Asim Shah, executive vice president of psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine.

“Esketamine is not off the label,” Shah said. “Esketamine is FDA approved. It was approved about a year and a half ago … Usage is restricted due to cost. The monthly cost is $ 8,000, (so) you can imagine the insurance won’t approve it, right? Or will be reluctant to approve it. “

At the moment, FTH only offers ketamine assisted therapy and currently operates in Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and now Houston.

According to the FTH website, the cost of treatment depends on the total number of sessions recommended by FTH. The first module of the program, which includes consultations, preparations and exploratory sessions, costs $ 2,400. An additional module can cost around $ 1,750.

“Our mission is to bring the world to life through psychedelics and psychedelic therapies,” said FTH founder Ronan Levy. “Because when you look at the evidence around psychedelics, they have a profound ability to provide treatment options for people with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders. … But the main research right now is depression and PTSD.

Develop new options

As a company, FTH has two main divisions: Healthcare, which builds the clinical infrastructure to deliver psychedelic therapies, and their Discovery division, which focuses on drug research and development.

According to Levy, as potent and effective as ketamine derivatives, psilocybin or MDMA-assisted therapy can be, which is where most research currently exists, that doesn’t mean the company can’t develop. new molecules and drugs that address some of the limitations associated with psychedelics.

One limitation that a new molecule could potentially solve is the prolonged duration of a psychedelic experience which makes it clinically expensive and difficult to administer. The company is in preclinical testing for a new psychedelic molecule called FT-104 which is similar in potency to psilocybin but with a shorter duration of psychoactivity, making the molecule a potentially preferable option for psychedelic therapies.

“If you can reduce that timeframe without changing the effectiveness, then it becomes a really effective drug for us,” Levy said.

‘Not your regular clinic’

Clinics pay a lot of attention to their surroundings, which are designed to foster feelings of nature and childish wonder and help people feel relaxed with a sense of curiosity and humor.

“This is not your regular clinic, I would say,” said Dr Ben Medrano, senior vice president and medical director of FTH.

The staff at FTH try to contribute to this sentiment as the company seeks employees who are not only passionate and dedicated to psychedelic work, but who are by nature empathetic. FTH also attempts to represent the society they serve, which means they have a diverse staff in terms of ethnicity, skills, life experience and backgrounds.

FTH received a review from Google describing the clinic as “a spa,” but Medrano has mixed feelings about this characterization because, to him, it may make it seem like they don’t take their job as seriously as it does. ‘them.

“We just don’t have that clinical advantage in terms of ambiance,” said Medrano, who works at one of FTH’s clinics in New York City. “We are very prepared for any kind of difficult outcome that might arise.”

All of the clinic’s rooms are fully equipped with things one would only find in a psychedelic clinic: noise-canceling headphones, blackout masks, adjustable zero-gravity chairs, weighted blankets, and the room themes all differ in terms of natural tones.

In some clinics, they have sound systems fully tailored to psychedelic medicine, with programs that allow therapists to select music based on the most appropriate tone for the patient’s life history, background, and active problem. he’s working on. Therapists can also speak through a microphone that goes directly into a patient’s noise-canceling headphones to guide them and make them feel safe.

Many clinics also have what FTH calls integration spaces, which patients can go to after completing treatment to reflect on their experience, with the ability to meditate, do yoga, color, draw and draw. keep a diary.

Complex story

“There is no doubt that ketamine is also known as ‘Special K’ and that it has been a club drug and has been used as a date rape drug just like MDMA,” said Joe, pharmacologist and co-host of the public radio show The People’s Pharmacy. Graedon, “but ultimately, if used by a trained clinician who knows what he is doing for anesthesia, the drug can be used successfully.”

According to Medrano, ketamine used as an anesthetic in an operating room poses very little risk and has been on the World Health Organization’s Essential Medicines List since 1985. When FTH uses it in one of its clinical as a psychedelic, it uses about 10 times less than what is used in an operating room.

“Most of the safety research that’s been done on ketamine has been done on people taking huge doses of ketamine, compared to what we’re doing now,” Medrano said.

However, nausea and vomiting are common side effects of ketamine, according to Medrano, but are treated quickly with anti-nausea medication. Sometimes patients also have headaches which are easily treated with Tylenol.

There are rare cases of patients having an allergy to ketamine or a person’s airway swelling, but FTH said they have not experienced it in any of their clients.

For people who regularly abuse ketamine, they usually see inflammation of the bladder.

“As with any drug, there is a long list of potential things that could arise,” Medrano said, “but surprisingly with ketamine it’s a very short list, and it’s very rare.

Fight against stigma

Levy believes the stigma surrounding psychedelics will start to fade. As more data examines the safety and effectiveness of psychedelic therapies, he believes the stigma will naturally evaporate.

However, before the stigma goes away, there are things they do to help.

“Getting rid of stigma starts with education,” Medrano said.

Due to the amount of misinformation about psychedelics over the past few decades, medical professionals in the field were digging a hole in psychedelic research, he said.

“The volumes of psychedelic research that had taken place in the 1950s and 1960s had kind of been forced to the bottom of the shelves and had not been taught as part of training programs or talked about as much in the field of research in France. mental health, ”Medrano said. “It just became a fading memory.”

Research on psychedelics as a credible drug began to advance in the 1990s with research on similar drugs, such as dimethyltryptamine, Medrano said.

Now, there is a wave of research coming from several respected sites, including the John Hopkins Center for Psychedelic & Consciousness Research, NYU, Mount Sinai, Columbia, and Cornell, to name a few. Even former Republican Gov. Rick Perry recently initiated the study of psychedelic drugs for PTSD among Texas Capitol veterans, who historically admitted to being “a very anti-drug person.”

Research by respected institutions contributes to the validation of psychedelic research among healthcare professionals. Talking to the public about its safety removes the stigma from people who did not go to medical school.

“For the most part, psychedelics, especially under clinical supervision, are extremely safe,” Medrano said. “And people don’t realize it because they thought it might damage your DNA or other things that spread in the ’70s and’ 80s.

To further combat the stigma of psychedelic therapy, Levy hosts a podcast called Field Tripping Podcast, which explores how psychedelics awaken new views on sex, science, business, fitness, life and death. They chat with healthcare professionals and other professionals who share how psychedelic therapies have improved the quality of their lives or helped them cope with any problems or challenges they have encountered.

“What really got me excited about psychedelics in the first place is that I have this deep feeling that even though we’re talking about mental health and trying to have a very open approach these days, it’s is always really expressed in an attitude of responsiveness, ”Levy says. “People only seek mental health treatment when they are in extreme circumstances of depression or anxiety on a clinically diagnosed basis.”

If people start thinking about mental health the way people think about going to the gym, that is, they are proactive about it, it could open up a new category of conversation about mental and emotional health and the wellness, which would make psychedelics more accessible, says Levy.

Levy says as people feel more comfortable talking about their mental and emotional health, psychedelics will become a viable treatment option – he even expects it to become a treatment option. preferred treatment because, according to Levy, many people have a positive experience. while having a psychedelic experience. They are able to visit and process traumatic experiences and come out the other end with meaning, which is positive, Levy said.

“Most of our early investors were people who had positive experiences with psychedelic therapies and so this really continues to progress on its own due to the depth and effectiveness of these treatments,” Levy said. .

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