Men can benefit from drug therapy under the right conditions

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Ketamine. The name evokes associations with the club drug Special K and the recent tragic death of actor Matthew Perry. His autopsy report lists “acute effects of ketamine” as one of the causes of death. It is important to note that he was receiving it therapeutically and was also self-medicating with the drug.

Ketamine, first synthesized in 1962, has a long history as a relatively safe anesthetic and is still used in humans and animals. It can also produce dissociative and out-of-body feelings, which explains its recreational popularity and possibly why you have happy post-op memories on the drugs.

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The big news around ketamine is how it is applied in the mental health field for conditions such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Psychiatrist Dr. Keith Courtney is the medical director of the Bloom Psychedelic Therapy & Research Institute. This Calgary-based center offers ketamine-assisted therapy in a safe and controlled environment.

“There’s always a paramedic in the room,” he says, or other medical supervision. She also notes that potential patients must meet the criteria set by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta for ketamine-assisted therapy. They must have tried antidepressant medications without good results and be otherwise healthy. Patients are referred to this clinic by their family doctor or other health professionals.

According to a 2022 Statistics Canada report, the overall prevalence of major depressive disorder in Canada is significantly higher among women than men across all age ranges. Similar results are observed for generalized anxiety disorder and social phobia. However, Courtney reports a 50/50 gender ratio in her patients.

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He believes ketamine-assisted therapy has special advantages for men. He explains that “as men, we tend to repress our feelings completely or go to the other extreme and get a little emotional. You see a lot of them with anger issues and impulse control issues.”

He also points out that “kids tend not to want to do therapy. They don’t have the same social networks… and we don’t talk. I think psychedelic medicine allows them to process their emotions, process their feelings… Women are more frank. “They are more willing to talk about some of their past problems.”

Courtney notes that “men have a harder time talking about sexual trauma.” “When I treat kids with ketamine, I see them willing to talk about past issues, past abuse issues that are going on in their lives, so I think it’s a great complement to therapy with kids.”

His clinic offers individual and group therapy, and he has discovered that “in our groups, men are very verbal. “They are very vocal.” He also finds this therapy helpful with “men who don’t fit the heterosexual male profile: gay men, transgender people.”

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Ketamine-assisted therapy is not cheap. A typical 10-week treatment of “wet” (with the medication) and “dry” sessions costs $6,000 and is usually not covered by the government or health insurance. However, spectacular success in patients where everything else has failed keeps people coming to Courtney’s clinic and others like it.

Ketamine is not the only drug that may be useful in this context. Courtney expresses hope that “we can start using MDMA later this year.” All of this is related to government approvals at various levels. By contrast, in the United States, a recent article in Medpage Today called ketamine therapy “a wild west for doctors and patients.” That source noted that “between 500 and 750 ketamine clinics have sprung up across the country” and noted that “commercial ketamine clinics often offer same-day appointments.”

Professor Leah Mayo holds Canada’s first academic chair in this area, the Parker Chair in Psychedelic Research at the University of Calgary. In an email interview, she explains: “The only way to legally access psilocybin or MDMA in Canada is by enrolling in a clinical trial or through Health Canada’s Special Access Program. In the US, a new drug application for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy was submitted to the FDA in December 2023. We do not yet know if it will be approved and, if so, how the regulatory landscape will change here in Canada.”

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Mayo also warns against “pop-up mushroom shops” popping up in several Canadian cities. “My main concern is whether people seek out these stores to get mushrooms to self-medicate with a confirmed (or suspected) mental health diagnosis,” she writes. “We focus a lot on the idea of ​​’setting and environment,’ or the mindset of the individual and the environment in which the substance is used… (An) attempt to mitigate psychiatric symptoms without the safety and support of trained personnel can lead to unwanted diseases. results that can further exacerbate the symptoms the individual is trying to treat.”

Perhaps the best way to sum up the state of this rapidly evolving landscape is Alexander Keith Brewing Company’s old slogan: “those who like it, like it a lot.”

Tom Keenan is an award-winning journalist, public speaker, professor at the University of Calgary’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, and author of the best-selling book Technocreep: The Surrender of Privacy and the Capitalization of Intimacy.

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