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  • Writer's pictureAdam O'Neill

Ketamine Infusions – Common Concerns from Christians

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

by: Adam O'Neill, PA-C and Logan MacLean, DNP, CRNA

Ketamine Infusions – Common Concerns from Christians
 

Article Summary:

  • Ketamine has a long history of use in medicine dating back to the 1970s.

  • Ketamine infusions used in psychiatry is less addictive than caffeine.

  • All medications, not just ketamine, should be carefully examined and prayerfully considered prior to use.

  • Growth through the sanctification process can be found in both trials/sickness as well as through the good gifts which bring us healing.

 

In a previous article, the advancements of modern science and medicine were discussed as one of the many good gifts of common grace that God has given us to steward. By this we mean that God, because he is good and kind, has “caused rain to fall on the just as well as the unjust” (Mat. 5:45) and both Christians and non-Christians (whether they realize it or not) benefit from these blessings.


As an overtly Christian psychiatry practice that offers ketamine infusion therapy for patients who struggle with clinical depression, suicidality, PTSD, as well as severe anxiety and OCD, it is important to address some common concerns about the use of this medication (for questions regarding ketamine and its uses in psychiatry visit here).


“Will I get addicted to Ketamine?”


Of all the concerns of ketamine infusions this may be the most common, and it is certainly understandable why. Ketamine has been available since the 1970s and has a very public history of recreational use and being a “party drug”.


Here are a few important facts to consider regarding ketamine:

  • Recreational use (self-administered, unsupervised, unmonitored, high dose, rapid administration, frequent usage) of ketamine, like most controlled medications commonly used in medicine, increases the risk of dependence and addiction.

  • The risk of developing dependence (tolerance and physical symptoms of withdrawal) to ketamine is less than caffeine, alcohol, marijuana, or morphine.

  • In the clinical environment, ketamine is a highly respected medication and has a long history of use for both adults and children, in the operating room environment, and on the battlefield by medics.

  • The risk of addiction for ketamine is extremely unlikely when infused in the appropriate environment under the watchful care of a qualified provider monitoring the patient as well as the medication dosage, frequency, and method of administration.

To this end, it is important to receive ketamine infusions from a provider who is knowledgeable about ketamine and partners with your mental health team.

“Ketamine has a stigma of abuse”


As Christian’s we should be aware of what we are putting into our bodies. Our actions in this area will either work for its benefit or harm. The body is not a temporary piece of flesh to be treated with carelessness, but a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Because of this, we should be aware of the addictive potential of the food and medicine we consume.


It is true that ketamine has been used on the street as a drug of abuse, this however, does not inherently disqualify it from the Christian’s use. Consider the following:

  • We as fallen creatures often take many of God’s good gifts and use these gifts in ways that do not glory God. We see examples of this daily when we look at pain medication, alcohol, or even caffeine.

  • Accepting a good gift from God and stewarding it appropriately is glorifying to Him.

  • Every good gift, although given to all people, is ultimately meant for the Bride of Christ, the Church.

The history of abuse of ketamine speaks to the consequences of a wrongful action, not an inherently evil medication. Its history should urge us to be more wise and vigilant in our stewardship of it.


“Ketamine makes you high”


It is right and good that Christians pursue being “sober minded”. We walk in a physical and spiritual realm that is hostile to our faith. We are commanded to keep watch (1 Peter 5:8-9). Getting a “high” from marijuana, being drunk with alcohol, or altered by any number of illicit substances puts us in a vulnerable position physically, mentally, and spiritually.


So how should we view ketamine’s ability to alter mental status?

  • The “high” or “dissociation” of a ketamine infusion, though not fully understood, is believed to be somewhat necessary for ketamine to have its therapeutic effect on the brain.

  • Temporary alterations in mental status commonly occur in other areas of medicine such as when patients emerge from anesthesia in the operating room or dentist’s office. It also can occur when attempting to control acute pain after surgery or soon after a mother gives birth.

A Christian using ketamine infusions as an end (the feeling) is inappropriate. It is similarly wrong to drink to feel drunk or to seek pain medication because “I like the way it feels”. The appropriate use of ketamine infusion therapy is a means to pursue mental health. Similarly, patients receive anesthesia or pain medication for the means of accomplishing a specific goal that aids in the body’s recovery.


In addition, this is why we are honored to be present while patients are receiving ketamine infusions. We believe it matters what you read, listen to, and who you surround yourself with before, after, and during treatment. As both medical professionals and professing Christians, it is our duty and joy to walk alongside patients through this process.


“It prevents God from using my depression/anxiety for my growth”


This belief is not specific to ketamine but has been mentioned in reference to all psychiatric medications. There is a belief that mental anguish is God’s chosen method of sanctification in the lives of Christians. Though we agree with C.S. Lewis that “Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world”, pursuing mental healing does not negate the pursuit of Christ.


Pursuit of or continuance in pain as its own end is a glorification of pain, not Christ, in our lives. From heretical groups that rejected any form of pleasure to groups that purposely pursued pain through self-flagellation the elevation of anything whether pain or pleasure above God in our lives is idolatry.


Instead, God looks at the orientation of our hearts. Jesus, in speaking to the Pharisees, condemned their rigid adherence to rules rather than an inward heart orientation toward God, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’” (Matthew 9:13a). The Pharisees performed well the law while missing the point of the law entirely.


If instead the good gifts God has given for the healing of our mind and body are accepted with thanksgiving to him then both the pain/suffering and means of healing have been consecrated to Him. He remains Lord of our suffering and of our healing.


If you have questions about ketamine and its use within a Christian worldview we encourage you to reach out to us at www.aoavirginia.com or email office@aoavirginia.com.




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