A Parent’s Guide to Ketamine: Helping Your Teen Break Through Depression, Anxiety & Trauma

Depression / IV Therapy / Mental Health / Sara Bricker, BSN, RN

A Parent’s Guide to Ketamine: Helping Your Teen Break Through Depression, Anxiety & Trauma

If you’ve struggled to find relief for your teen’s mental health challenges, ketamine treatment might be the breakthrough solution you’re looking for.

Safe, effective, and fast-acting, ketamine is a game-changing treatment for depression, anxiety, and trauma. Even if your child’s symptoms have been labeled treatment-resistant.

As a parent, seeing your teen grapple with depression, anxiety, or trauma is a heart-wrenching experience.

While traditional medications are effective for some, they often fall short — especially if your child has treatment-resistant symptoms or if rapid intervention is crucial. Not to mention the fact that many of us would love to avoid psychiatric medication for our children altogether.

Enter ketamine infusions, a truly game-changing option for teens suffering from mental health issues.

Helping your teen with ketamine treatment might sound scary at first — but we promise it’s worth considering

Currently, ketamine is the only rapid-action prescription for depression on the market. It also helps treats anxiety, PTSD, and complex trauma. Ketamine can even eliminate the need for other psychiatric drugs in some cases.

If the idea of giving your child ketamine sounds daunting or scary, you’re far from alone. At our center we administer ketamine infusions to adolescents and teens from 12-18 years old, and even younger in select cases. If there’s one thing these patients and their parents have in common, it’s anxiety about trying a treatment with effects similar to a psychedelic.

This is where the right information and guidance is crucial, however. Ketamine is not only incredibly effective — it’s also extremely safe. It’s been on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines for over half a century, and one of its common uses is as an anaesthetic for pediatric surgeries. In other words, ketamine has already been in use for younger populations for many years.

Let’s explore this innovative solution for teen mental health issues and help you decide if ketamine treatment could be worth trying with your teen.

The Alarming Rise Of Teen Depression and Anxiety

Over the past 10-15 years, there’s been a startling surge in depression and anxiety among teenagers. According to the most recent national survey on mental health, 1 in 5 teens suffered a major depressive episode in the past year. And around 15% had experienced severe impairment in major areas of their lives.

Factors like social media, isolation, academic pressures, and trauma have contributed to this crisis. The consequences are devastating — plummeting self-esteem, fractured relationships, falling academic achievement, and elevated risks of substance abuse and suicide.

There is good news though. And reason for hope. Ketamine infusions have demonstrated astounding efficacy for depression, anxiety, processing trauma, and even suicidality — all with higher success rates than standard medications.

In our center, we’ve observed 75% of patients of all ages show significant improvement in their depression and anxiety symptoms after ketamine treatment. And this figure becomes over 90% when treating depression alone — even if symptoms have been labeled treatment-resistant.

What is ketamine? And what’s the best form of administration?

Ketamine (full name: ketamine hydrochloride) is a rapid-acting dissociative anesthetic agent that works by blocking certain receptors in the brain and spinal cord. The result is relief from pain as well as the growth of new neurons.

Though initially approved as an anesthetic, it was discovered that sub-anesthetic doses of ketamine can provide fast-acting antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects. In many cases it is most effectively administered via intravenous infusion (IV ketamine) or intramuscular injection (IM ketamine) although smaller doses are possible via nasal sprays, pills, and sublingual administration. Studies show that IV and IM ketamine can have longer lasting effects than other methods, and the experience itself is often deeper and more profound with these two methods.

Why we prefer ketamine infusions over IM injections

At our clinic, we’ve offered all of the different routes of administration over the years and have found the best, most consistent results with IV ketamine infusions. IM ketamine injections can feel too intense for many of our patients, as they have a fast ramp-up to their peak intensity.

Infusions have a more gentle ramp-up, and then a prolonged period of intensity that almost reaches the same peak as IM injections. 

Perhaps the biggest benefit of infusions, however, is that they allow the IV nurse to change the rate of the drip during a session. If a patient seems uncomfortable, or desires a stronger experience, the rate and intensity can be adjusted accordingly.

Is ketamine treatment new?

One of the reasons ketamine can seem scary to parents is that it feels like a new, untested treatment. While it’s true that ketamine’s use in mental health is more recent, it’s actually been safely in use since the early 1960’s. At our clinic we’ve been providing ketamine for over 11 years, and after thousands of successful sessions and patient recoveries we find it to be one of the most effective, safest medical interventions we know of.

Here’s a brief timeline of how ketamine went from an anesthetic to a new gold standard in mental health treatment:

Infographic on the evolution of ketamines use for mental health purposes

Do you have questions about ketamine treatment for teens and adolescents?

Let's find your loved ones the relief they deserve. Contact us today for a free 15-minute ketamine consultation with one of our patient care coordinators.

Ketamine vs. Psychiatric Medications

Ketamine Infusions have several advantages over standard psychiatric medications:

  • Faster relief: Ketamine works much faster than standard antidepressants, providing effects within hours or days. This rapid response is vital for those experiencing suicidality.
  • Help with treatment-resistant symptoms: Ketamine can help reduce symptoms in the majority of cases labeled as treatment-resistant.
  • Reduced side effects: Ketamine has fewer side effects compared to traditional antidepressants. Most of ketamine’s side effects disappear within hours of the treatment.
  • Simultaneous relief from anxiety, depression, and trauma: Ketamine can help with co-occurring disorders, potentially reducing the need for separate medications.

It’s important to note that psychiatric medication management still has its role in treating mental health issues for your teen, but ketamine can be used concurrently with other medications in most cases. At our center, we often suggest ketamine treatment as a temporary bridge to bring fast relief while medication has time to take effect.

Ketamine and Psychotherapy (Talk Therapy)

At our center, we believe it’s essential for teens undergoing ketamine treatment to also engage in psychotherapy. These two therapies work well together, with ketamine accelerating the progress your child can make in therapy sessions. Together, they can address environmental and psychosocial issues, such as bullying, identity, academic pressures, or family conflict. Medication might help relieve symptoms, but it can’t address the root causes.

One of the ways ketamine enhances therapy is by facilitating access to deep-seated parts of ourselves, including repressed memories or thoughts. Ketamine can temporarily loosen these protective mechanisms, leading to greater insights and breakthrough moments in therapy.

An Important Note About Ketamine and Trauma

If your teen is navigating PTSD, CPTSD, or other trauma, their ketamine treatment can require extra care. Ketamine can bring up difficult memories, potentially making your teen feel worse before they feel better. It’s crucial to help them understand that these negative feelings are an essential step in processing and releasing their trauma. With younger patients, it’s especially important to help them process their experiences with ketamine and prepare them for potential effects like dissociation or altered vision.

Understanding Dissociation in Ketamine Treatment

Dissociation is a temporary altered state of consciousness characterized by detachment from one’s surroundings, thoughts, or self. During dissociation, your child might feel as if they’re floating, watching events from a distance, or observing themselves from outside their body. Some describe it as a dreamlike state, with vivid imagery or brief, movie-like scenes. Dissociation is temporary, and not everyone experiences it during treatment. The likelihood varies based on individual sensitivity and dosage. Furthermore, dissociation is not necessary for ketamine infusions to be effective.

Step-by-Step: What to Expect During a Ketamine Infusion

  1. Initial Consultation: A thorough assessment and medical evaluation determines if ketamine is the right fit. At our center, this is done with an integrative psychiatrist (MD) or an integrative nurse practitioner (NP).
  2. Preparing for the Infusion: Patients are advised to have a light meal a few hours before the treatment and wear comfortable clothing.
  3. The Infusion Process: The infusion lasts about 40 minutes, followed by another 30-40 minutes of “clearing” — relaxing as the ketamine leaves the system. Patients remain seated, wearing eyeshades, and may listen to special music to enhance the experience.
  4. Post-Infusion: Some drowsiness or dizziness might be experienced. Teens of driving age must not drive for 12-24 hours after their session. Most can resume normal activities the next day.
  5. Initial Series and Follow-Up: Most patients have an initial series of 6-9 infusions over 2-3 weeks. Follow-up sessions are scheduled based on individual needs.

Risks and Side Effects of Ketamine Treatment

When it comes to mental health, ketamine treatment is regarded as extremely safe. The benefits often outweigh the risks, especially if there’s a risk of self-harm. However, like all medications, there are side effects and potential risks to consider. These include dissociation, visual effects, cardiovascular effects, nausea/vomiting, headache, dizziness, focus and memory issues, urinary tract issues, and potential for abuse.

Taking the next step

As a parent, the decision to give any kind of medical treatment to
your child is a significant one. However, major depressive disorders and
anxious depression among young people can have lasting impacts on their
overall well-being, academic success, and social development. Untreated
depression also significantly raises the risk of addiction and

We encourage anyone considering this treatment to learn more by
speaking to knowledgeable medical professionals who can review your
child’s specific needs as well as individual factors like medical
history and other important considerations.

Let's get your child feeling like themselves again

Contact us today for a free 15-minute ketamine consultation with one of our patient care coordinators. We'll be happy to answer any questions you have, and start your family on a path to better relief.
Sara Bricker, BSN, RN

Sara Bricker, BSN, RN

Sara is passionate about IV therapy and the role it plays in the emerging fields of integrative health and psychedelic medicine. As the manager of our infusion suite, she specializes in integrative infusion therapy for mental health, wellness, addiction recovery, and optimizing physical and cognitive performance. Sara prides herself on continuously furthering her education as well as doing her best to share her expertise with her clients and fellow practitioners. As a champion of patient-centered care, she enjoys working with her IV nursing team to ensure her clients get the best care possible — including the best results.

All Posts

If you’d like to receive future blog posts in your inbox — along with special promotions and other news from our center — please subscribe to our email list:

Subscribe to better healing, joy, energy and relationships

We share quick helpful info to empower your well-being, from treating depression and anxiety holistically to useful news about psychedelic therapies. We also share upcoming events and special offers we don’t share anywhere else. Your info isn’t shared with anyone, and you can unsubscribe to our emails at any time.