Friday, January 18, 2013

My experience with Ketamine

I spent last week at Jefferson Medical Center in Philadelphia hooked up to an IV infusion of Ketamine to try to break the cycle of chronic migraine that I had been having.  First things first, I am not sure yet if we were successful.  I did have two mostly pain free days while in the hospital, so that was considered somewhat of a success. However, I have returned to having migraines since I have been home.  My doctors said not to be frustrated by this. They didn't expect me to not have migraines when I returned home.  I read some experiences of others in which the people undergoing Ketamine (or K as I like to call it) treatment went weeks or in some cases months without migraine, so I had my hopes set pretty high and am finding it difficult to call anything less than that a success. The truth is, I won't know for a couple of weeks, at least, until I can look back at my "new," post treatment headache pattern, if the treatment was a success.  I won't be able to tell if anything really changed until some time has passed, because right now, I find myself dwelling on every migraine, thinking "OH NO, another migraine. It's just the same as before." I need patience, and unfortunately, patience ain't my thing.

About the treatment:  It was quite interesting.  My first Facebook post of the week said something to the effect of, I know three things about K, 1) It doesn't immediately knock out a migraine, 2) it gives you raging nausea, and 3) it does NOT make you sleepy.  Though I don't remember much, I do remember the first day and night being quite rough.  I was as nauseated as I have been in quite some time.  My nurse commented that he had never seen so much come out of someone so small.  Yes--I puked A LOT.  I also didn't sleep that night.  I think I was too busy vomiting.  I had a level 5 headache entering the hospital, and it spiked to a level 9 migraine by the time they started the K, which took hours, and the K didn't take the migraine away. Luckily, they would treat me with other meds and they gave me Torodol and Zofran, Reglan, and Phenergan.  It took all 3 anti-emetics before I finally stopped throwing up.  But finally, my nausea was controlled and they kept the Torodol coming for the first few days too, so the pain dropped back to a level 5 and stayed there for a few days until I was finally pain free.  

K does a number on the brain.  I remember when I would get bored, I would just shut my eyes and watch the show.  Colors would just dance in front of my eyes and shapes and colors would just bleed into each other.  I remember one time thinking my brain was darker than I thought it would be.  The colors were much darker than I thought they should be.  I guess my brain isn't the bright, cheery place I hoped for?  I don't know what I expected.  I did some funny things.  I called people.  Drunk dialed them is more like it.  I still don't know for sure who all I called.  Evidently I have colorful language when I am high on K.  I probably owe some people some apologies for that.  And I use big words I am told.  My husband tells me I spoke to my brother on the phone one night, and immediately upon hanging up the phone, my husband asked, "So what did you talk about?" To which I replied, "I honestly couldn't tell you."  K makes you a little goofy.  I tried to remember things and not be goofy, but I have no idea if I succeeded.  I can write this because I confessed it to my husband already, but my husband's birthday occurred while I was in the hospital.  At some point, I ordered Edible Arrangements to be delivered to my room for his birthday.  I have no recollection of doing that.  But you know--SCORE!  I did not forget his birthday even in my altered state!  Still though, it's kind of scary to think of all the damage I could have done with online shopping and never even remembered.  I'm glad nothing has been delivered since we've been back home!!!

One interesting thing that happened was that when I first arrived at the hospital, I didn't have a private room. I wasn't expecting to have a roommate, so you can imagine that I wasn't thrilled to be moving into a room with another person.  My roommate and I arrived at the same time, and she had on sunglasses, so I suspected she had migraines too.  I found out she was there for her first K treatment as well.  Her husband couldn't stay with her because they had sick kids at home, so he was dropping her off, getting her settled in, and then driving home to take care of their children.  We became good friends in the few days we shared the room, before they found us private rooms.  We called it "Migraine Camp"!  As a matter of fact, when they found us private rooms, neither of us were sure we wanted to be separated.  My husband still took care of her, brought her coffee and food, and the nurses gave us reports on each other.  The nurses got a kick out of our friendship, I think.  We were very lucky and blessed to have been put together.  She was smart, fun, sassy, kind of a kindred spirit in many ways.  We texted a lot in the hospital while we were high on  K.  I haven't read those texts since I have been out yet, but I imagine they will be quite amusing.  We plan to keep in touch and have texted since we've been out of the hospital too.  

The docs sent me home with K in nasal spray form that I can use up to three days per week as needed for migraines.  I have used it twice so far, and I'm not totally impressed.  First of all, it tastes horrible and I haven't figured out how to keep it from running into my throat at least a little when I use it.  Second, it does help a little, it's quick acting, but very short lasting.  I can use it up to 10 times in a day, twice per hour, but who wants to be monitoring how many times they've used a nasal spray and counting every time their pain comes back?  I will give it some more trial runs, but I am not sure it's going to be effective as an abortive that I can use and still go about life, the way Zomig is, for instance.  I want an abortive that I can take, it reduces my pain to a level where I can function, and then I can go about my business.  If I have to take K and then snort it repeatedly, keeping count of the times I use it, with pain potentially returning between uses, it's not that kind of abortive.  

So, what do I think of the K infusion overall as a migraine treatment?  The jury is still out.  Getting me to pain free was pretty awesome, but now I just remember what that felt like and it kind of sucks that I don't feel pain free now.  For even the possibility that I might have gone weeks or months pain free, I would do it again.  So I guess that was worth it for that possibility.  And we may have changed the course of my near daily migraine that I was having beforehand.  I am just not sure yet.  But I promise to let you know....


  1. I wish I could get to the point where I could get infusions in my area every few days because I have a feeling it would make a huge impact on my quality of life. The at home compounded treatments, unfortunately, just didn't cut it for me or create the same effect as IV.

    So sorry to hear you had such brutal nausea. I didn't experience that, luckily.

  2. i have recently been self treating my migraines with K and have found the nausea to be a LOT heavier and more frequent when medicating, as opposed to my previous "recreational" experiences. I first came across K as a recreational club scene substance and was actually suffering from a horrible migraine that day/night and a close friend explained how there have been studies regarding ketamine and migraine relief. i decided to take a chance, considering i was already there to party. I enjoyed the experience greatly. My migraine didnt actually go away, but it did not affect me AT ALL the whole time i was definitely experiencing the effects of the K. The next day, After feeling satisfied with the instant removal of the pain, i decided to do extensive research online regarding ketamine and its use to treat chronic migraines. there isnt much information, and it appears that it wont exactly cure a migraine, but i have been finding that with small recurrent doses (insufflated) that the migraine is put at bay for such a period of time that it even dissipates and becomes nonexistent. So, after many small constant doses of ketamine the migraine was gone. The side effects are slightly enjoyable, but definitely not manageable on a day to day basis to keep migraines at bay. I would be interested in further studies regarding ketamine and migraines. Actually, anything to help relieve these migraines and make daily life manageable.

  3. I'm finding all of this very interesting. I'm starting my k infusions in a few months and I so hope they help. I have severe daily migraines so any help at all would be great.

  4. I came in on a search string, good read about your experiences, I did not know ketamine was used in migraine management.

    I actually never noticed the nausea from ketamine until today (just now) when I threw up my dinner just in time - the gagging started before I left the room and it was hard to navigate to the toilet bowl with one hand attempting to keep in the partially digested dinner in place.

    I am a recreational ketamine user (3-4 times a year for past 18 years or so) but this is the first time I had nausea so bad, to be fair I had a really big meal 1 hour before dosing.

    I did have a huge headache *after* ketamine though, which was why I started searching for headaches and ketamine since that was another effect I never experienced while I was on ketamine. I remember mild nausea from previous trips, more like an aversion to eating and I always thought it was due to the taste-numbing effects but now realized it's from the nasty drip (as per your nasal spray, the mucus like viscosity of the result of the irritation to the nasal passages).

    All the best for your migraines.

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