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What Sets Ketamine Apart from Other Psychedelics

The frontier of mental health treatment is ever-evolving, with ketamine therapy emerging as a unique, potent, and legal therapeutic option harnessing the power of psychedelics.

Ketamine is a fascinating psychoactive medicine that wears multiple hats. We are able to utilize it for both psycholytic dosing, leading to thoughtful self-reflection and psychedelic doses, leading to a profound reset and healing potential. Both ketamine and other psychedelic substances like psilocybin and MDMA share the ability to open "critical periods" in the brain, creating unique windows of opportunity during which the brain is highly susceptible to environmental learning signals. However, several unique features set ketamine apart.

Here are the key ways ketamine differs from other psychedelics:

  1. Legal Status: Presently, ketamine holds the distinction of being the only legal psychedelic approved for clinical use in the United States, a status it achieved back in 1970. While other substances like psilocybin and MDMA are making strides towards decriminalization and potential clinical use, they have yet to gain full legal approval.

  2. Pharmacology: Unlike psilocybin and MDMA that primarily act on the serotonin system, ketamine is an NMDA receptor antagonist that inhibits the activity of glutamate, our body's main excitatory neurotransmitter. In a fascinating twist, ketamine administration leads to a surge in glutamate levels. This increase is associated with a boost in Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a protein that, as previously discussed on our blog, acts like "Miracle-Gro" for the brain, fostering neuronal growth and enhanced synaptic connections (Duman et al., 2016).

  3. Medication Interaction: Ketamine therapy shines in its compatibility with other psychiatric medications. In contrast, combining SSRIs with substances like psilocybin and MDMA can dampen the effects of these psychedelics and even lead to potential health risks. Ketamine's ability to work in tandem with other psychiatric treatments provides a safe and versatile therapeutic option (Liechti et al., 2017).

As the legal and cultural landscapes continue to evolve with the legalization of psilocybin in Oregon and the potential approval of MDMA in the next couple of years, we find ourselves in a revolutionary era of mental health treatment. As practitioners, our mission is to leverage these developments, providing the best possible treatments to our patients.

Ketamine therapy, with its unique pharmacological properties, solid safety record, and therapeutic potency, spearheads this exciting frontier. Offering promise for a host of new, effective treatments, ketamine therapy is a beacon of hope for those struggling with mental health issues.

Still, it's essential to remember that while we are optimistic about the potential benefits of ketamine therapy, it's critical to consult with a healthcare provider before making changes to your treatment regimen. Stay connected with our blog for more updates on the dynamic and evolving world of integrative psychiatry.

Learn more about ketamine therapy on our blog:

Are you ready to explore the transformative potential of ketamine therapy? At Driftless Integrative Psychiatry, we offer a range of options tailored to your needs:

Take the first step towards a healthier mind and experience the power of ketamine therapy at Driftless Integrative Psychiatry.


  • Duman, R. S., Aghajanian, G. K., Sanacora, G., & Krystal, J. H. (2016). Synaptic plasticity and depression: new insights from stress and rapid-acting antidepressants. Nature Medicine, 22(3), 238–249.

  • Liechti, M. E., Gamma, A., & Vollenweider, F. X. (2017). Pharmacology and mental effects of psilocybin when used in combination with SSRIs. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 31(4), 405–419.


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