What are ketamine infusion clinics where Matthew Perry sought help? What you should know

By | December 18, 2023

Actor Matthew Perry’s ketamine infusion administered days before his October 28 death has become a popular mental health treatment in the US

A lower dose of the traditional anesthetic has been used to treat symptoms of depression, usually via IV in clinics. Research has shown its promise, although experts have noted that the clinics are not as regulated.

“If there is regulation, it will be on the shelves for nursing and medicine,” said Ladan Eshkevari, a nurse anesthesiologist and CEO of the Avesta Ketamine Wellness Center, which has clinics in the Washington, D.C., region. “I’m not sure how that will happen, but right now, with the world we live in, we have to be more conscientious and ethical in our practice than ever before.”

Ketamine infusion doctors said the dosage is a fraction of what patients receive in operating rooms. Patients are awake or semi-conscious during several hour-long IV sessions supervised by an anesthesiologist, who administers the drug, in addition to staff such as a psychiatrist, nurses or social workers who screen patients.

The cast of The cast of

The cast of “Friends” from left to right: Lisa Kudrow, Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry and Courteney Cox pose for photographers as they arrive for the 53rd annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills.

The ketamine infusion that Perry, 54, received would not have lasted that long, as the drug’s half-life is only a few hours, according to the autopsy report. However, his death in the swimming pool of his Los Angeles home was ruled an accident due to the “acute effects of ketamine” found in his system, with levels comparable to those of general anesthesia. Contributing factors included drowning, coronary artery disease and the effects of buprenorphine, an opioid use disorder medication. Perry, who spoke publicly about substance abuse, had reportedly been sober for 19 months, the autopsy report said.

Research shows mental health benefits, but also risks for substance abuse

Using ketamine for mental health carries risks for people with a history of substance abuse, said Dr. Peter Grinspoon of Massachusetts General Hospital in an article at Harvard Medical School. Ketamine is also known as a street drug.

“It is not at all a normal drug that can be used by an ordinary person,” says Dr. Fahmi Farah, a cardiologist in Fort Worth, Texas. The traditional use of ketamine in operating rooms involves constant monitoring, often with a ventilator to help patients breathe, she said.

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Ketamine has shown promise in mental health care. Two 2019 studies found that esketamine, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved ketamine nasal spray to treat depression under certain conditions, showed it alleviated treatment-resistant depression over shorter and longer periods.

More recently, the FDA warned about the risks of compounded ketamine, including oral products, for the treatment of psychiatric disorders, especially with telemedicine companies that prescribe ketamine.

Clinics use a fraction of the doses compared to anesthesia, providers say

At Avesta, in Washington, Eshkevari said doctors prescribe esketamine in precise amounts. If a patient abuses, doctors stop prescribing.

“We follow the IV protocol, but we do not prescribe medications at home for people with a history of substance abuse,” she said, adding that doctors do not prescribe oral ketamine.

Somatic psychotherapist Mariya Jayed-Payne, owner of Awaken Consulting Services in Minnesota, combines ketamine with psychotherapies. A mental health professional monitors patients during treatment.

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In this file photo, registered nurse Liz Durand, center, inflates a blood pressure cuff on Don Corbett's arm while certified nurse anesthetist Stephen Durand, right, searches for a vein to insert an IV before Corbett receives ketamine treatment at Alleviant Health Center of Naples on February 14, 2020. Corbett, a retired police officer, suffers from PTSD and receives ketamine infusions to combat his symptoms.In this file photo, registered nurse Liz Durand, center, inflates a blood pressure cuff on Don Corbett's arm while certified nurse anesthetist Stephen Durand, right, searches for a vein to insert an IV before Corbett receives ketamine treatment at Alleviant Health Center of Naples on February 14, 2020. Corbett, a retired police officer, suffers from PTSD and receives ketamine infusions to combat his symptoms.

Infusion clinics want people to know what they are doing

Sam Mandel, co-founder and CEO of Ketamine Clinics Los Angeles, said patients with appointments following Perry’s death have emailed their concerns. Linking his death to suspected uncontrolled use harms those who need help for mental health issues, he said.

“People are scared,” said Mandel, who founded the clinic nearly a decade ago with his father, Dr. Steven Mandel, an anesthesiologist, founded. “There is no connection between the therapeutic use of ketamine in the clinic and what happened to Matthew (Perry).”

In Perry’s case, Eshkevari said medical teams must ensure patients use ketamine responsibly. Although ketamine is safe and heavily monitored by doctors, she said people can obtain it through online pharmacies, a risk if people try to dose themselves.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What are ketamine infusion clinics where Matthew Perry sought help

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