Ketamine is one of the most significant recent breakthroughs in mental health care — but it doesn’t always come cheap. Psychable is an online community that provides education and connects people to psychedelic-friendly doctors, therapists and coaches who can support them, including Ketamne professionals. Psychable’s site hosts a wealth of evidence-based research, has an engaged and passionate online forum, and a professional directory powered by ratings and reviews. Keep reading to learn how much ketamine can cost and how to find accessible ketamine.
Originally discovered in 1956 and approved in 1970 as an anesthetic agent derived from phencyclidine, ketamine made a name for itself as an anesthetic used on the battlefields of Vietnam. Because ketamine maintains hemodynamic stability or stable blood flow, it’s a safe option in trauma settings.
Ketamine is even listed on the World Health Organization Model List of Essential Medicines. It is still used regularly in emergency rooms and trauma settings as an anesthetic and pain-reliever.
More recently, in addition to surgical use, ketamine is being used for mental health conditions such as treatment-resistant depression, PTSD, suicidal thoughts, and more.
In 2019, ketamine was FDA approved for treatment-resistant depression (TRD) in the form of a nasal spray called Spravato (esketamine). Generic ketamine, or racemic ketamine, is also being used off-label, primarily through infusions and lozenges. These also treat depression, as well as PTSD, suicidal ideation, chronic pain, and more.
In particular, ketamine shows fast-acting results for treatment-resistant depression, However, the price of ketamine therapy isn’t cheap and is rarely covered by insurance. As a result, the promise that ketamine therapy can provide can be dampened by the financial barriers to access.
How Much Does Ketamine Cost?
Generic ketamine is a mixture of two mirror-image molecules, “R” and “S” ketamine. The nasal spray Spravoto isolated the “S” molecule (esketamine) to make their product patentable. Spravato can cost from $590 to $885 per treatment session. Insurance companies sometimes cover Spravato because it is FDA-approved. Spravato offers resources to help determine if one’s insurance covers it.
“Generic ketamine costs less that one-tenth of esketamine’s prices,” explains Jemie Sae Koo, Psychable CEO and Co-Founder. “In an effort to make the drug accessible to more patients, some compassionate doctors will work with a compounding pharmacy to create an off-label ketamine nasal spray or lozenge at a lower price point.”
However, insurance companies do not cover the costs of off-label treatment. Most of the research on ketamine for depression is on infusions. While effective, they can cost between $400 to $2,000 per treatment. Considering the standard starting regimen for ketamine infusions is six treatments over the course of an initial treatment, that alone can cost patients upwards of $6,000. Some treatment centers and doctors will work with patients on a sliding scale or installment plan.
“Ketamine therapy using lozenges is typically much more affordable than infusions, but certainly doesn’t work in all situations,” says Matt Zemon, Psychable Chief Strategy Officer and Co-Founder. “Talk with your doctor and shop around for the practitioner and price that is right for you. Also, consider reading the “Ethical Guidelines for Ketamine Clinicians” that Dr. Wesley Ryan and Dr. Raquel Bennett wrote”.
Barriers to Entry and Final Thoughts
Ketamine is also a popular party drug. Recreational ketamine costs roughly $20-$25 per unit. Understandable financial roadblocks may lead people to resort to obtaining ketamine illegally. One should know that when abused, studies show ketamine can cause symptoms including bladder problems, ureteric obstruction, papillary necrosis, and hepatic (liver) dysfunction. There is also the risk of purchasing adulterated ketamine.
While Psychable does not shame anyone for their choices, they encourage people to only use ketamine under medical supervision, as substances obtained illicitly can contain adulterants or lead to dependence. “One cannot in good conscience suggest that people create their own ketamine nasal spray or self-medicate as the risks for abuse, negative side effects, and unsatisfactory results are too great,” said Jemie Sae Koo.
Until more affordable ketamine treatments become available, the best bet is to seek out a reputable clinic that is willing to work with your budget.