The proliferation of ketamine clinics around the country could offer a model for other psychedelic therapy clinics in the future. Here’s what it’s like on the inside.
Nowhere are the possibilities of psychedelic therapy more evident—or decadent—than a luxury ketamine clinic called Field Trip in Los Angeles. Picture this: You walk into a nondescript building on a sunny afternoon. Elevator doors open to a skylit lobby filled with Buddha statues, rock salt lamps, and the soothing sounds of jazz piano. You take off your shoes and slip on a pair of hotel slippers.
This could be a high-end resort or yoga studio—until you’re led to a darkened room where a ketamine drip awaits. As you settle into a vibrating massage chair, a needle in your arm infuses the ketamine into your bloodstream, and you float into the clouds of your subconscious with a deep sense of calm. When you come back to reality, your therapist is holding your hand, ready to talk. She also offers you a snack: some quinoa chips, perhaps?
Field Trip is a mind-bending look into the frontier of psychedelic therapy, currently a luxury commodity for a privileged few. The bigger question is whether ketamine clinics could serve as a template for a wider variety of psychedelics if and when they are legalized in the near future. Ketamine, a Schedule III drug, is currently the only psychedelic legal for clinical use; while it is primarily used as an anesthetic, licensed practitioners can prescribe it off-label for mental health conditions.
The menu of psychedelics available for therapy could be expanding soon, though: The FDA is projected to approve MDMA for PTSD in 2023 and psilocybin for depression in 2025, according to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and Compass, the organizations sponsoring the studies. (Usona, a nonprofit also investigating psilocybin for depression, declined to give a timeline for FDA approval.)
“This is really unprecedented territory,” says Dr. Casey Paleos, science director of ketamine therapy service MindBloom. “The FDA has never approved drug-assisted therapy—only drugs, so this might entail some novel regulations.”
Many unknowns surround how psychedelic therapy with legal MDMA and psilocybin will be regulated. Until the FDA releases its official protocol, also known as REMS (Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy), the future paradigm remains hazy. So, for now, what do we know about how and where treatments will be offered—and do ketamine clinics have a leg up on other practitioners, such as private doctors or retreat centers? In other words, are ketamine clinics setting the model for the future of psychedelic therapy, or are they simply operating on wishful guesswork, with a dose of opportunism?