Using Virtual Reality to improve patient outcomes with therapeutic ketamine

Could VR change how you trip on ketamine?: Not just an immersive distraction, researchers think VR could improve a patient’s medical trip on ketamine

In addition to a growing body of research demonstrating the drug’s effectiveness as a treatment for pain, anxiety, and depression, researchers have also started to look at how this old drug could be transformed by a very modern technology: virtual reality…

Where virtual reality meets the psychoactive mind is a place Dr. Carl Bonnett, founder and medical director of the ketamine infusion company Klarisana, wants to explore.

“There are two schools of thought about how (ketamine) works,” says Bonnett. “One school of thought is that it’s purely a biochemical thing — you give ketamine, it hits the receptors, and it improves somebody’s mood or PTSD. Now, the other school of thought is that, yes, there is a biochemical component, but the ‘psychedelic experimental’ kind of stuff is not a side effect but that is actually part of the therapy, part of the treatment.”

In a small pilot study conducted at Klarisana locations across the southwest, Bonnett and his team wanted to see if ketamine therapy could be improved by designing a special VR environment for the patient to experience it, a technique they call Virtual Dissociative Remodeling (VDR). These virtual environments are designed to be tranquil, like a mountaintop in Tibet or a flight through a valley, but he says they also have to work closely with patients to see what they like, because what can be calming for some can be alarming for others…


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