Ketamine is one of the up-and-comers in the new hallucinogen craze that’s taking over; and it just got pushed to a whole new level. According to recent reports, ketamine is now offered by healthcare provider Enthea, throughout the entire US.
A bit about ketamine and hallucinogens
First off, ketamine isn’t a psychedelic. It’s often classified that way today, as a means of simplifying for the public, what is actually a complicated categorization system of drugs. There are different kinds of hallucinogens, and psychedelics are one grouping. However this grouping only consists of LSD, DMT, psilocybin, and mescaline. Though MDMA is often included in this group, its technically classified as a psychostimulant. These drugs (psychedelics and MDMA) are specifically known to cause an agonist response at serotonin receptors; which means they raise the amount of serotonin in the system.
Ketamine is classified as a dissociative hallucinogen, along with drugs like PCP and DXM. These drugs have a primary action as antagonists at NMDA receptors, among other actions. The other official grouping of hallucinogens, is deliriants; a classing which involves plants like datura, and compounds like scopolamine, or even the allergy medicine Benadryl. These are all anticholinergics, which means they have an antagonistic effect at acetylcholine receptors, and decrease acetylcholine in the system.
Ketamine is a synthetic, lab-made drug, which was formulated in 1962 by the pharmaceutical company Parke-Davis. The idea was to find a powerful anesthetic, which didn’t cause damage, or lower vital body processes; like blood pressure, or breathing rates. Ketamine works as a sedative, but not as a hypnotic; meaning it makes a person drowsy, without putting them to sleep. It causes what’s described as “electrophysiological and functional dissociation between thalamocortical and limbic systems.” In my personal experience it quite literally feels like the parts of the brain are moving away from each other.
Unlike a lot of the drugs we speak about here, ketamine is not a Schedule I compound. In fact, it’s a Schedule III compounds, legal for medical use as an anesthetic in humans and animals. However, as per FDA rules for off-label prescribing; wherein a drug can be prescribed by a physician for uses other than what its officially cleared for; ketamine has been at the center of a growing gray medical market. Legal by off-label prescribing, but with no governmental regulation for what its being used for.
This loophole spawned an entire industry of clinics that offer treatments for pain and different psychological disorders. And patients don’t need to worry about their primary care physician (or specialist) giving them a prescription; they can get it directly from the clinic. This is a major benefit, as individual doctor opinions do not update at the same speeds.
Ketamine now offered as healthcare throughout US
Gray markets present an issue for government bodies. Unlike defined black markets, they aren’t necessarily illegal; in fact, by definition, they’re not. But they’re also not legal markets, which means they’re hard to go after legally, but they also provide no additional tax benefit to regulating bodies. As such, regulating bodies either want to get rid of them (think vapes and cannabinoids), or formally regulate them. Currently with ketamine, there’s a standstill; and this is being taken advantage of by Enthea Healthcare.
I’ve covered Enthea before, and its pioneering efforts to provide ketamine as a basic healthcare benefit. The company is the first licensed workplace healthcare provider for psychedelic therapies, and plans to utilize other hallucinogens for treatment upon their approval. Due to recently closed deals, Enthea expanded out to the point of now offering this coverage nationwide.
I reported last year that Enthea partnered with Dr. Bronner’s, making for the first offering of ketamine therapy as a part of worker healthcare. In late summer, Enthea released a progress report indicating that so far these ketamine treatments have been used by a small percentage of the staff, and provided positive benefits.
As per its report: 7% of Dr. Bronner’s staff utilized ketamine services since their initiation into the healthcare program. Initial reporting indicates that workers experiencing PTSD, general anxiety issues, or major depressive disorder, reported improvements of 86%, 65%, and 67% respectively. While no one said ketamine treatments will help everyone; imagine the possible improvement if these percents are relevant across an entire population’s use.
Now, Enthea is expanding its coverage further with new deals. According to Live5News, Enthea’s new deals are with the clinic chains Skylight Psychedelics and Innerwell. Both provide ketamine therapy throughout the US, which expands Enthea’s reach. The first, offers treatments in its Skylight Journey Centers, as well as at-home treatments, for those who prefer not to be in a clinic.
The second, Innerwell, provides therapy as a combination approach; involving a team of holistic therapists, along with standard medical approaches, and coaching. The company seeks to use data and patient outcomes, to drive the direction of treatment. This company also provides in-house and at-home services.
What does a company need to do to offer these services to their workers? Simply add it on to the plan, as they would for dental or vision coverage. All the employer must do, is sign up. Enthea handles everything else, including: a providers network, established policy which includes standards of care, treatment authorization and reimbursement for companies, educational services, and specifically tailored plans for a company’s precise needs.
Sherry Rais, Enthea’s co-founder and CEO stated, “Nationwide availability represents a pivotal moment in accomplishing Enthea’s mission of helping employers with workplace mental health challenges. Our services at Enthea make it easy on businesses to embrace this safe and effective treatment offering for their employees and we’re proud to have the potential to impact the millions of people in the US living with mental health conditions.”
The problem of workplace depression
How necessary is it to find better treatments and services for employees? I suppose that’s a matter of opinion. Some people love getting up every day to navigate their work environment. Others cringe at the sound of each alarm; sickened by another day of office politics, possible bulling by bosses or peers, long work days away from family, and feelings of being overworked and underpaid. Let’s take a closer look at the issue of workplace depression.
According to an American Psychological Association 2021 Work and Well-being Survey, 59% of respondents said that just within the past month, their work was impacted by work-place stress. A huge 87% said they believe that better handling by employers could reduce mental health issues in workplace environments.
Further to this, a CDC informational page on workplace depression, states that depression causes a loss of 200 million working days a year, combined. This overall costs employers approximately $17 – $44 billion yearly. Depression issues lead to missed work days, and simply not being present or productive while at work.
According to NORC in conjunction with University of Chicago’s National Safety Council; “employers that support mental health see a return of $4 for every dollar invested in mental health treatment.” This indicates that if employers are more thoughtful of their employee’s issues and mindsets; they can improve their own spending, and essentially, waste less.
What jobs cause the most stress? According to the CDC, 10.8% of personal care and service workers report workplace stress, making for the highest stress jobs. Food industry workers clock in at 10.3% who experience stress. Lower stress jobs such as engineering, architecture, and surveying, report that only about 4.3% of employees are stressed.
Life, physical, and social science workers also experience lower stress, at a rate of 4.4%; the same as installation, maintenance, and repairmen. Of course, not everyone understands the concept of their own depression, or wants to admit to it in any context, given the massive stigma attached. I expect these numbers are actually incredibly low for these reasons of possible skewed reporting.
The National Safety Council, for its part, contributes that mental health issues among workers accounts for an extra $3,000 yearly per worker in healthcare services; and that the cost for days lost to stress-related issues is $4,783 per employee, every year. It’s a bad cycle. Stress issues lower worker ability, which means employers lose out as well. Perhaps this makes them then put more stress on employees.
So far, the broad use of ketamine therapy for workplace employees is still a new and growing concept. With the help of Enthea, however, it can now be utilized by any employer in the US who wants to offer ketamine, and other psychedelic treatments, as they become available. If you are an employer, and you want to offer your employees these services, go here. And if you’re an employee who wants coverage of these services; you’ll soon have a growing number of workplaces offering it. Just hold tight.
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