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How Ketamine is Helping Patients with Chronic Stress and Trauma

Ketamine Infusions at Blum Center for Health

In functional medicine, we see trauma as more than just emotional distress; it has a tangible impact on both your physical and mental health. Picture your body as a well-coordinated orchestra, each section representing a different system. Trauma throws off this balance, affecting everything from hormones to digestion. 

The stress response triggered by trauma can lead to inflammation, impacting your immune system and overall well-being. Our goal as practitioners is to address these interconnected factors, restore balance and support healing. 

The Biology of Trauma

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in understanding the biological mechanisms underlying trauma and exploring innovative treatments. Dr. Stephen Porges introduced the Polyvagal Theory, a groundbreaking framework for understanding the autonomic nervous system’s role in responding to stress and trauma. According to this theory, the autonomic nervous system consists of three branches: the ventral vagal, sympathetic, and dorsal vagal systems.

  • Ventral Vagal System: Associated with social engagement and relaxation, this branch promotes feelings of safety and connection.
  • Sympathetic Nervous System: Known for its “fight or flight” response, the sympathetic system activates during stressful situations, preparing the body for action.
  • Dorsal Vagal System: Linked to immobilization and shutdown, this branch activates when an individual perceives a life-threatening situation, leading to a state of dissociation or freeze.

Understanding the interplay between these systems provides insight into how trauma can impact an individual’s physiological responses and overall well-being.

Trauma’s Impact on the Nervous System: 

When an individual experiences trauma, the autonomic nervous system may become dysregulated. Chronic exposure to stressful or traumatic events can lead to a heightened sympathetic response and an impaired ventral vagal system, hindering the ability to regulate emotions and navigate social interactions effectively. 

Additionally, trauma may result in an overactive dorsal vagal system, contributing to symptoms such as dissociation, anxiety, and depression. 

Understanding these neurobiological changes is crucial for developing effective interventions. Here’s several examples of patients* who’ve who’ve come to me for treatment:

  • The middle-aged patient with depression, who finally connects his dissociation and inability to focus, constipation, and recurrent sinus infections to the stress of his childhood-being raised by an alcoholic mother.
  • The 21 year old college student  who has diarrhea, difficulty tolerating foods, eczema and painful periods- who also lives in a state of fight or flight that she experiences as ADHD and anxiety.
  • The perimenopausal small business owner who is starting to have night sweats, weight gain, change in her bowels.
  • The sleep deprived mom of 3- shuffling kids from activity to activity, managing a household, cooking, who has difficulty finding time to exercise, meal prep, and meditate and who experiences chronic HIVES and cannot clear toxins like mold from her system.
  • The retired patient who has long haul covid after years of reflux symptoms, a short fuse and anger management issues, recurrent sinus infections, and a history of insomnia.  

Ketamine and Trauma Treatment

Ketamine, traditionally known as an anesthetic, has garnered attention for its potential therapeutic effects on trauma-related conditions. 

Recent research suggests that ketamine may influence the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor,  a receptor in the brain leading to neuroplasticity and the formation of new neural connections.  

What this means is that the brain is literally rewiring itself, allowing faulty connections (synapses) to reconnect stronger and with more integrity. And what we experience physically is less anxiety and depression and the somatic manifestations of those states of being. 

Moreover, ketamine’s impact on glutamate transmission may play a role in dampening hyperactive neural circuits associated with trauma. 

Studies exploring the use of ketamine-assisted psychotherapy indicate promising results in alleviating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.  

I’m brought to my 20-something  patient who came to me, unable to work, in chronic pain, almost bed bound and with suicidal ideations.  After only 2-3 months of treatment, he is starting graduate school, his pain well integrated and understood, and walking with a new found confidence in himself.   Both having rewired the neural-circuits and integrated his experiences during his sessions into his daily life and conscious awareness.  

Ketamine, with its potential to modulate neural circuits and promote neuroplasticity, emerges as a novel avenue for trauma treatment. As research in this field continues, integrating biological insights with innovative therapeutic approaches holds promise for advancing chronic stress and trauma care and improving the lives of individuals affected by trauma.

As a practitioner, having a cutting edge tool like ketamine has been one of the most profound ways I have helped patients heal their physical body. If you’d like more information about Ketamine treatments at Blum Center for Health contact our team at 914.652.7800 or on our website 

*distinguishing characteristics have been removed to protect patient identity.

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What it’s Like to Experience a Ketamine Infusion

Launching the Ketamine Program  at Blum Center for Health with Dr. Danielle Greenman has been one of the most profound and exciting moments in my career as a Nurse Practitioner. When Dr. Greenman brought up the idea of bringing ketamine to Blum Center, I instantly became excited because I knew how life-changing ketamine can be.

We have seen some incredible results in our patients and overwhelmingly people have had a positive or productive experience. Ketamine is a wonderful option for so many reasons:


  1. Rapid Onset of Action: Ketamine is known for its rapid onset of action, often providing relief from symptoms such as anxiety, depression, rumination, low self-esteem etc. within hours or days, as opposed to weeks or months it can take for traditional antidepressants to become effective.
  2. Different mechanism of action: Ketamine acts on the glutamate system in the brain, which is different from the mechanisms of action of most other antidepressants (which primarily affect serotonin and norepinephrine). This unique action makes ketamine a great alternative or add-on for those who do not feel optimized on their current treatment.
  3. Neuroplasticity: Ketamine enhances neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to adapt and reorganize itself. This can help people form new, more adaptive neural pathways and thought patterns.
  4. Greater mind body connection: The altered state of consciousness during the infusion leads to a heightened sense of introspection and self-awareness. This leads to a deeper connection to thoughts and emotions. Ketamine opens the door to the unconscious mind and allows people to explore what is lying beneath the surface. Emotions, thoughts, or memories that are difficult to reach in everyday life or an ordinary state we often don’t connect to are easier to grasp and process during a ketamine infusion. This can facilitate a deeper understanding of your emotional or past experiences and promote a more profound connection between your emotional and physical states. Ketamine can create a deeper self-awareness of thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations that contributes to a stronger mind-body connection and a deeper sense of self.
  5. Reduction of suicidal thoughts: Ketamine has demonstrated the ability to rapidly reduce suicidal ideation. This could potentially be life-saving for those at high risk of self-harm or suicide.


It truly has been an honor to administer the ketamine infusions and walk alongside people on their journeys–a task that I do not take lightly. It is my mission to create as comfortable of an environment as possible to give people the safety they need to feel vulnerable and open to embrace anything that comes up in a non-ordinary state of consciousness similar to that of a deep meditation or hypnosis.

Before each infusion, I take a moment to set the intention of the experience with gentle reminders to start the journey off in a good headspace, where you are anchored to your body and have guidance for navigating the experience. Everyone is different and has different needs during the infusion and I honor whatever those needs may be. I take the time before someone starts their ketamine journey to make sure I understand how to best support them. 

There are things you can do to prepare to have the best experience during a ketamine infusion. 

How to prepare for a Ketamine Infusion at Blum Center for Health: 

  • Use the bathroom before you start the infusion
  • Wear comfortable clothes
  • Eat a light meal before
  • Bring an eye mask and blanket
  • Curate a playlist (we have a playlist for you if you need)
  • Communicate all needs 

Many people fear a “bad trip”. Dr. Greenman would say there is no such thing as a bad trip but rather our experience is shining a light on an area of the psyche that needs attention. What feels scary or dark to one may be exciting for another. That being said, when uncomfortable experiences present during a session either Dr. Greenman or myself will support you and help you find safety. Oftentimes what may have felt scary at first becomes enlightening. That being said, most people have joyous and happy experiences and do not experience anything uncomfortable at all. I am always amazed by the profound insights that people share at the end of the infusion and notice positive shifts in energy from when they first came in.

Every single person has dealt with something challenging in their lives and those are things we usually carry with us, whether we realize it or not. Ketamine leads to a greater understanding and connection to ourselves. We all have an organic inner healing intelligence and throughout the process, ketamine can help create a deeper sense of connection and understanding of this part of ourselves.  

Learn more about Ketamine Therapy and our offerings at Blum Center for Health.  If you’re curious about Ketamine Assisted Therapy and if it ‘s right for you, set up a consultation call with Michelle Levins, NP: call or text 914.652.7800.