“Ketamine in itself is actually quite inexpensive,” Levy says. “What makes it so costly is the fact that you have so much professional time supporting the experience. You’re screened by a psychiatrist, you have a therapeutic team, and someone to check on you during the entire experience. So these are people whose time is… unfortunately, quite expensive.” Services are not covered by insurance, either, since the use of ketamine for depression is considered off-label by the FDA.
Before I went to Field Trip, I put out feelers on my Instagram story: who had paid for ketamine and found the experience “worth it?” OK, so it wasn’t exactly a peer-reviewed study, but I thought some of their answers might speak to the frustrating reality of mental health in America today.
“I am very interested in a guided ketamine thing, but it’s so expensive that I just admire from afar on Instagram,” one friend told me. “And just do ‘shrooms with my friends.”
“My girlfriend was curious how much it would cost and reached out to one of those Instagram ads, $800 a session or something like that,” another added. “The only people who can possibly afford it are kids whose [depression] is being bankrolled by a trust fund.”
After generations of depression being relegated to the shadows of society, a dirty word not to be uttered in public, we’re living through a golden age of “it’s OK to not be OK!!!” messaging. But how is it OK that one needs tons of disposable wealth — or, in my case, a job with tons of perks — to get quality help? Ultimately, the million-dollar “why is ketamine so expensive” question can apply to most other sky-high medical costs in this country.
What does a ketamine session feel like?
Was I on this soapbox as I drifted off into my ketamine trip? I have to admit I was not. I felt peaceful as Jenna began with a meditation, reminding me that if things ever got to be too overwhelming, I could always return to my breath. “Blessings on your journey, Alaina,” she cooed as a chorus of female voices chanting in unison rose from the playlist blasting in my headphones.
I first felt a melting sensation in my back — soon my limbs, too, felt like puddles, and I lost all feeling of having a physical body. Very slowly, I had no sense of who I was or what I was doing. This, of course, was fucking terrifying, but I found ways to soothe myself — taking deep breaths, moving along to the music, remembering that I had a mouth I could turn up into a grin. I gave up caring.