01.03.2024

Suicidal mother, whose depression was deemed untreatable says psychedelic ‘gave me my life back’

Niki’s seizures are a type of functional neurological disorder (FND) — when the nervous system and the way the brain sends and receives signals misfire. A woman from Canada on the verge of suicide said experimental ketamine therapy saved her life.

Niki, 52, suffers from ‘drug resistant’ depression, meaning conventional treatments failed to ease her persistent low mood.

She also suffered from seizures but was repeatedly told by doctors the root cause was anxiety and nothing could help her.

Niki told DailyMail.com: ‘I was completely desperate — I would have tried anything. I didn’t want to live anymore.’

In 2018, Niki was experiencing two full-body seizures per day, which would sometimes last up to eight hours.

She said: ‘I started having these weird body movements that I couldn’t control. I remember one day, I was sitting on my bed, and I had to use the restroom, and I couldn’t move my legs. They just wouldn’t move. All of a sudden, they just started shaking so badly… it was the weirdest sensation.

‘After that, I started getting really strange facial movements that I couldn’t stop, like my face would just completely distort. I didn’t know what was wrong.’

Niki’s seizures are a type of functional neurological disorder (FND) — when the nervous system and the way the brain sends and receives signals misfire. Her condition was caused by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) stemming from childhood and adult trauma.

She knew nothing about ketamine, a horse tranquilizer turned rave drug, but was introduced to it by Dr Evan Lewis, who was treating her daughter for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) with medical cannabis.

Dr Lewis is a neurologist at Numinus, a Canadian company offering psychedelic treatment for various conditions.

At Dr Lewis’ recommendation, Niki and her husband traveled two hours to Toronto to get her first dose of ketamine in October 2022.

Niki's ketamine therapy session began with taking a ketamine pill, followed by an intranasal dose of more ketamine. The therapy lasted around 90 minutes, during which she laid on a couch with her eyes covered and listened to relaxing music (stock photo)

Niki’s ketamine therapy session began with taking a ketamine pill, followed by an intranasal dose of more ketamine. The therapy lasted around 90 minutes, during which she laid on a couch with her eyes covered and listened to relaxing music (stock photo)

In New York ketamine clinics visited by DailyMail.com, patients undergoing ketamine treatments recline in a leather lounge chair that resembles a SpaceX device designed by Elon Musk, a feature meant to cocoon the user and foster introspection

In New York ketamine clinics visited by DailyMail.com, patients undergoing ketamine treatments recline in a leather lounge chair that resembles a SpaceX device designed by Elon Musk, a feature meant to cocoon the user and foster introspection

In Canada, ketamine is controlled under Schedule I of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, meaning it is illegal to sell, possess or produce ketamine unless it is for medical, scientific or industrial purposes.

In the US, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classified the drug as a Schedule III controlled substance. Possession of these substances without a prescription is illegal.

In the 1970s, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of ketamine via prescription as an anesthetic for patients, creating a loophole for healthcare providers to prescribe the drug off-label to treat other conditions, such as depression.

Off-label prescribing is when a doctor gives you a drug to treat a condition different from what it was approved to treat.

When preliminary research showed the drug could be an effective antidepressant, doctors began using it for depression and clinics in the US offering ketamine therapy began popping up.

Before discovering ketamine therapy, Niki would have intense seizures that took her up to 48 hours to recover from. She had gone to the emergency room multiple times, but doctors could find nothing wrong with her and blamed it on anxiety.

‘I’ve had that… I can’t tell you how many times. It was really hurtful, not that I was looking for something to be wrong with me, but it was just an answer that I had heard over and over again, but I thought, well then [why] can’t anyone help me?’

In a treatment room at one clinic, patients spend an hour outfitted with a sleeping mask while listening to theta brain waves, which are at the dominant frequency in healing, high creative states, and remembering emotional experiences. Patients reported feeling ‘stoned’, with many saying they’ve had out-of-body experiences

Niki knew nothing about psychedelics but was introduced by a doctor to ketamine therapy, a former horse tranquilizer turned rave drug

‘I thought I had Parkinson’s, because that’s what it looked like. I would shake like a poor Parkinson’s patient. I also thought maybe I had MS because then it got to the point where I couldn’t walk.’

At one point, she was taking 11 pills a day.

‘Three of them were benzodiazepines… I was on anti-seizure meds, a mood stabilizer, an antidepressant, muscle relaxants, and nothing was working. Honestly, looking back, I think I just got sicker.’

‘I was like a zombie,’ she said.

When a neurologist in an emergency room told Niki she had FND, she said: ‘There’s nothing I can do about it. There’s no treatment; there’s no help.’

However, after just one ketamine-assisted therapy session, she went nine days without a seizure.

Niki’s ketamine therapy session began with taking a ketamine pill, followed by an intranasal dose of more ketamine. The therapy lasted around 90 minutes, during which she laid on a couch with her eyes covered and listened to relaxing music.

‘The stress on my shoulders lifted a little bit. I wasn’t scared anymore,’ she said.

‘After that, I went right into a different state of consciousness. I was so comfortable, and I felt safe.’

She added: ‘It was weird because I had no control over my thoughts. I just went to this beautiful place where I’d been before [in meditation]. I was verbally telling Dr Lewis and Caitlin, the nurse, everything I was seeing and feeling.

‘It was actually very emotional but not painful. It was just it was beautiful. I felt free.’

Following her initial experience, Niki continued with treatment once a week for three weeks, then every other week. Ten months later, she is now down to using just one pill as a maintenance dose once every two months.

One month after starting treatment, she was able to go back to her job full-time.

Niki said: ‘My seizures went down to probably 18 a month. As of May, I had eight a month.’

‘I’m not seizure-free. But I’m functioning; I’m able to help take care of my kids and run my business from home… I don’t know if I would be here, to be honest, if it weren’t for [ketamine]. Dr Lewis gave me my life back.’

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