Dr. Radowitz said he saw “no difference” between esketamine and ketamine, contrary to FDA assessments. Even so, he doesn’t think two hours are “necessary”. He acknowledges that Nushama’s practices differ from FDA protocols for administering esketamine, but said he is not concerned about potential risks or legal liability. “It doesn’t concern me,” he said. “I have no problem using this drug.”
For some patients, the promise of ketamine’s benefits overshadows its risks, legal status, and cost. Maria Kennedy, 30, who works in public relations, made the first of her six “trips” to Nushama in October 2021. She had previously tried talk therapy and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors for the anxiety and depression, she said, but during the pandemic she felt herself spiraling, isolated and anxious in a studio apartment. Her therapist, who knew Dr. Radowitz, referred her to Nushama.
Ms Kennedy said that during a few treatments she felt like she was floating in space, nestled under the comfortable eye mask and hovering beyond her body. In others, ketamine triggered precise, specific visions – once she saw her mother wrapping presents before a birthday party.
By the time the IV was removed, Ms Kennedy said she would mostly feel back to normal. She would stay in Nushama, taking her time to unstick herself from the “comfortable” chair. “The only thing I can compare it to is waking up from a really awesome sleep,” she said. Then she would take her dog to a cafe and read with a coffee or a beer.
Across the country, ketamine clinics have garnered increased interest. Since SoundMind opened in August 2021, over 100 people have signed up on average per month. The Boise Ketamine Clinic in Idaho is booked through the end of April for ketamine-assisted psychotherapy treatments. In San Diego, a clinic called South Coast TMS and Ketamine had a waiting list of 40 people for months, until the center raised its prices to $1,500 per session, a representative said.
Dustin Robinson, founder of venture capital fund Iter Investments, which focuses on the psychedelic space, estimated that a typical ketamine clinic with, say, five rooms brings in between $75,000 and $100,000 a month, and potentially the double if it is complete. Profit margins, he added, can exceed 30%, which industry reports show is well above most healthcare services. “There are not many staff and the drugs are very cheap – almost negligible – staff are the main cost,” he said.
Mr. Robinson knows Mr. Godfrey, but is not an investor in Nushama, which charges $4,500 for seven sessions; insurance rarely covers ketamine for mental health, but may if there is also a pain diagnosis. Nushama does not offer individual sessions. “It’s hard to get in shape by hitting the gym once,” Mr. Meloff said.