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Cacao benefits | Cacao health | Cacao practitioner | Ceremonial cacao | Healing | Plant medicine | Therapy

Unlocking Transformation: The Synergy of Cacao and Ketamine in Mental Health Treatment

New York-based Jeffery Tiger is a Psychedelic Guide & Integration Coach currently working for a platform that provides a program of guided ketamine therapy for depression and anxiety. 

Jeffery is also a Keith’s Cacao Practitioner. He was introduced to Cacao by his now partner Masha Zolotarsky, at a psychedelic plant medicine ceremony they both participated in. “I bought a brick from her at the ceremony, went home, started drinking Cacao, and I have never stopped.” 

Jeffery and I met over a zoom call, and I was eager to know about his Cacao journey and how he has been bringing Cacao into the ketamine-assisted treatments he oversees. But first, I had to find out what exactly ketamine is!

What Is Ketamine?

"Ketamine is a medication that was previously used as an anesthetic, mostly in veterinary medicine. It has been fairly popular recreationally on the streets as a party drug. But it is the only one approved to be legally used in the USA state-wide because it is a medication prescribed by a doctor or clinician.  

So it has psychedelic properties at a specific dosage. Studies show the benefits are double compared to traditional psychiatry medicines like anti-depressants and mood stabilizers. We are seeing a success rate of 80%-85% with our clients who are mainly being treated for treatment-resistant depression or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety disorders, or addictions. They have tried everything else. They have tried the whole gamut of medications, and they have been in therapy for years and years and years. And we find that sometimes, even after just a couple of sessions, they get that AHA moment, changing a frequency, changing the channel, and looking at life differently. 

What we're finding with the ketamine is that it's reestablishing lost. And these connections where we're it's giving us many different options as opposed to that old go-to narrative that we used to attach to everything we're able to handle life, you know, like the wise life experience person that we are and not that younger version of ourselves."

How Does Ketamine Work?

"It's my understanding that ketamine works in two different ways. It's providing that neuroplasticity effect that many psychedelic medications have, where we're reestablishing lost connections, sometimes connections that have been lost for decades due to trauma or just conditioning or ways of thinking. When we have trauma or have experienced something traumatic in our lives, we get stuck in that rut, that one way of thinking.

And we attach a story, we attach a narrative to it. It may start with a somatic sensation. You feel something in your gut or tightness in your chest. It’s like something is stuck in the body. And then we attach a story to it, which may have been written by a much younger version of ourselves. 

I know that in my case, that narrative was written by the five-year-old version of me, which was when I had a traumatic experience. So what happens when we are stuck in that old story is that something happens in the present, maybe a confrontation with a family member or a bad day at work, or someone cuts us off on the highway, and then it triggers that same old somatic response.

And then it’s like we are under attack. An alarm goes off, and we immediately deploy the army to defend ourselves. And we're looking for a reason, a justification for why we feel this way.

What we are finding with ketamine is that, by reestablishing lost connections in the brain, it gives us many different options instead of falling straight into that old go-to narrative that we have attached to everything. We are able to handle life like the wise, experienced person that we are and not that younger version of ourselves. 

In my experience, ketamine works a little more subtly than many of the plant medicines used in ceremonies. Most of the benefits, I believe, are happening behind the scenes in the brain. You know, you wake up three or four days later, once the dust settles, and you're just feeling a little bit lighter. You're responding and reacting to things in your life a little bit differently. You're not ruminating on particular thoughts all day anymore.

And that creates a space for you to introduce new things into your life. You find yourself going for more walks out in nature. You find yourself being more productive at work. And you find yourself wanting to be more social."

What Does Ketamine Therapy Involve?

"The requirements to be eligible for ketamine therapy mainly involve getting off a lot of your medications because of the interactions. So if you're not somewhat stable in where you're at, there's a whole process in preparing you for the program.

The majority of clinicians involved in ketamine therapy are psychiatric nurses who are licensed to prescribe medication. Some are licensed psychologists or licensed therapists. But ketamine can be prescribed by any doctor. However, as it turns out, most people in the field have chosen to go down the psychedelic route and have educated themselves in ketamine-assisted therapy. 

I am not a clinician. I am a guide, but I'm also a certified addictions counselor and health and wellness coach. My work is to guide the patients through their journey, providing preparation, coaching, and integration. In between our sessions, they do check-ins with the clinicians. There's a learning curve when working with psychedelic medicines. So I do a lot of coaching around that.

Because of their symptoms and conditions, it is challenging for these people who seek therapy to let go and surrender. They have anxiety, they have trauma issues, and control issues. So there's much need for coaching, and then there is the learning to work with this specific medicine."

How Did Cacao Come into Your Life and Practice?

“Cacao came into my life when I met Masha. We were at another plant medicine ceremony about a year ago and hit it off immediately. We spent the three days there just talking about everything from astrology to human design to Cacao. I bought a brick of Keith’s Cacao from her. I went home, I started drinking it, and I never stopped.

I felt immediately that it was the ultimate integration tool for post-ceremony, post-ketamine therapy. It just fitted right into my life. I would have my morning ritual, sit down for my meditation, and feel the warmth and fuzzies come on!

Having said that, I am cautious when referring my ketamine clients to Cacao. I need to feel they are ready. I have clients who need multiple ketamine programs before they are really ready to get to that place. But the ones who have had some plant medicine ceremonies under their belt or those who have been on this spiritual healing journey for quite some time now and have really grasped the concept of integration - I have been sharing Cacao with them.”

Pairing Ketamine with Cacao

"Through the work with my clients, I came to "discover" that there is a missing link in ketamine-assisted therapy, and that is that there is no Spirit attached to it. There is no ceremony around it. A lot of my clients were treating our ketamine sessions like they were doctor's appointments, making no space and time for preparation. 

They're not setting intentions. They come home from work, feed their kids, and lay down on their beds, popping these tablets in their mouths, thinking miracles will happen. And then, they just go back to work the next day and are not making any changes in their lives.

Yet, what I've been discovering is that a big part of integration has to do with being intentional and taking that moment every single day to just sit in ritual. There's no better way to start your day than to be intentional.

Most people are not living an intentional life. They don’t slow down enough to implement what they've been shown during their ketamine sessions. And so, by bringing the Spirit behind the plant medicine of Cacao to a medicine that has no spirit, it is like you have someone to interact with during the day, post-session. Someone that can guide you and who has your back. The Spirit of Mama Cacao facilitates the taking, and the creating, of these quiet moments throughout the day to allow the medicine to speak to you, to let those insights come, whether from Mama Cacao or the ketamine. And you can have Cacao daily, if you want, without any negative side effects. So there's no better way to integrate.

And as you begin to set your intentions every day, living more intentionally every day by creating that Cacao-infused morning ritual with care, not only is that helping you with the integration from the last session, but it's also the preparation for the next one.

Moreover, we know that the neuroplasticity effect that ketamine has on your brain lasts up to three, four, or five days. How kind and gentle and how well you care for yourself impacts how these effects are prolonged and how much you get out of it. So when we use Cacao as part of the integration and bring in intentionality, we tend to make wiser choices and become more embodied. Cacao helps us not to live constantly in our heads where those narratives and stories reside that are causing us to make poor choices. And we're able to relate with people better because we're coming from a more heart-centered place. 

It brings a gentle, loving, compassionate attitude to life, putting us in a frame of mind. A way of being that allows the ketamine medicine to work. The insights and messages to keep coming in the days after the session instead of jumping right back into our old routine of unhealthy living.”

The Future of Cacao in Therapy

As our captivating talk is nearing its end, I ask Jeffery if he can predict Cacao's future in psychotherapy and mental health treatment.

"I don't know if I can make a prediction. All I know is that the world needs it. And it is coming! My partner Masha and I are constantly invited by ketamine clinics in New York to share Cacao at networking events. Many of these clinics are coming back, scheduling ceremonies to share Cacao with their clients and teach them how to use it as an integration tool.

I don't know how many ketamine clinics will hop on board. But my intention is to start my own practice, in which I provide coaching and integration with Cacao. And Masha and I are looking into holding ceremonies designed explicitly for people who are integrating, who are coming out of ketamine therapy and other plant-medicine healing journeys – like Cacao-assisted integration groups.

So yes, though I cannot make a prediction, I do see that psychedelic plant medicine therapies are legalized in many places and becoming more and more mainstream. I keep going back to that old myth that says that Cacao comes out of the jungle when the world needs it to put everything back into balance. This is what I see happening. The world needs Cacao now more than ever, and more and more opportunities are being presented for us to share it."

Discover why Ceremonial Cacao is considered a psychoactive plant medicine. Dive into our resources to see how Keith's Cacao is utilized by therapists, shamans and other healers to help people overcome depression, PTSD and addiction on our Cacao Plant MedicinePage

Read more about combining other substances with Cacao on our blog: Cacao Synergies: Combining Cacao with Other Substances.

For more on Cacao Use for Spiritual Purposes, go here.

For Cacao's Medicinal Benefits, follow this link.

You will also find valuable information on our blogs: Benefits and Uses of Keith's Cacao: Consciousness and Spirituality, and Benefits and Uses of Keith's Cacao: Medical and Health

To keep up with Jeffery Tiger's and Masha Zolotarsky's work with Cacao, you can follow them on their social media accounts here and here.

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