You may seek treatment options if you’ve been suffering from depression. You might have heard ketamine therapy isn’t just a treatment for depression and anxiety, PTSD, OCD, and other mental health issues. So, what are the benefits of ketamine therapy? Is it right for you? And, how can you ensure you’re getting the best treatment possible if it is?
In this article, we’ll answer those questions and more. You can decide if ketamine therapy and the effects of ketamine can help you treat your depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance use, or other mental health conditions.
What is ketamine, and how does it work?
Ketamine is an FDA-approved drug acting as dissociative anesthesia. Emergency rooms use it to stop severe pain. Ketamine blocks nerve cells from transmitting messages to the brain and spinal cord, causing a person to lose consciousness and become numb.
When used for depression or anxiety, doctors give patients smaller doses of ketamine by vein at appointments over several days or weeks—a process known as intravenous ketamine therapy (IVKT) or ketamine infusions. The treatments may occur in an outpatient clinic or hospital setting, with many visits over six months.
Ketamine targets multiple receptors in the nervous system that manage mood, fear responses, learning and memory processes, pain perception, and other functions related to mental health conditions like depression or anxiety disorders.
Who can benefit from ketamine therapy?
Ketamine therapy treats major depressive disorder (MDD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suicidal ideation. Studies show low doses of ketamine reduce depression symptoms within hours of administration, unlike traditional antidepressant medications, which typically take weeks or months to work.
Ketamine is also an effective treatment for PTSD, especially for military veterans who have experienced combat-related trauma.
What are the risks of ketamine therapy?
Ketamine is a powerful medication, so there are risks even in the context of a therapy program. Getting cleared for treatment means thorough medical evaluation:
• A psychological evaluation
• A physical exam
• Blood work
Ketamine injections for depression work through a novel mechanism of action.
Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic. It is used to treat depression through a novel mechanism of action. The effects can be seen within hours, but the benefits only last a few weeks. While ketamine has treated depression off-label since the 1970s, scientists have only recently begun understanding how it functions.
Ketamine works in the brain as a two-part molecule:
- an amino acid, glutamic acid
- a chemical, phencyclidine (PCP)
When these two break down and bond they form what we call ketamine or PCP, depending on how much glutamic acid exists compared to phencyclidine.
This unique molecular makeup allows ketamine to work quickly by crossing into the bloodstream from your stomach lining after being ingested orally—another avenue of antidepressant treatment.
Clinical studies find ketamine effective for treatment-resistant depression.
Ketamine is effective for treatment-resistant depression. This means that ketamine can help those who have not responded to other antidepressants or medications that treat the condition.
Treatment with ketamine works very quickly, sometimes within hours, and continues working even when other drugs fail to work or take weeks to affect symptoms.
Ketamine is used as anesthetic and recreational drug.
Ketamine developed as an anesthetic, but it’s also been abused. Ketamine has been a recreational drug because it has a dissociative effect that can lead to hallucinations and euphoria.
Some think of ketamine as a “date rape drug” since it can be slipped into drinks without being noticed by victims. Because of its dissociative effects and potential for abuse, officials categorize ketamine as a Schedule III substance under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This means that using ketamine may be illegal, depending on your state’s laws, without a prescription.
Ketamine works quickly to relieve depression when other antidepressants have failed.
Ketamine also works for a wide range of mood and anxiety disorders in patients with chronic pain conditions, including major depressive disorder (MDD), bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and social phobia (social anxiety disorder).
It’s important to note that there are currently no specific FDA-approved indications for ketamine use; however, studies indicate that it may help treat these disorders as well as others such as substance abuse or dependence (SUD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic attacks, and eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa or binge-eating.
Some researchers believe this effect may be due to neuroplasticity—the ability of brain cells (neurons) to change their structure in response to stimuli from outside or inside the body. Some people believe the process of neuroplasticity affects depression; it’s possible that ketamine increases neuroplasticity and helps improve mood symptoms such as sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, and lack of interest in life.
The History of Ketamine for Depression
Ketamine, first synthesized in 1962, didn’t become widely available until the 1970s. Shortly after its discovery, doctors used ketamine as an anesthetic due to its rapid onset, short duration of action, and lack of respiratory suppression. It also has a reputation for decreasing anxiety levels in patients and helping with pain management during procedures like childbirth and surgery.
During the 1970s, ketamine spread beyond medical settings as it became associated with psychedelic experiences that were often referred to as “trips” or “k-holes” (a street reference).
The drug gained popularity among party-goers and ravers who sought out these experiences because they gave them hallucinations similar to those caused by LSD without side effects associated with “acid” like over-stimulation and paranoia.
How Ketamine Treatment for Depression Works
- To begin, your ketamine treatment for depression, a doctor injects a muscle or vein in the arm or hand.
- The doctor titrates until reaching the therapeutic level of sedation for your individual needs, matching concerns about feeling tired after sessions.
- Infusions last up to an hour in an outpatient clinic. But, some patients may require hospitalization if their condition or history of substance abuse and psychiatric disorders interfere with their ability to process information while under anesthesia.
Ketamine is a fast, effective antidepressant.
Based on clinical studies, ketamine is effective for treatment-resistant depression. In one study, researchers found that ketamine was effective in reducing symptoms of depression in patients who had not responded to other antidepressants.
Another analysis showed that ketamine effectively reduced depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation in patients with treatment-resistant depression who hadn’t responded to electroconvulsive therapy.
Ketamine is an NMDA-receptor antagonist. That means it blocks the NMDA receptor responsible for producing glutamate (a neurotransmitter). Ketamine prevents glutamate from binding to the receptor and transmission of depression symptom-related signals.
Ketamine can be used as an antidepressant because it halts activity in areas of your brain that control depression—the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and nucleus accumbens. Ketamine reduces symptoms of depression by increasing dopamine levels and reducing stress hormones like cortisol.
FAQ with Dr. Ignatov, Clinical Director of The Recovery Team
Dr. Ignatov’s career spans 30 years of professional development in medicine. Specializing in Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine has lent his name as a reputable doctor of the accord. Known for empowering and championing clients, his systematic approach has made him a reputed doctor of promise. His analysis of process addictions and professional medication management have become tools in our solid medical practice.
Dr. Ignatov received his MD degree from the Omsk State Medical Academy, one of the longest-standing medical schools in Russia. He completed his psychiatry residency at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
He has also completed a Child & Adolescent Psychiatry residency at the University of Miami School of Medicine and has a Forensic Examiner’s credential from the University of Florida. He is board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN, General Psychiatry) and the American Board of Preventive Medicine (ABPM, Addiction Medicine).
Is Ketamine treatment effective for depression?
“After patients completed trials, we found out that about 50% of patients in combination with an antidepressant showed significant improvement from ketamine treatment for depression.”
What forms of Ketamine can I be administered in therapy?
“Often used and approved by the FDA is the nasal spray. Ideally, a patient will receive a ‘priming’ dose from the spray that allows for an initial treatment to begin. We envision this treatment happening in partial hospitalization programs.”
Call The Recovery Team at (800) 817-1247 today for information about the health benefits of ketamine therapy. We can help you receive ketamine treatments for depression in a sober, safe environment. Let us help you find relief from depression and symptoms of pain during your recovery journey.