Ketamine Therapy

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What is Ketamine?

Ketamine was originally developed as anesthesia and a pain killer. Since the 1970s, ketamine has been advertised in the United States as an injectable, short-acting anesthetic for use in humans and animals. It was used in treating wounded soldiers on the battlefields in the Vietnam War. In 2000, there was the first study published to show encouraging results for ketamine infusion therapy.

While Ketamine has been known to produce a “dissociative experience,” under the strict medical eye, researchers are able to administer it in a controlled clinical setting to aid with treatment-resistant depression and other conditions. In 2019, it was FDA approved for treating depression in the form of a nasal spray called Esketamine (Spravato). Due to this treatment being so influential in helping patients who have been unsuccessful with past anti-depressants, the FDA expedited the approval process to make it more readily accessible.

Ketamine comes in different forms. The only FDA-approved as medication for depression is the nasal spray which is given to adults who haven’t been helped by antidepressant pills, are suicidal, or have a major depressive disorder.

How Does Ketamine Work?

Unlike most antidepressants, which only affect the patient when it is in their system, Ketamine can generate reactions in the cortex of the brain that allows connections to regrow. According to John Krystal MD, chief psychiatrist at Yale Medicine, “It’s the reaction to ketamine, not the presence of ketamine in the body that constitutes its effects.”

There are neurons in the brain involved in mood that use a neurotransmitter called glutamate to connect with each other. The neurons need glutamate receptors to communicate. In some people with depression, the glutamate receptors are often underactive or weakened.

After people received Ketamine, those neuron connections were replenished with new glutamate receptors that allowed the neurons to respond again. That regrowth can help the brain’s ability to change which can aid in depression.

What is Ketamine Infusion Therapy?

Ketamine infusion therapy is a treatment that helps mental health conditions, particularly treatment-resistant depression. To be diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression, people must have tried and failed at least two antidepressant treatments.

According to one study, 88% of participants given ketamine infusion in the emergency room noted that their suicidal ideation went away in 90 minutes.

Ketamine infusions have been shown to be the treatment the body absorbs the best. This therapy has been praised for its high rate of response. In another study, 85% of participants experienced a remission in their depressive symptoms.

Most patients receiving Ketamine infusions state the feeling as meditative and relaxing. The effects of the ketamine normally wear off in 1-2 hours but places that offer the infusions will walk through the process more thoroughly.

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders affecting 1 in 15 adults in any given year. The effects of depression often cause a lack of motivation and procrastination. Where thoughts of “I tried one thing and it didn’t work” ring in the minds of many who suffer from depression, the good news is that there isn’t one fix. If antidepressants don’t seem to work, there are other options. Besides Ketamine, TMS or transcranial magnetic stimulation is another option that responds well to patients who have been treatment-resistant to depression.

Here at Family Psychiatry and Activate TMS, we are motivated to give our patients options. If you or someone you love need some extra help, please reach out. We are always here to help.


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