by Dr. Jan Jay and Dr. Joe Jaros
Ketamine Infusion Therapy, performed by a qualified medical professional, can be an incredible tool in dealing with major depressive disorder, treatment-resistant depression and chronic pain. It has been shown to reduce symptoms (and even eliminate) in some patients with General Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder, PTSD, OCD and many pain conditions.
According to WebMD, “…Eight percent of American adults have depression, an often debilitating and sometimes fatal disease. People with major depression are 20 times more likely to attempt suicide. Talk therapy and antidepressant medications often help, but such treatments leave one in three people with depression searching for more help.
That’s where ketamine comes in. Among those with treatment-resistant depression, an estimated 50% respond to ketamine, says psychiatrist and researcher Carlos Zarate Jr., MD, chief of the Experimental Therapeutics and Pathophysiology Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health.
And people who do respond to ketamine respond quickly. In a review of 10 studies that Sanacora, Zarate, and others wrote in 2017, ketamine lessened thoughts of suicide within a day, though the effect was temporary. By contrast, commonly prescribed antidepressants generally take several weeks to begin to relieve symptoms — when they do work.”
Further, WebMD says, “New research shows that ketamine can be effective for treating pain and could be an alternative to opioids. Ketamine has captured headlines recently as a possible treatment for severe depression and posttraumatic stress syndrome. Ketamine is also being used more in inpatient and outpatient settings to manage pain.”
Ketamine has recently gained popularity as a new and novel approach in the treatment of depression and chronic pain. Depression affects nearly 30 million people in the United States and is the leading cause of disability between the ages of 15 and 44, costing nearly $210 billion per year in lost productivity and missed days of work. Typical treatment consists of anti-depressant medications, which have a 50% effective rate and can take 4-6 weeks to work. Ketamine has been shown to relieve depressant symptoms within 24 hours and an effective rate of 70% in treatment resistant depression.
First synthesized in the 1960s, ketamine was found to have potent dissociative and anesthetic properties. It was widely used during the Viet Nam war as an effective anesthetic as it did not cause cardiovascular or respiratory depression like other anesthetics. Studies with ketamine performed at Yale University in the 1990s demonstrated effective relief of depressive symptoms. It works by blocking the NMDA (glutamate) receptor in the brain, rather than shifting the balance of hormones and neurotransmitters which current anti-depressants do. It changes the way the brain cells communicate, which impacts other receptors in the brain including opiate receptors…which affect depression and pain responses.
Initial treatment consists of six intravenous infusions over 2-3 weeks and then one infusion as needed afterwards. Oftentimes, a patient may go several months before requiring another treatment. Short term side effects may include dissociative state, mild sedation and possible nausea/dizziness which is easily treated. There have been no long-term side effects reported.
If anyone is struggling with depression, or has had little success with traditional treatments, or would like to explore ketamine infusions as a potential treatment for chronic pain, the first step would be to do an initial assessment to determine if the therapy is right for you. The assessment would include going over your medical and mental health history and any medications that you may be taking. It is also important to relay any history of current or past substance abuse; any addiction struggles will not necessarily disqualify you. In fact, ketamine treatment may provide an added benefit in dealing with addiction issues.