The Benefits of Ketamine Therapy for Depression

Many people are familiar with ketamine; it has been used in the medical field as an anesthetic for over 50 years. You may even have heard of ketamine as a recreational drug when abused. What most people don’t know is that ketamine has also been discovered as an effective treatment for depression. Research into ketamine as a depression treatment began in the early 2000s, and with astounding results, the medication is now an accessible alternative therapy for treatment-resistant depression.

Ketamine acts significantly different to other antidepressants. With standard antidepressant medication, the body responds to its presence, temporarily altering neurotransmitter supply or activity. This means the effects are lost as soon as the patient stops taking the drug. Ketamine has the power to create lasting change in the brain almost immediately after the first dose. When ketamine enters the bloodstream, glutamate production is triggered, which tells the brain to regrow neural connections. Instead of simply mimicking healthy neural activity, ketamine allows the brain to restore and strengthen lost neural circuitry. This unique mechanism of action is what is thought to be the driver behind ketamine’s impressive results as a depression treatment. It is also the first ever medication for depression that was discovered on the basis of scientific hypothesis, rather than an “accidental” discovery.

In clinical trials, up to 70% of patients with treatment-resistant depression experience significant improvement after receiving ketamine treatment. Beyond that, around 50% respond almost immediately after the first dose. Perhaps the most groundbreaking discovery is that ketamine can deliver results that last for months or even years after treatment is over. This is an extremely promising aspect for individuals who don’t want to rely on taking a medication every day. Additionally, there are few health risks involved with ketamine treatment; it is an extremely safe and well-tolerated therapy. There are multiple forms of ketamine administration, the two most common being intravenous injection and nasal spray.

Ketamine administered via IV is commonly known as ketamine infusions. A standard ketamine treatment course lasts 2-3 weeks, with 2-3 infusions per week, totaling 6 infusions. The treatment is always administered by a health professional at a mental health clinic. TMS & Brain Health is an alternative mental health clinic that provides personalized mental health treatment, including ketamine therapy. Patients can report feeling lightheadedness and mild hallucinations or floating sensations that subside quickly after the infusion. It is common to feel tired after the session, and patients are required to have a family member or friend drive them home after sessions. Depending on the individual response to ketamine, additional sessions may be scheduled after the treatment course is complete.

The nasal spray administration method is often referred to as esketamine or S-ketamine. This form became FDA-approved in 2019 for treatment-resistant depression. The treatment course, safety, and side effects are identical to ketamine infusions. Other forms of ketamine available at mental health clinics include rapid dissolve tablets and an intramuscular injection.

As research continues into the therapeutic effects of ketamine, evidence is showing it as a promising treatment option for a variety of other conditions, such as anxiety, PTSD, and chronic pain. As with any depression medication, ketamine should be taken in combination with a form of psychotherapy or another treatment. Mental health should be treated on an individualized, comprehensive level, with therapies treating the individual rather than the disorder.

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