What is Ketamine?
Since first approved as an anesthetic agent by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1970, Ketamine has been a commonly used medication in surgery. Over the past 20 years, other benefits of Ketamine have come to light, and its off-label usage in the treatment of a variety of mood disorders and chronic pain syndromes are becoming more common practice.
At least 7% of Americans suffer from depression. It is estimated that between 10-30% of people taking antidepressant medications do not experience adequate relief of their symptoms. These patients are said to suffer from treatment-resistant depression.
Extensive research has overwhelmingly demonstrated that intravenous (through an IV) ketamine infusions can rapidly improve symptoms of depression in upwards of 70% of patients with treatment-resistant depression. "
How it Works
Though incompletely understood, Ketamine is speculated to treat depression through a variety of mechanisms. Unlike traditional antidepressants, Ketamine blocks the N-methyl-D-Aspartate (NMDA) receptor, thereby increasing circulating levels of the neurotransmitter glutamate within the brain. Glutamate plays a critical role in how information and emotions flow in the brain. In addition, research has shown ketamine allows for “re-wiring” in the brain, or neuroplasticity. One can think of the human brain like a network of trees with many branches (neurons). These branches must be both numerous and intact in order to allow the transmission of information, emotions and thoughts throughout the brain. In a depressive state, branches have become weakened and brittle, making this transmission more difficult. Ketamine strengthens and multiplies these branches that have been weakened from chronic stress and depression. Ketamine works via different mechanisms on the brain than typical antidepressants, which explains why this treatment can be effective even in individuals that have experienced little relief with antidepressants. Typical antidepressants can take weeks before one may notice any improvement, while ketamine can produce results within hours.
How it's Given
If you suffer from one or more chronic mood disorders or pain syndromes that are resistant to typical medications, ketamine infusions may help to improve or even alleviate your symptoms. Ketamine is administered intravenously (through an IV) over the course of 40 minutes to several hours (depending on the symptoms that are being targeted) while you are continuously monitored by an anesthesia provider. Though tailored to each individual patient, a typical treatment regimen consists of 6 infusions scheduled every other day over the course of two weeks. Ketamine should never be considered as a cure, therefore following the initial series, "booster" infusions will be necessary once every several weeks when symptoms return. Following an infusion, some patients may feel relief from their depression symptoms quickly (within hours), while others require multiple infusions to notice improvement. Ketamine is not for everyone and for a small group of individuals they find that ketamine doesn’t work for them.