Ketamine has commonly been used as an anesthetic in the medical industry. It offers both a sedative effect and pain relief. What’s more, it even amplifies the effects of certain painkillers.
Ketamine has been used medically since its discovery in the 1960s and was even used on the battlefields of Vietnam.
Now we are beginning to see its potential as an antidepressant, and have been since the 1990s. Today, the FDA has approved a version of ketamine for the treatment of clinical depression.
Ketamine infusions have been used to treat clinical depression in those who seem unresponsive to conventional forms of treatment with a lot of success. It has been used in collaboration with conventional treatment as well.
How Are Ketamine Infusions Administered?
Ketamine treatment at pain clinics and mental health centers is typically administered via IV or a nasal mist.
The positive effects of ketamine infusion has been shown to relieve symptoms of depression in a matter of hours. Compare this to conventional forms of treatment like antidepressants in the form of SSRIs or SNRIs, which can take weeks or even months for patients to realize their full effects.
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that ketamine treatment is not a one-time thing – patients typically have recurring ketamine infusion dates, usually a couple times every week or month.
The right dosage of ketamine varies depending on the individual, just as with antidepressants. One of the main goals of ketamine infusion therapy is to find the right dose for the individual and to maintain treatment such that depression is managed with little to know side effects.
Why Does Ketamine Help With Depression?
It isn’t 100% clear why ketamine is helpful for depression. The same goes for SSRIs and SNRIs. Clinicians usually try a number of different treatment options, or combinations of treatment options, before finding what’s right for the patient.
That said, there are many factors that are likely the cause of its effectiveness.
Ketamine seems to trigger a specific response in the brain, causing it to repair brain cells related to mood.
One study from Yale indicates that ketamine can trigger glutamate production, prompting the brain to create new neural connections.
To put it simply: ketamine can boost neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to change and adapt.
Ketamine treatment – along with therapy, lifestyle changes, and possibly antidepressants as well – can provide long-term help with depression that is resistant to other forms of treatment.
Ketamine Differs From Antidepressants In Its Effects On The Brain
While a lack of serotonin in the brain is a commonly stated cause of depression – and something that SSRIs and SNRIs help with – there are obviously many other factors that aren’t fully accounted for.
Ketamine, rather, appears to help the brain form new connections throughout entire neural networks. This, possibly in combination with antidepressants, may be the key to success for many individuals.
There is still a lot to learn about ketamine and its usefulness in treating clinical depression. That said, it’s yielded a lot of success and there is much hope for those who are resistant to conventional forms of depression treatment.