Ketamine May be Set to Radically Change Mental Healthcare
Living with mental health concerns can be a daily struggle. The symptoms may feel overwhelming, especially for those who have failed to respond to traditional treatments. However, research into new uses for the drug ketamine has shown some promising early results for mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, and even pain management.
Ketamine has been used in the medical field since the 1970s, initially as a veterinary anesthetic and later for human use. Favored as an anesthetic by pediatricians, elder care specialists, and surgeons working with patients with respiratory problems, ketamine has a low risk of dependency and does not suppress breathing in surgical patients.
Beginning with the first clinical trial on February 15, 2000, mental health and psychiatric professionals quickly began adopting ketamine as a treatment for mental health conditions.(1) Research suggests patients with depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, and other conditions have shown significant benefits from using ketamine in a clinical setting.
How Does Ketamine Treat Mental Health Conditions?
Medical professionals believe that an imbalance of glutamate may contribute to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. While the exact mechanisms are not fully understood, glutamate appears to have a role in regulating mood. By acting as an antagonist at the NMDA receptor, ketamine interferes with glutamate’s ability to bind to one of its receptors. Due to this interaction, ketamine may contribute to changes in mood, including producing antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects.(2)
How Ketamine for Depression Works
One of the most common administration methods is intravenous (IV) infusion of low-dose ketamine. IV ketamine infusions are usually given over only 40 minutes. In outpatient settings, clinicians might administer IV ketamine with different devices that ensure a 40-minute infusion time (e.g., syringe pump, digital IV pump, or elastomeric ball).(3)
Some research suggests that this subanesthetic (meaning too low to cause one to be rendered unconscious) intravenous dose of ketamine may trigger positive changes in a patient’s mood and mental health within as little as a day. Ketamine is currently being studied as a potential tool to manage the symptoms of several forms of depression, including treatment-resistant depression () and major depressive disorders. Several open-label studies (a study where both the providers and patients know what medication is being used) have shown that single-dose IV ketamine can lead to rapid symptom relief for patients with TR depression.(4)
How Ketamine Can Help With Anxiety
A recent review article looked at two randomized control trials in social anxiety disorder (SAD), three in PTSD, and one in OCD to determine the safety of ketamine in different disorders on the anxiety spectrum. The analysis showed improvement in anxiety scores for those with SAD who were treated with ketamine, as compared to the control groups. Some participants had carry-over effects (improvements that persist after the medication is administered) lasting up to 28 days after their ketamine infusion.(6)
How Ketamine Helps With PTSD
Is Ketamine Therapy for Mental Health Right for Me?Ketamine is an innovative potential treatment for individuals experiencing various mental health conditions. If you struggle with depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, or pain, ketamine could be a good option for you. Ketamine may be particularly effective for people with treatment-resistant and chronic mental health conditions.
Like any psychiatric therapy, ketamine treatments and ketamine assisted-psychotherapy (KAP) require a diagnosis and often a provider referral. You should always consult with a licensed medical professional before beginning any ketamine treatments. If you’re interested in ketamine therapy, talk to your doctor and find a ketamine treatment clinic near you.