Using Ketamine for Depression: What You Need to Know
February 10, 2021
Depression is a leading cause of disability that affects millions across the world. According to the World Health Organization, over 264 million people of all ages suffer from the mental disorder globally. Of that number, about 800,000 die from suicide each year.
There’s no question as to how much of an impact depression has on the world around us. This mental health condition can be severely debilitating in everyday life and leave many feeling hopeless.
Fortunately, there are various forms of treatment available for those affected by depression.
In addition to conventional antidepressants, research conducted in recent years has led to innovative breakthroughs in science — one of them being ketamine.
Ketamine has been examined for the benefits it possesses that standard antidepressants may lack. It has gained prominence as a unique form of modern medicine, leading to more people considering using ketamine for depression as a result.
History of Treating Depression with Ketamine
In 1990, researchers Ramon Trullas and Phil Skolnick studied the potential relation between depression and glutamatergic system dysfunction. They believed N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonists may have antidepressant properties. Their preclinical data supported this theory, as did their test.
However, it wasn’t until a decade later when Robert Berman and others discovered ketamine’s antidepressant effects.
Through their research, they found “subjects with depression evidenced significant improvement in depressive symptoms within 72 hours after ketamine.” Additionally, the subjects noticed ketamine’s antidepressant effects within just four hours of receiving the infusion. These effects persisted for 1-2 weeks after receiving treatment.
The authors concluded that “these results suggest a potential role for NMDA receptor-modulating drugs in the treatment of depression.”
The study’s findings were replicated by Carlos A Zarate Jr and colleagues in 2006, further establishing and drawing attention to the benefits of using ketamine for depression.
Since then, groundbreaking research from Yale has illustrated the positive possibilities that can be achieved by considering a novel approach like ketamine for depression.
With countless studies discovering its advantages over the last two decades, there has been an inevitable consideration in using ketamine for depression treatment. This has led to an increase in ketamine clinics offering to administer IV ketamine infusion therapy.
Using Ketamine for Depression Versus Other Forms of Treatment
According to an article published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), conventional pharmacotherapy takes roughly 4-12 weeks to improve severe depressive disorder symptoms. If traditional antidepressants are used with no success in treating symptoms, ketamine may be a promising option for those seeking a therapy with fast, safe and long-lasting results.
A study conducted by Suprio Mandal, Vinod Kumar Sinha and Nishant Goyal in 2019 examined ketamine’s effects on 25 patients with severe depression. They were administered six doses over the course of two weeks and assessed a month from their last dose.
Within the first hour of the first dose, the subjects showed a great improvement in depression and anxiety symptoms. Researchers saw “a significant improvement in depression, anxiety and the severity of illness after 2 weeks and 1 month of the last dose of ketamine.”
These kinds of results are huge for those with treatment-resistant depression, which affects roughly one-third of patients. Ketamine’s effectiveness has also been found to help those suffering from suicidal ideation and self-harm.
Because of its fast-acting properties, several patients have referred to ketamine as a “miracle.”
Benefits of using ketamine for depression versus traditional antidepressants:
- Elated mood soon after receiving infusion
- Rapid effectiveness
- Long-lasting results
- Minimal, brief and safer side effects
Ketamine can be just the solution for those who have struggled to find the right treatment for depression.
What To Consider Before Using Ketamine Therapy for Depression
If you’re considering using ketamine for depression treatment, it’s important to get an idea whether you may be a good candidate. And if so, what to expect when you get ketamine infusion therapy.
Ketamine therapy is a safe option that has been used by qualified physicians for decades. Doctors and nurses should ensure patients are in a safe and nurturing environment and monitor them at all times as they receive treatment.
It’s important to note that ketamine therapy is not usually recommended as a first-line treatment. It is generally for patients who have tried conventional antidepressants, which have failed in treating their depression.
Individuals with medical conditions, such as heart disease, hypertension, kidney problems, liver failure, brain swelling or glaucoma should not receive ketamine therapy.
Potential side effects with ketamine infusion therapy include headaches, dizziness, sleepiness and feeling strange. Other side effects may include feeling strange, visual distortions and numbness.
Side effects are temporary and go away within two hours. However, patients are advised to not drive for 24 hours after receiving treatment.
Ketamine has broken into the mainstream as a promising treatment for severe depression. So much so that medical experts and researchers have recognized it as “the most significant breakthrough for treating depression in half a century.”
With millions suffering from depression across the globe, ketamine’s integration in modern medicine could be a complete game changer as a successful form of treatment.
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