What Is Ketamine Therapy? Here’s What The Research Says
Ketamine therapy is an increasingly popular treatment for a wide array of mental health issues. Despite the stigma around the drug, there is some exciting new research and results for this therapy. It has been shown to help with multiple mood disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, PTSD and more. Ketamine therapy is growing — there are over 1800 ketamine therapy clinics in the US alone. As more patients become aware of this option, the stigma falls. But what is ketamine therapy and is it right for you?
Its perception as a party drug, has made it difficult to break into mainstream therapeutics. There is still a lot of stigma around the drug. In fact, it is a potentially life-saving drug for various patients with mental disorders. And it is currently being tackled by individual researchers and practitioners across the U.S.
Ketamine’s was first introduced into American culture in the 1960’s as an anesthetic for soldiers during the Vietnam War. The FDA approved its use as an anesthesia immediately, and even labeled it as an “Essential Drug” at that time.
Around this time, recreational usage of the drug became popularized within the party scene. Ketamine is a being cousin of PCP (phenylcyclohexyl piperidine). And is classified as both a psychoactive and a dissociative drug. Entering into a “k-hole” refers to arriving at the peak effects of the drug. This state is when one experiences disassociation from their body and a warping of the senses.
What Is Ketamine Used For Now?
Medical ketamine therapy today stems from the need to address the rising numbers of those who suffer from depression worldwide. Globally, over 264 million people suffer from depression. Within the U.S., suicide rates have risen over 30% between 1996- 2016 alone. These are numbers reaching crisis levels. The World Health Organization (WHO) website currently only lists mainstream antidepressants and therapies to combat this problem. Ketamine treatment is not yet included on the list. We hope that changes soon. But we know it will only change when the research shows its efficacy.
Most commonly used antidepressants are SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors). These can take several weeks to build up in the system before positive effects can be experienced. This wait time contrasts drastically to ketamine treatments. it can take effect instantly during treatment. As well as provide lasting effects afterward.
Currently, there are two major types of ketamine treatment for severely depressed patients. It is a great option for those who have exhausted all other options, having proven inefficacy with those treatments. The process to become eligible for either type of ketamine treatment is dependent on two factors. First, a failure to illicit results with all other depression treatments. And second, a history free from substance abuse, cardiovascular diseases and psychosis.
What Type Of Ketamine Treatments Are Available?
The first type of treatment is an IV treatment using racemic ketamine, which has yet to be FDA approved. It usually takes about 90 minutes to complete the IV transfer. Being a fairly new treatment, frequency varies between practitioners. These treatments are usually administered up to eight times in close proximity.
Most patients respond positively within three treatments. But if they don’t, they are recommended to cease the treatments and pursue other alternatives. Positive effects experienced generally wear off within 7- 10 days upon initial use. This prompts recurring treatments until the ketamine begins to have a more lasting effect on the brain.
Prices for ketamine therapy session vary, depending on location. However, Insurance companies are beginning to acknowledge the treatment.
The second type of ketamine treatment is a nasal spray using esketamine. Esketamine was approved by the FDA in March of 2019. This treatment is lower, which often explains why it’s less favored by patients in serious need of immediate help.
How Does Ketamine Therapy Work?
Ketamine works within the brain by targeting glutamate and GABA, two types of neurotransmitters. Glutamate and GABA make up 80% of the neurotransmitters in the brain.
Targeting these neurotransmitters differs in approach from most mainstream antidepressant medications. While most prescribed medications target serotonin, which makes up less than 20% of the brain.
Here’s what psychiatrist John Krystal, MD, one of the premier researchers of ketamine for depression treatment, notes about the treatment:
“It’s the reaction to ketamine, not the presence of ketamine in the body that constitutes its effects.”
Studies have shown that 50-80 percent of patients receiving ketamine therapy experienced measurably reduced symptoms of depression. And this happens within 24 hours of receiving their first treatment. Patients report feeling more clarity and lightness after receiving treatments. It appears to have an ability to diminish suicidal thoughts and tendencies, according to practitioners and researchers.
Is Ketamine Therapy Safe?
Immediate effects of ketamine therapy for patients with depression are largely positive. However, long-term effects of ketamine therapy remain understudied.
Sometimes, there are also potential long-term side effects of ketamine therapy to take into consideration. These include dizziness and dissociation, problems with the bladder and high blood pressure. Researchers are currently exploring the use of ketamine to help us learn more. Hopefully the more we learn can maximize positive lasting effects and minimize side effects of the treatment.
In conclusion, ketamine therapy has shown immense promise as a treatment for a wide array of disorders. There is a great deal of stigma around the drug due to its party scene history. But research from respected institutions such as Johns Hopkins and the Imperial School fo London are very exciting. It appears to be a great option to treat drug-resistant anxiety, depression, PTSD and much more. And now virtual ketamine therapy assistance is becoming more available. And there’s growing interest in how microdosing psychedelics helps improve mood and focus.
Ketamine could be a great option for people who have had a difficult time managing their issues. We need to get past the stigma of these drugs first. If we don’t, we will be relying on opioids as the go-to options. And we all know where that has gotten us. The opioid crisis has shown that those drug therapies are not options for the future. We should be open to new and different therapies.
One thing we want to make clear is that this new type of therapy should always be conducted in a controlled environment. We never condone taking these drugs on your own. Only attempt this therapy in a respected, accredited clinical setting. And make sure the doctor who prescribes is aware of your history. This is vital to knowing if you’re right for this type of therapy.
As always, the more you know, the better decisions you’ll be able to make with your health. Talk to your doctor first.