If you live with a major depressive disorder, you know just how challenging it can be to find a treatment plan that works well, continues to provide relief as time goes on, and doesn’t come with unwanted side effects.
At TMS & Brain Health, we know that traditional antidepressants and regular therapy sessions aren’t always the best answer — and they’re certainly not the only answer.
Let’s explore how ketamine works, and the real pros and cons of this groundbreaking treatment for TRD, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), debilitating anxiety, suicidal ideation, and even chronic pain.
Ketamine infusion therapy 101
Ketamine is an FDA-approved anesthetic that’s been widely used around the world for more than five decades. It’s also a medication with fast-acting antidepressant properties that mental health experts have been studying with deep interest for over 20 years.
While ketamine isn’t considered a first-line therapy for chronic pain, depression, or any other mental health disorder, it can be used off-label to treat severe cases of depression, anxiety, and PTSD that haven’t responded to conventional medications or therapies.
When ketamine is administered through a slow, constant intravenous (IV) drip, it has calming and extremely therapeutic effects on the regions of your brain that control mood and behavior.
With its ability to provide quick and lasting relief for even the most persistent cases of TRD, ketamine has been called the most important breakthrough in the treatment of depression to come along in recent memory.
Ketamine infusion advantages
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and the primary mental health disorder that gives rise to suicidal tendencies.
Approximately two in three people who suffer from major depression eventually achieve lasting symptom remission with conventional antidepressants and therapy; the remaining one in three do not.
For people with TRD, debilitating anxiety, persistent PTSD, and chronic pain, ketamine infusion therapy offers several key advantages, including:
Fast-acting symptom relief
Ketamine infusions work very quickly — often within hours — to ease depressive symptoms. While researchers are still trying to pinpoint the mechanisms behind this powerful effect, they do know that ketamine stimulates a rapid increase in glutamate.
As the main neurotransmitter that encourages the growth of synapses in your brain, glutamate helps strengthen and restore vital neural connections and pathways in the regions of the brain that are most impaired by depression; these new connections help induce beneficial changes in brain circuit function.
High rate of success
Ketamine infusion therapy is still being studied, but research shows that it has a high rate of success when it comes to treating persistent depression.
Several studies indicate that over half of people with TRD achieve significant symptom relief after a single infusion, and many more find relief after two or three infusions.
An excellent efficacy rate is a major part of what makes ketamine infusion therapy so beneficial for people who haven’t been able to achieve lasting relief through traditional medical solutions.
Lasting symptom remission
Ketamine infusion therapy isn’t a “one-and-done” treatment that “cures” depression in a single session, but it’s also not like conventional antidepressants that must be taken daily for years on end (or for as long as they work).
Instead, ketamine infusions stimulate beneficial brain changes that lead to lasting symptom relief over the course of a single treatment cycle.
For the average patient, the acute phase of ketamine infusion therapy calls for a series of six infusions spaced out over the course of two or three weeks. This initial treatment is followed by a long-term maintenance phase that includes occasional booster infusions as needed.
Ketamine infusion drawbacks
Despite the fact that ketamine offers major benefits in the treatment of persistent depression, no treatment is perfect. The drawbacks of ketamine have to do with its dissociative effects and potential addictive properties.
Although ketamine infusion therapy uses sub-anesthetic doses to relieve depression, it can still induce certain temporary side effects, including mild hallucinations, floating sensations, fuzzy vision, and dizziness.
Because of this, ketamine infusion therapy must be:
- Approved for use only after a comprehensive evaluation
- Received in a ketamine-certified clinical setting
- Administered and monitored by an experienced provider
The potential for immediate side effects also means that someone else must drive you to and from your treatment session. Even though the mild dissociative side effects of ketamine tend to diminish quickly, the treatment can leave you feeling tired or groggy until you’ve had a good night’s rest.
Last, ketamine isn’t the right solution for everyone with TRD — because it has potentially addictive properties, it may not be a suitable option for those who have a history of substance abuse or a diagnosed addictive disorder.
To find out how ketamine can help you get your life back, call your nearest TMS & Brain Health office in Los Angeles or Santa Monica, California, or click online to schedule a visit today.