A common anesthetic drug called ketamine is increasingly used to treat depression, suicidality, depression, migraines, OCD, and PTSD symptoms. This ground-breaking therapy offers many people a significant chance to control their mental health issues.
So how did ketamine, a substance that was formerly only used in operating rooms and on battlefields, end up as a viable treatment for depression and suicidality? What does it do, how does it affect the brain, and are there any hazards associated with using it? This article will tell it all!
Short-acting general anesthetic ketamine has been used since the 1970s. It was first employed in the United States for sedation and pain relief during the Vietnam War. It still has a lot of medical applications nowadays.
The drug’s dissociative characteristics make it a popular choice for recreational use. Slang words like Special K, KitKat, Vitamin K, and others are used to refer to recreational versions of ketamine.
Ketamine: From Party Drug to Depression Treatment Reconceptualized
Pioneering experiments from Yale indicated that ketamine stimulated the brain to create glutamate, which stimulates new neural connections, as psychologists and psychiatrists investigated the difficulties of depression.
They examined the effects on patients with severe depression whose symptoms had not improved with conventional antidepressants using intravenous dosages of ketamine in controlled studies. The outcomes were statistically noteworthy. More than 50% of subjects in the majority of studies showed a reduction in their depressive symptoms merely 24 hours after receiving ketamine medication.
After over 20 years of study, the FDA, on March 5th, approved Spravato (esketamine) nasal spray for individuals with treatment-resistant depression. Given the possibility of drug abuse and misuse, a stringent distribution mechanism is used to make the prescription only available.
The Brain & Ketamine
Ketamine targets glutamate, the most prevalent excitatory chemical messenger in the brain, while the majority of antidepressants target one of the “monoamine” neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, or dopamine. Glutamate promotes and strengthens synaptic connections via controlling the brain’s capacity to process cognitive processes, emotions, and neuroplasticity. It also significantly impacts how someone learns, remembers, and reacts to situations.
Additionally, ketamine lowers inflammation and boosts resistance to stress.
The brain’s structural makeup is altered by stress. By fostering synaptic growth in depressed brain regions, including the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus, which control behavior, mood, personality development, and memory, ketamine counteracts these alterations.
Ketamine rebalances glutamate and GABA Levels
Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), a relaxing neurotransmitter, is produced and balanced by glutamate in the brain, which is another function of glutamate. An imbalance with GABA from overactive glutamate receptor genes can alter mental wellness. For instance, high glutamate and low GABA levels can cause anxiety, whereas low glutamate and GABA levels might cause sadness.
The three stages of ketamine’s action to correct this imbalance are as follows.
Stage 1: Quick Outcome
In this stage, ketamine stimulates the opiate receptors in the brain, which may have an impact on depressive symptoms. Patients typically experience relaxation, pain relief, and a sedative-like effect during this stage.
Stage 2: Long-term effects
Phase two sees an increase in glutamate receptors, which aids in bringing glutamate and GABA levels back to normal. After therapy, patients are typically at this moment at ease. It is possible for patients to feel untouchable at this time.
Stage 3: Back to baseline
The brain’s response to ketamine induces new neural receptors to form when the levels have stable, which may “reset” the depressed brain. Patients who have suicidal thoughts as a result of their depression may benefit most from ketamine
Ketamine side effects
Despite ketamine’s benefits for the brain, patients should be aware of any risks and long-term side effects. The following are a few potential long-term adverse consequences of intravenous ketamine infusion:
- Elevated blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bladder problems
- Hazy vision
The different effects of ketamine are currently the subject of a lot of fresh research. This includes advantages for ailments of the mind, such as depression that is resistant to treatment, PTSD, and suicidal ideation.
Ketamine may not be safe for you if you have certain physical health issues, such as high blood pressure or heart issues, or certain mental health issues, such as schizophrenia. The most recent findings in ketamine research and the benefits and drawbacks of the medicine can be discussed with your doctor. Remember that ketamine has severe side effects that might be fatal. Ketamine should not be used on your own without a doctor’s supervision.