Depression, post-traumatic stress, and anxiety are all significant problems in the world today. The problems are made worse because there are few good treatments available. Ketamine, used clinically as an anesthetic agent and a veterinary sedative, is emerging as a potential treatment for these disorders. Ketamine is one of the best to treat depression and anxiety in patients with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, autism-spectrum disorders, and late-stage cancer.
Why Ketamine and Psychedelic Therapy?
- Ketamine appears to be effective because it works on a different class of receptors in the brain than traditional antidepressants, called NMDA receptors. Ketamine also has anti-inflammatory properties that play a role in depression and anxiety.
- Ketamine blocks the enzyme needed to convert tryptophan into serotonin, which may be its mechanism of action in depression. Research shows that ketamine rapidly normalizes disturbed neural networks and inflammatory pathways in the brains of depressed patients. 3.
- Ketamine induces synaptogenesis, the formation of new connections in the brain. In this way, ketamine is unique among available antidepressants. Animal studies have shown that ketamine rapidly reverses depression-like behaviors and that it may have rapid-acting antidepressant effects.
- Ketamine triggers a burst of production of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which promotes the growth of new neurons and synapses. Ketamine’s ability to enhance neurogenesis may be an important mechanism underlying its antidepressant activity.
- Ketamine reduces sensory gating deficits—the inability to filter out repetitive stimuli. Patients who suffer from depression often have this problem and it can interfere with therapy. Ketamine seems to restore sensory gating and thus may prove useful in treating depression associated with traumatic events.
How Does Ketamine Therapy Work?
- Rapidly reduces elevated blood glucose and improves blood-brain barrier integrity and oxygenation of the brain.
- Encourages synthesis of new proteins, including BDNF, which plays a role in increased neurogenesis (the growth and survival of neurons).
- Increases the speed of neurotransmission and signal transmission in the brain via NMDA receptors. NMDA receptor blockade is a well-known mechanism of action for conventional antidepressants and antipsychotics.
- Increases the production of synapses and dendrites, which are the proteins that connect neurons. Synapses are strengthened via increased neurogenesis, as well as by a reduction in inflammation and oxidative stress.
- Reduce sensory gating deficits in patients with depression, especially when combined with psychotherapy and other therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Cognitive behavioral therapy has been used successfully to treat depression and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
Who is Ketamine Therapy For?
1. Depression Patients
People with Depression who have not responded to other treatments. Currently, no medications are approved by the FDA for the rapid relief of severe depression. Research shows that patients with treatment-resistant depression experience significant improvement in depressive symptoms with ketamine as an add-on to their current antidepressant treatment.
2. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Patients with PTSD are treated with a combination of psychotherapy and antidepressants. Although tricyclic antidepressants are often used, they can have significant side effects and are slow in the onset of action. The new generation serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) generally take 2-4 weeks for relief to begin. Ketamine has been shown to significantly reduce PTSD symptoms within hours.
Ketamine can be used for the treatment of some patients with anxiety disorders; however, more research is necessary. Ketamine is an effective anxiolytic drug and can help alleviate anxiety symptoms quickly since it acts in an entirely different mechanism.
4. Pain Relief
Ketamine is also being studied as a potential analgesic in the treatment of pain from surgery and other injuries, fibromyalgia, chronic back pain, and cancer-related chronic pain.
5. PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety
Ketamine may also be effectively used in combination with other psychiatric treatments such as psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and support group therapies. Some research shows that ketamine has a significant effect on alcoholism, cocaine addiction, and tobacco addiction. Ketamine has been reported to reduce cravings for alcohol.
Ketamine is unique in that it is known to have rapid antidepressant action. Its ability to induce neurogenesis has recently received attention as a treatment option for depression and PTSD. Ketamine therapy is a promising avenue of research and may prove useful in treating depression associated with abandonment, physical trauma, grief, phobias, and physical abuse. It is important to note that there are several anecdotal reports of ketamine treatment being beneficial in patients with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, post-partum depression, and other forms of depression not listed here.