Finding the right treatment for depression can be a long and arduous process. Oral antidepressants do not work for everyone, and when they do work, it’s not without complications. At Thrive Wellness Now in Oak Brook, IL, we recommend a different approach: ketamine therapy for mental health. Administered by IV, this treatment works more quickly than and in a different way from more traditional options.
Is Ket Good for Depression?
The term “mental health crisis” is not new. But with external stressors growing in number – the world is a complicated place – and a lack of consensus as to whether or not antidepressants benefit patients, depression rates continue to rise. Stress levels are also at an all-time high, according to data from the American Psychological Association.
We therefore need a new intervention, something that is safe, effective, and easily administered. Ketamine therapy for mental health (ket) is that solution. Studies show that after a single IV infusion, ketamine provides a rapid and robust antidepressant effect. Patients also reportedly feel better within just 40 minutes of treatment. This proves that yes, ket is a viable treatment for depression.
How It Works
We administer ket through an IV so it is delivered directly to the bloodstream, thus bypassing the lengthy and often inefficient digestive process that oral medications undergo. This allows the medication to take effect quickly, whereas commonly-prescribed antidepressants require weeks or even months for patients to feel relief.
Before we decide upon ketamine therapy as the right course for you, we will carefully evaluate your health. This may involve changing your current medications to ensure they don’t interfere with ketamine. We encourage you and your family to speak openly with our team about your concerns and ask any questions you have. Once we’ve explained the risks and benefits, we’ll ask you to sign a consent form that allows us to proceed with treatment.
What to Expect
You can expect your infusion to last between 40 and 60 minutes. We’ll check your vital signs before and during treatment, and we may administer additional medications such as those to quell nausea. Once treatment is complete, you’ll remain in our office for another 30 minutes so we can monitor your progress. This also allows us to ensure your continued comfort and overall satisfaction with the treatment.
What Is Ketamine?
Ketamine was discovered in 1962, and testing of the drug began shortly thereafter. It was administered to Vietnam War soldier as a field anesthetic. Research continued and found that under medical supervision, ketamine can treat specific mental distresses. Perhaps its most promising use is in managing treatment-resistant depression, improving symptoms in an hour rather than weeks.
We say “promising” because although our understanding of depression has improved in recent years, medical treatments have not. Slow-acting medications sometimes provide no relief at all, and they almost always pose secondary side effects that include:
- Weight gain
Why Antidepressants Don’t Work
Around one in 12 Americans currently takes a prescription antidepressant, although they are shown to help only 50 percent of patients. Why, then, are they still prescribed? Because doctors have few options at their disposal and hope that if one pill doesn’t work, the next one will. It is a process of trial and error, meaning that patients continue to endure their symptoms until a “magic” medication is discovered.
This paints a bleak picture largely the result of a widespread belief perpetuated by drug manufacturers that antidepressants work by correcting a chemical imbalance in the brain. They reportedly restore levels of serotonin, the body’s feel-good chemical. But it’s never been proven that depression is caused by low serotonin levels; the truth is that we don’t know the exact cause of depression.
What we do know is that antidepressants flatten emotions so a person feels more balanced, but this doesn’t mean depression is a result of the brain’s chemicals. To better understand, consider this: alcohol makes most people relax and feel less worried but not because it addresses an alcohol deficiency within the body.
Patients on antidepressants also face two more unfavorable scenarios: withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drugs and breakthrough depression, in which depression returns even while on medication. To avoid the first, patients must slowly wean themselves off medication with medical help. Breakthrough depression is a little more difficult and can be caused by such factors as:
- Alcohol use while on antidepressants
- New stressors at home or work
- Use of additional medications
When Antidepressants Stop Working
More often than not, however, antidepressants stop working for no apparent reason. Many professionals agree it’s not an issue of building a tolerance to the medications, but rather the constant evolution of external stressors and environmental factors. Although such medication stoppage is not unusual, it is frustrating. Symptoms of breakthrough depression include:
- Low mood
- Changes in appetite or sleep
- Decreased socializing
- Loss of interest in activities
How Ketamine Is Different
First and foremost, the mechanics of ketamine therapy for mental health differ from traditional antidepressants. It’s been called the “anti-medication” because the presence of ketamine does not cause beneficial effects, but rather the brain’s reaction to this medication. Once ketamine is administered, it triggers cortex reactions that encourage brain connections to regrow.
Shedding Light on Depression
We admitted earlier that we don’t fully understand depression, but we have arrived at some conclusions. For example, we know different categories of neurotransmitters exist within the brain, about 20 percent of which are related to serotonin. The remaining bulk are called GABA and glutamate, which together are responsible for complex electrical activities that regulate most brain responses, including mood.
We also know intense stress can impact the brain’s neurons, causing them to become less adaptable. They also become less communicative with other neurons – like a light bulb that starts bright and then gradually grows dimmer. This makes it increasingly difficult for a person to cope with stress and anxiety, thus creating a cycle that picks up speed and intensity as time goes on.
Research from Yale University shows ketamine ignites glutamate production. In a series of complex events, this prompts the brain to develop new neural connections. The brain, in turn, becomes more adaptable and gives patients the chance to form new behaviors and more positive thoughts. This multi-faceted effect has never been recorded with depression medication, including traditional antidepressants.
Yale has led numerous clinical studies of IV ketamine therapy in controlled settings; more than half the participants showed a substantial improvement in their depression symptoms within 24 hours. This held true for those with minor and severe symptoms. In addition, the results were shown to be cumulative – meaning they became longer-lasting – with subsequent treatments.
A Meaningful Discovery
It’s important to remember the discovery of ketamine as a treatment for depression was not accidental, as so often happens with medications. This was a deliberate find, in which experts saw increasing evidence that GABA and glutamate systems have some abnormalities in the brains of people with depression. Because ketamine was known to influence these areas, researchers sought the use of it as antidepressant medication.
Help for PTSD and Other Concerns
The use of ketamine is not restricted to depression; it may also be beneficial in easing the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that veterans often experience. PTSD develops after a trauma, such as that caused by combat, and can be debilitating in a number of ways. The good news is that ketamine is now providing hope after more traditional treatments have fallen short.
Additional concerns that can be addressed with ketamine therapy for mental health include:
- Memory and cognitive issues
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Mood disorders
- Substance abuse
Frequently Asked Questions
Many patients want to know right away how many treatments they’ll need to experience the benefits of ket. We strive to remind patients this is not a one-size-fits-all approach to medicine. Instead, we will assess your unique situation and needs, and then craft a treatment plan based on those notes.
As a general guideline, ket is typically delivered in a package of 10 sessions for PTSD, depression, and anxiety. The first five treatments may be administered weekly or daily, depending on the course we feel is right for you. The following five treatments will then be delivered roughly every two weeks. To improve cognition, we often recommend four treatments, each delivered monthly, followed by monthly maintenance sessions.
What Is the Success Rate?
Research shows that ketamine successfully treats depression in 60 to 80 percent of patients who undergo treatment. Once you’ve completed your initial treatment dose – such as the first 10 sessions for depression – beneficial effects can last several weeks. In some patients, these effects can last several months. If this isn’t the case for you, however, don’t worry. Keep in mind everyone is different, and we all respond to medications in different ways.
Who Shouldn’t Have Treatment?
While ketamine has been proven very safe, it’s not right for everyone. We recommend those who have cardiac disorders, high blood pressure, or pulmonary issues consult their primary care physician before starting therapy. This treatment is also not indicated for patients with psychosis.
Can I Eat or Drink Before Treatment?
You should avoid solid foods and milk for six hours before your infusion. Clear liquids, such as hot tea, water, and sodas, are fine up until two hours before treatment. You must additionally avoid all alcohol before and during the course of your treatment, as it can interfere with ketamine.
Is Ketamine Therapy Addictive?
No, and in many cases, it is safer than prescription antidepressants. To reinforce this notion, ketamine has been used with great success to treat opioid dependence and other addictions, and it’s proven very effective in stopping withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
Will Treatment Make Me Tired?
In treating depression, ketamine is administered in much smaller doses than when previously used as an anesthetic. This means you will be awake throughout treatment. While the IV therapy may cause some slight drowsiness during and after treatment, it won’t be enough to induce sleep. If you’re feeling anxious about any of this, we recommend bringing earbuds and listening to enjoyable music to help you relax.
How Can I Prepare for Treatment?
A few simple steps will help you prepare for treatment, starting with plenty of sleep the night before. Avoid food and drink, as recommended earlier, and wear comfortable clothing to your session. Also have a driver present, such as a friend or family member, to take you home, as you will need to avoid driving the rest of the day.
An Easier Way
No longer do you have to struggle with finding the right medication for depression and anxiety. Ketamine therapy for mental health is a fast-working treatment that eliminantes the guesswork and side effects of oral antidepressants. To learn how IV infusions can benefit you, call Thrive Wellness Now in Oak Brook, IL, today.