Is ketamine the newest breakthrough treatment for depression? It sure does seem like it! We’re finding more and more ways ketamine treats depression as research continues and it’s looking very promising.
“Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. In the US, recent estimates show 16 million adults had an episode of major depression in the course of a year. Suicide rates rose substantially between 1999 and 2016, increasing by more than 30% in 25 states. Because of its rapid action, ketamine could have a role to play in helping to prevent suicide.” -Harvard Health
Ketamine started as an anesthetic for animals and later served as an anesthetic for humans in the 1970s. It is still used today to sedate patients for surgery. In the 21st century, it was found that ketamine provides potent and rapid antidepressant properties at small doses. Hence, ketamine infusion therapy.
Ketamine works by targeting the NMDA receptors in the brain. By binding to these receptors, ketamine appears to increase the amount of a neurotransmitter called glutamate in the spaces between neurons. Glutamate then activates connections in another receptor, called the AMPA receptor. Together, the initial blockade of NMDA receptors and activation of AMPA receptors leads to the release of other molecules that help neurons communicate with each other along new pathways. Known as synaptogenesis, this process likely affects mood, thought patterns, and cognition.
One of the most promising benefits of ketamine for depression is how quickly it works! Traditional antidepressant medications can take weeks or even months before they begin to work, while ketamine provides relief just after one infusion.
Research is still developing on all the ways ketamine works in the treatment of depression, but we know the following is likely:
Although the results of ketamine IV therapy are sometimes immediate, not everyone has the same experience. For some, relief comes only after completing the full treatment plan, which typically involves six infusions over the course of two to three weeks.
In some individuals, one treatment plan is enough to put their symptoms in remission without the need for further treatment. Others require monthly “booster” infusions to remain symptom-free. And in some cases, the individual finds that ketamine treatments increase the effectiveness of their medication rather than eliminating symptoms altogether. We encourage our patients to combine their treatment with integrative forms of therapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy.
If you or someone you know struggles with depression and finding an effective treatment, ketamine therapy may be right for you. Get started by filling out the inquiry form on our website here.