Is Ketamine Effective in Treating Depression?
Ketamine is a powerful, synthetic compound and anesthetic drug. It is most often used in veterinary medicine, and the substance is also abused in the club-going scene for its hallucinogenic properties. Despite ketamine’s colorful and varied history, the substance has recently been on the cutting-edge of new mental health disorder treatment options. Ketamine shows promise alleviating the symptoms of depression in treatment-resistant depression and bipolar patients.
What is usually used to treat depression?
Depression is a disorder that starts in the brain, and people with certain genetic and temperament vulnerabilities are at risk of developing the disorder. Although the disease starts in the brain, its symptoms manifest themselves in how a person feels both physically and emotionally, and how they act. There is no singular cause of depression. Instead, a combination of genetic, personal temperament, neurological, and environmental stresses, and vulnerabilities can trigger the disorder in a susceptible person.
Science and medicine cannot do much to alleviate the genetic or temperamental contributors to the disease. Environmental stresses are often outside of an individual’s control. However, depression sufferers can take advantage of several proven treatment methods to alleviate their symptoms. In most cases, the first line of treatment for depression is a combination of medications and talk therapy. But there is one significant downside to using drugs. First, readers must understand how depression manifests in the brain.
Research has shown that depression sufferers have less vital neurochemicals in their brains than people without the disorder. Neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine are crucial for maintaining a person’s mood and feelings of well-being. When the brain doesn’t produce enough neurochemicals, depression symptoms occur. Antidepressant medications slow the brain’s natural reabsorption of these chemicals. After taking antidepressant medications, more neurotransmitters are left in the brain.
The problem is that this process can take several weeks to take effect. Waiting on medications to work can be incredibly dangerous for people with severe depression where suicide is a risk. People with psychotic depression, where they experience delusions and hallucinations, also need faster relief from these dangerous and distressing symptoms. In a significant minority of depression patients, medications may only offer minimal to no relief for their symptoms. Fortunately, there are several, fast-acting solutions for severe and treatment-resistant depression, and ketamine is one of the most recent breakthroughs in this arena along with TMS.
How does ketamine work to treat depression?
Antidepressant medications have been used to treat the disorder since the mid-1950s when the first line of MAOIs hit the market. All subsequent breakthroughs in antidepressant medications have involved lessening the side effects and making the pills safer for a wider variety of patients to take. Now, advances in depression treatment involve eliminating the delays for symptom relief that are forever-present in depression medications.
Recent studies on depressed patients have found that glutamate, another neurotransmitter, plays a role in depression symptoms. Scientists believe that inhibiting glutamate has antidepressant effects. Ketamine is a drug that’s known to prohibit glutamate from activating in the brain. In recent clinical trials, treatment-resistant depression patients who were given glutamate saw a reduction in depression symptoms just two hours after taking the drug.
What are the side effects of ketamine?
Although ketamine is effective at treating depression, the drug does have several notable downsides. Its effects aren’t long-lasting, and patients who receive ketamine must be carefully monitored for the side effects. Ketamine use does increase blood pressure and heart rate. Patients may also experience nausea and vomiting, and blurred or double vision. It’s also possible for patients to experience anxiety shortly after receiving an infusion, but this is a less common side effect.
Because of ketamine’s promise in alleviating depression symptoms, it has prompted medical scientists into studying and developing newer, fast-acting antidepressant drugs that target glutamate. Ketamine infusions have also been useful for treating other mental health disorders, including PTSD, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
Where can someone go to get ketamine infusions for depression?
At this time, ketamine is administered in certain clinical settings for “off-label” use. The FDA allows doctors to administer medications for off-label use if the FDA has approved the drug for other medicinal purposes. It is possible for patients to search for reputable ketamine infusion clinics online. Patients who are interested in ketamine infusions should speak to their doctor about getting a prescription for ketamine.
In May of 2018, clinical trials involving ketamine as a nasal spray, paired with an antidepressant, showed promise in easing depression symptoms in treatment-resistant depression. The nasal spray also showed promise in alleviating suicidal thoughts in at-risk patients. Ketamine nasal sprays are still being tested and refined.
Who can try ketamine for depression?
Depression sufferers who have tried one or more antidepressants at high doses for at least two months and have seen no adequate reduction of symptoms are candidates for alternative treatment methods. However, it’s critical that other health conditions are ruled out first before a patient tries a different method for alleviating depression. Certain cancers, hormonal imbalances, and heart disease are known causes of depression.
However, one of the most significant downsides to using ketamine for depression treatment is the drug has a high potential for abuse. Ketamine can produce mild, euphoric effects which can become addictive. Depression patients with a history of drug or alcohol addiction may not be the best candidates for ketamine. Fortunately, there are fast-acting solutions for alleviating their symptoms.
Deep brain stimulation techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation are useful for treating stubborn depression. TMS is also non-invasive, and patients are not at risk of becoming addicted to the treatment. Treatment involves using a powerful magnetic coil to deliver pulses to areas of the brain that are thought to play a role in depression. Side effects are mild, short-lived, and easy to manage. They include mild headaches and tingling of the scalp where the coil is placed.
Are you struggling with treatment-resistant depression? The helpful technicians at Pulse TMS are standing by to answer your questions about how TMS can alleviate your symptoms. Please contact PulseTMS today to learn more.