Depression is one of the fastest-growing mental conditions in recent decades. It affects an overwhelming number of people, and its consequences can be devastating. In fact, depression is the leading cause of disability.
More than 15 million adults in the US have experienced at least one episode of major depression, and suicide rates are increasing. Antidepressants are the most common treatment for these patients, but they are not effective in approximately 30% of cases.
After several cases of depressive patients who stopped having suicidal tendencies after ketamine use, doctors started considering using it as a depression treatment. The use of ketamine for medical purposes is not new, but it could play an essential role in helping prevent suicide. However, doctors should only consider this option if other alternatives have previously proven ineffective to the patient.
If you’re interested in the latest information on ketamine for depression, you’ve come to the right place. This article will cover what ketamine is, its uses for depressive disorders, and the dangers of misusing it.
What is Ketamine?
This drug was conceived as an analgesic originally. First, it was used in animal medicine, and then it was approved for human use.
Most people now link this word to a hallucinogenic and addictive street drug, but the reality is that doctors use it as an analgesic to sedate and reduce pain. It is a Schedule III non-narcotic approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Why is Ketamine Used for Treating Depression?
Emergency responders gave this drug to agitated patients who had attempted suicide to calm them down. Some of them stopped feeling suicidal altogether. After seeing the results, the doctors realized the drug could have powerful effects against suicidal thoughts and depression.
To this day, ketamine has not been approved as a depression-specific drug. However, experts believe it’s worth trying since it is a legal medicine and used for other purposes anyway.
How Does Ketamine Work?
Ketamine is believed to function by directly influencing the activity of a brain neurotransmitter called glutamate. Glutamate supposedly helps reduce depression symptoms by encouraging new brain connections.
People who have used ketamine to treat depression have had varying degrees of success, depending on the unique circumstances, how long they’ve been depressed, the severity of their symptoms, and how many medicines they’ve tried without success.
For the time being, ketamine treatment is an intravenous depression medication or a nasal spray. Either way, it’s only provided at specialized facilities. The spray’s effects can last a single day or a few days, whereas the intravenous treatment might last anywhere from a few weeks to a month. The dose is substantially lower in both cases than when used for anesthesia or taken illegally.
Treatment with ketamine usually must continue permanently and under close supervision to be effective. According to experts, clinicians who administer ketamine for depression should carefully evaluate patients to ensure the medicine is appropriate for them. Not everyone who wants to take ketamine is indeed a good candidate. People with a history of psychosis, substance abuse, or high blood pressure are not suitable for this treatment.
Are There Any Downsides or Side Effects?
While ketamine is safe when used in a regulated medical setting, it can be dangerous recreationally. And, of course, it’s still a drug – every drug can have downsides. Here are some of its drawbacks:
- Addiction. Unfortunately, ketamine has a high risk of misuse and addiction. Around 7.3% of young adults aged 18 to 25 used ketamine in 2020.
- It’s too new. Ketamine hasn’t been used to treat depression for long enough for doctors to know if it has any long-term side effects. More time and research are required to understand its long-term effects.
- Cost. You should know that insurance doesn’t cover this costly procedure if you live in the US. Each dose ranges from $400 to up to $1200.
- Treatment failure. Even if ketamine has a positive effect, it’s still crucial to know what it can and can’t do. It won’t vanish your tensions and stressors – life’s stresses will remain. You’ll still require therapy to manage them.
- Elevated blood pressure. This drug may increase blood pressure, which may cause other problems like heart attacks.
- Hallucinations. This drug can induce psychosis, which may cause delusions or hallucinations. That’s why it’s not suitable for people who suffer from psychotic behavior, and it only should be used under medical monitoring.
If you are a good candidate for the treatment and your doctor keeps a close eye on you, you may notice it improves your mood. Ketamine can significantly improve the quality and length of life in persons who are contemplating suicide. There are a lot of testimonies out there of people who have experienced major changes in their moods and stamina, regaining control over their lives. Nonetheless, it’s essential to consider the potential for abuse and discuss if you have a history of substance use disorders to prevent another addiction.