When it comes to treatment-resistant mental health disorders like depression, ketamine therapy can work where other therapies have failed. While the drug carries a negative stigma because of its illegal use, it has been found to be extremely beneficial, and is even considered to be lifesaving by those who have used it. From understanding the drug to expanding its use and other ways it can help patients, here’s what you need to know.
How ketamine offers a solution
Ketamine is an anesthetic that’s been around for quite some time, but it has found a new purpose in the treatment of mental health disorders like depression, particularly for those whose symptoms are unchanged by other common treatments. One Nashville psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel Barton, notes that ketamine “works much quicker than other medicines, and so it’s a real effective treatment when a patient’s been suffering for a very long time.” In comparison to other treatments, for instance, ketamine IV therapy is given in lower doses over longer people of time, making it well-tolerated by patients.
However, because of its history of being used recreationally, many may wonder what ketamine therapy feels like. Known as a dissociative anesthetic and often associated with a feeling of floating and relaxation, many describe the feeling of ketamine therapy as being in a dream-like state.
While intravenous ketamine therapy can be fast acting, sometimes improving symptoms of depression within hours of the first treatment, it’s important to take into account that ketamine therapy for depression simply isn’t for everyone. In addition to still being viewed as controversial by some and the potential the drug carries for abuse, it’s necessary to keep in mind that those who have used the drug experience varying levels of success, depending on personal factors — such as how long someone’s been depressed, or how severe their symptoms are.
Expanding the use of the drug
Due to its benefits, ketamine is surging in popularity. In fact, intravenous ketamine therapy may be safe and effective in adolescents with treatment resistant depression, according to one study in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Adolescents in the study actually reported significantly greater reductions in depressive symptoms after 24 hours, compared to those who received the medication midazolam. As well as expanding for the use of younger patients, ketamine therapy for depression is becoming more widespread around the world. Ketamine is now being used in authorized clinical settings in Singapore in order to treat those with major depressive disorder who aren’t otherwise responding to treatment. For example, esketamine, a modified version of the drug, has been approved and used to treat two patients via nasal spray.
Ketamine and eating disorders
While ketamine has the potential to revolutionize the way treatment-resistant depression is treated, it’s also important to recognize that the benefits of the drug can be useful in treating those living with other issues, such as eating disorders. Anticipating a 300% increase in client visits this year, Novamind, a Toronto-based mental health company that’s focused on psychedelic research and treatments actually offers ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. Dr. Reid Robinson, a psychiatrist and Chief Medical Officer of Novamind notes that ketamine isn’t just a treatment for depression, and that there are so many other benefits. Anorexia is an example of an eating disorder with a high mortality rate, and Novamind is just one pioneer in the use of ketamine for treating eating disorders, as it uses a combination of ketamine and psychotherapy, and is seeing positive results.
Despite the negative connotations with ketamine, the drug has shown massive promise in treating mental health disorders such as depression, giving those who haven’t had luck with conventional treatments a new outlook on life. Because of such discoveries and benefits, the popularity of the drug is understandably increasing, and new uses for it — such as for the treatment of eating disorders — are being explored.