It’s estimated that 36 million people in the United States struggle with opiate addiction. More than 80% of these addictions started with a prescribed opiate painkiller. With the opioid crisis officially declared a National State of Emergency, it’s important to know what your non-narcotic pain management options are in order to prevent substance abuse and addiction issues for you or your loved ones.
Ketamine has made quite a few headlines as of late. Originally introduced as an emergency room and battlefield anesthetic in the 1970s, ketamine has recently been heralded by emergency physicians and chronic pain specialists for its ability to treat chronic pain, and by mental healthcare practitioners for its ability to change the lives of patients suffering from even the most severe, treatment-resistant cases of depression.
Since 2012, it seems researchers have discovered a steady stream of new applications for ketamine. Introduced as an anesthetic in the early ‘70s, it has more recently gained popularity for its highly impressive antidepressant and antipsychotic qualities. Ketamine research shows that infusions, when administered following the proper protocol under expert supervision, dramatically improve depressive symptoms in upwards of 70% of patients. Similarly extraordinary results have manifested in ketamine studies pertaining to PTSD prevention and treatment, addiction treatment, and chronic pain management.
It is hard to argue against ketamine as the most promising depression treatment available today. In 70% of patients, ketamine effectively and rapidly improves depressive symptoms, even in those patients who have historically resisted other methods of treatment. Study after study shows the same thing: ketamine works, and it works significantly better than traditional antidepressants or psychotherapy.
It’s a frustrating situation, to have this miraculous drug – a drug that is capable of changing and saving lives – so readily available, and yet so inaccessible. Without FDA approval, the overwhelming majority of insurance companies will not cover the cost of ketamine infusion therapy, leaving millions of Americans to suffer in the despair of severe depression. Private label ketamine clinics are operating around the country, but average prices of $500-800 per infusion are inhibitive at best. Even at our clinic, offering the lowest-priced ketamine infusions in the country, this potentially life-changing treatment is still not an option for many people.
Ketamine has earned its clout as one of the most effective treatments for depression, bipolar disorder and PTSD currently available on the market. However, ketamine is also effective in pain management, specifically for the treatment of chronic pain conditions, such as CRPS, migraine headaches and as a fibromyalgia treatment. Pain is the #1 cause of physical disability in the world, but modern pain management options – including opiates and other medications, physical therapy, meditation, acupuncture and other complimentary and alternative techniques – tend to treat pain symptoms as they continue to occur, rather than stopping the pain from reoccurring altogether.
Accepting the fact that you or a loved one is suffering from a mental health disorder isn’t always easy, and seeking treatment in the face of shame and stigma requires immeasurable strength. Suicide rates are at their highest levels ever. Drug addiction is wreaking havoc across the nation. Mental health disorders affect one in four people, and yet, discrimination is still alive, well, and preventing those suffering from seeking help, finding hope, and recovering.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in adolescents and young adults. We have seen the life-changing effects that ketamine infusions can have on suicidally depressed adults, and in adults who have resisted other forms of depression treatment. When it comes to teen depression, however, few studies have explored the use of ketamine infusion therapy.
Depression is a chronic physical illness, with symptoms that are mostly invisible. Because of this, understanding depression – and knowing how to help someone with depression – is a challenge to those who are not afflicted. You walk on eggshells, afraid to say the wrong thing. You keep quiet, or give advice, albeit with good intentions, that may not be ideal or realistic for your friend or loved one to follow.
Ketamine is, by far, the most effective treatment for depression available today. Effective in 70% of patients, ketamine oftentimes works where other antidepressants have failed. In addition to being used as a depression medication, ketamine has also shown promise in PTSD prevention, the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction, and has been used to reduce chronic pain.
Postpartum depression is complex, oftentimes confusing, and always emotionally-charged. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that 11-20% of women who give birth– about 600,000 women every year – will experience signs of postpartum depression. Only 15% of the afflicted women, however, will seek professional counseling or medical attention. This may be because admitting to being depressed after giving birth can feel shameful. It may also be because postpartum depression generally doesn’t persist for more than six months, making it difficult to treat with psychotherapy, antidepressants, or other depression treatments that aren’t immediately effective.
Based on the title of Time Magazine’s latest article about ketamine as a treatment for depression, one might not even think twice about giving the long-time anesthetic a chance. The article, The Dangers of Using the Club Drug Ketamine for Depression, was published shortly after the American Psychiatric Association (APA) released their long-awaited findings and recommendations about using ketamine as an antidepressant. Contrary to what the title insinuates, the findings weren’t all bad.
Though controversial and oftentimes misunderstood, ketamine infusions have been a life-changing treatment for individuals suffering from severe depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Ketamine works when more conventional depression treatments and antidepressants fail. 70% of patients who undergo ketamine infusions experience improvement in their symptoms. Many of these patients – and their doctors – are eager to share these stories, believing that their successes may bring hope to those who are still suffering. Here are a handful of these stories.
Ketamine infusions provide more than 70% of patients with relief from their depressive symptoms, but to get the most out of ketamine therapy, it’s important for patients to engage in other therapeutic activities in between infusions. While exercise, meditation, and art can help keep sadness in remission, more formal forms of therapy – especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – can help patients bring their relief to a new level.
Since its introduction as an anesthetic in the ‘60s and its subsequent fall from fashion in the ‘80s, ketamine’s comeback has been an interesting one to watch. Reintroduced to hospital emergency departments as a sedative and analgesic in the late ‘90s, and recently discovered to be a highly effective antidepressant, pain reliever, addiction treatment and potential PTSD vaccine, emergency medical service providers and first-responders are beginning to leveraging the versatility of the drug to provide the best possible care for patients.
Since the antidepressant effects of ketamine were discovered, its seems as though a Pandora’s Box of new uses for the medicine has been opened. Recent studies by the Columbia University Medical Center show that ketamine may prevent PTSD from developing in individuals who will experience a trauma – an especially hopeful discovery for our nation’s soldiers and first responders. Ketamine has also shown promise as an alcohol and cocaine addiction treatment. All of this on top of already being used to effectively alleviate chronic pain, treat depression and mood disorders, and – of course – as an anesthetic.