KETAMINE FOR DEPRESSION: THE PROS, THE CONS, AND THE QUESTIONS

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. In fact, they weren’t bad at all. What it boils down to is that the APA agrees that ketamine has rapid antidepressant effects, effective in 50-75% of patients – even those who have resisted other methods of depression treatment. But there are a lot of unanswered questions. 

As a doctor who has been administering ketamine infusions for some time now, I agree. Scientists have not yet fully elucidated how ketamine works. We cannot say with certainty that repeated doses of ketamine over the long-term is without risk.And there are still unanswered questions about the best dosing strategy.

However, I have also seen ketamine breathe life back into those who had lost all hope. Patients who were once suicidal – unable to work their jobs, to leave their homes, or to travel with their families – are now living rich and fulfilling lives. This is where most pharmaceutical companies would add the disclaimer: results not typical. With ketamine, however, no disclaimer is needed. These positive results are seen over and over again, not just by me and the anesthesiologists at Vitalitas Denver, but by the hundreds of other ketamine clinics around the world.

For these severely depressed people, waiting until we fully understand the long-term effects of ketamine infusions may not be possible. The ramifications of not exploring ketamine could very well result in death, if not years of wasted life. The potential benefits of ketamine infusions simply outweigh the cost of abstention for many who are suffering tremendously. 

What I feel the AMA failed to recognize in their report is the experience we do have with ketamine. Ketamine has been an FDA-approved anesthetic since the 1970s. It has been used everywhere, from battlefields to operating rooms, and on everyone, from children to seniors. Prior to the discovery of its antidepressant qualities, ketamine attracted attention as a non-opiate pain killer. Those suffering from chronic pain are administered high doses of IV ketamine – much higher than the doses we administer for the treatment of depression – with infusions oftentimes lasting for days at a time. The negative side effects have been less intrusive than those associated with more traditional antidepressants.

Of course, we urge caution with any off-label medical treatment or medication. But for those individuals who believe – for even a fleeting moment – that the world would be better off without them in it, ketamine is worth considering. It just may save their lives.

CONTACT VITALITAS DENVER

If you or someone you love is one of the millions of Americans suffering from severe depression; if you have tried traditional antidepressants and other depression treatments to no avail; if you are losing hope more rapidly each day, then contact Vitalitas Denver. We can help you determine whether you are a candidate for ketamine infusions, or send you in the right direction if you are not. Just complete the brief form below and we'll be in touch with you shortly.

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