Ketamine is a drug historically used as a surgical anesthetic that shows incredible promise as a treatment for depression—especially in those cases where traditional antidepressants fail. Of the roughly 8 percent of people in the U.S. who suffer from depression, 30 percent do not respond to commonly prescribed medications. Researchers find that ketamine provides speedy and oftentimes dramatic improvement in these cases, offering a ray of light in a world where depression and anxiety are on the rise…especially among teenagers.
Sometimes depression creeps up from out of nowhere. It may be surprising to learn that depression could be triggered by the body language you are being exposed to—facial expressions, body positioning, personal space…or a lack thereof. Subtle facial expressions, which may be largely unrecognizable, could slowly be causing psychological distress. The signals we send each other come not just from the words we hear, but also when, where, and how they are spoken to us. All of us read faces when we speak with each other, since it helps us gauge our interactions. But, what most do not do is actively regulate our exposure to negativity from the body language we receive. Sometimes, it may not be possible to do so, so there are other ways—through pharmaceuticals and mindfulness—to reduce the impact of your exposure instead.
Different claims regarding other the causes of depression have circulated for decades. As our understanding of depression has changed, so has our ability to treat this widespread mental health disorders. Some claim that neurotransmitters—serotonin and norepinephrine—play the largest role in regulating mood. Others look to the glutamate system. And still, one recent claim, which has grown in popularity, is that depression is gut-related.
The history of ketamine goes back to 1962, when it was first synthesized by American scientist, Calvin Stevens, at the Parke Davis Laboratories. The drug was known as a fast acting anesthetic and, eventually, a recreational hallucinogen. However, in the late 1990s, its antidepressive benefits were discovered. Research performed over the last two decades suggests that ketamine infusions could rapidly and effectively ease symptoms of depression and anxiety in up to 70% of patients, a discovery which marked the beginning of ketamine clinics popping up all over the country.
Migraines are extremely widespread in the United States, and much more debilitating than people realize. There are about 39 million people who struggle daily with this neurological disease, which makes it the 3rd most prevalent illness in the world. Not only do these severe and persistent headaches affect daily life, but they may be connected with mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. Current research is being performed to figure out what the link may be. For example, do migraines lead to depression and anxiety? Or is it psychiatric illness that leads to migraines?
One of the leading causes of disability in the U.S. is major depressive disorder (MDD), affecting more than 16.1 million adults each year. Another perhaps more shocking statistic is that about 80% of those people never seek treatment, for various reasons. However, one of the main reasons why so many individuals fail to seek treatment is because of the stigma associated with having a mental health condition. A stigma that, unfortunately, is alive and thriving in our society today.
The recent FDA approval of the use of esketamine for treatment-resistant depression means many Americans suffering will soon find relief. The drug, Spravato, was approved for patients who have failed to respond at all to at least two other antidepressant medications. After years of clinical trials, the decision to officially approve Spravato took a month before a panel of experts voted in favor of the new treatment. Since treatment-resistant depression plagues so many among us, this new treatment has generated tremendous hope for depression sufferers, their loved ones, and their mental health clinicians.
Since it was developed in 2016, we’ve blogged several times about esketamine—the isomer of ketamine being developed by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, designed to rapidly alleviate the symptoms of treatment-resistant depression. Esketamine, which will be administered intranasally, was granted breakthrough medication status by the FDA and fast-tracked for approval. And the time for approval is here.
Over the past several years, ketamine has received a growing amount of media attention. As a treatment for depression, no other medication has shown this much promise since Prozac was discovered in the 1980s. Ketamine has been hailed as “miraculous,” and a “wonder drug,” alleviating depressive symptoms in up to 70% of patients…even those who failed to respond to depression treatment after depression treatment. What’s even more spectacular is the speed in which ketamine works—patients know whether ketamine will work for them after only 1-2 infusions.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for depression. Even though 17% of people will suffer from depression over the course of their lives, modern medicine is still searching for a comprehensive solution. Traditional antidepressant medications are the first line of treatment for depression, though they are only effective for about 40-70% of patients, depending on what source you quote. In recent years, ketamine infusions have emerged as one of the most effective depression treatment available, offering hope for even the most debilitating cases of depression and providing relief to 70% of patients. Inspired by the way ketamine works to treat depression, several pharmaceutical companies are well underway developing new medications that may revolutionize the way we treat this mental health disorder.
The importance of diagnosing and treating mental health disorders is incontestable: with the country’s suicide rate growing at a faster rate than ever—and with a number of celebrity suicides bringing much-needed awareness to the matter—there is no argument that mental wellbeing is an important health concern that deserves our attention and care. However, the physical implications of depression and anxiety are much less talked about—even though a new study shows that they can be as severe as the health concerns caused by obesity or smoking.
As one of Colorado’s leading ketamine clinics, we see first-hand the impact that mental health disorders can have on an individual. We see the pain that prevents a patient from engaging in their favorite hobbies or activities, or that keeps them home in bed rather than at the office, or that lets the dishes pile up in the sink day after day because they just can’t bring themselves to perform even the most mundane of household tasks.
For those suffering from PTSD, traditional treatments oftentimes fall short when it comes to alleviating symptoms. Antidepressants are effective in only about 40 percent of patients, and benzodiazepines—while commonly prescribed as a treatment for PTSD may actually worsen symptoms. A study recently published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry revealed that PTSD patients who were prescribed benzodiazepines were almost twice as likely to attempt suicide. It goes without saying that PTSD patients need and deserve a more effective suite of treatment options.
More than 300 million people in the world suffer from clinical depression, but 50% of them will never seek treatment. Rather, these people suffer from such symptoms as sadness, inability to concentrate, and loss of appetite—with limited hope for improvement. Many individuals diagnosed with depression never admit that they need treatment in the first place. However, there are still others who recognize that they need depression treatment, but feel it is inaccessible to them.
The discovery of ketamine for depression is absolutely the biggest breakthrough we’ve seen in depression treatment in over 50 years. Since the early part of the century, study after study has demonstrated ketamine’s substantial rapid-acting effect in reducing depressive symptoms. Not surprisingly, the media have taken notice:Time Magazine, Scientific American, Business Insider, Forbes, Psychology Today, and National Public Radio are only a few of the media outlets that have reported on the use of ketamine for depression and the advancements that have been made as a result of ongoing research. It seems that, every day, there is a new discovery about how ketamine works to treat depression…
In the United States, at least one physician commits suicide every day. It’s the highest suicide rate of any profession, taking the lives of up to 40 physicians per every 100,000—a rate that is twice the national average. And until now, no one has really talked about it. However, a new documentary seeks to take a closer look at the deadly trend in medical care.
More than 20 veterans commit suicide every day. Organizations such as 22 Kill and Active Heroes have brought a lot of awareness to the mental healthcare needs of those who have served our nation, but the truth is, no matter how aware we are of suicidality in veterans, they are still choosing to take their own lives at a rate higher than any other population of people.
When it comes to depression, no one is exempt—especially those at the tops of their industries. In fact, as a result of the stress that goes hand-in-hand with their careers, plus the personal characteristics that have enabled them to become successful in the first place, C-level executives, business leaders and entrepreneurs are perhaps more susceptible to depression than other people.
In April 2018, we shared some promising information about a Yale School of Medicine study that found ketamine to be highly effective in reducing the symptoms of depression in a 16-year old patient suffering from suicidal ideations. After having declared himself “hopeless about the prospect of psychiatric improvement,” the patient was treated with ketamine infusions. His condition quickly improved to the point where he could be discharged from his inpatient psychiatric facility and resume his schooling. This study, however, was limited in scope, as it only presented the results from this one patient.
The mind-altering effects of psychedelic drugs may do more than just change a person’s state of consciousness. In a new study recently published in Cell Reports, researchers at the University of California, David found that substances such as LSD, DMT and MDMA actually increased the number of neural connections between brain cells. These findings could ultimately be used to repair the damaged neural connections oftentimes observed in those suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other psychiatric disorders.