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.
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.
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.
Opioid addiction has increased by over 500% in the last seven years—there is hardly an American who doesn’t know someone who is addicted, who has been directly affected by opiate addiction, or who is addicted himself. In response to this epidemic, the CDC has enacted changes to the way doctors may administer and prescribe opiates. This has left many chronic pain patients frustrated and in fear of losing access to the medications that keep them functional.
In an exciting development, Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine published the first set of guidelines for the use of ketamine for treating pain—a framework for doctors and institutions, who should get it, and who should not. Ketamine infusions have emerged as a leading option for the treatment of both chronic and acute pain. Some chronic pain patients report a reduction in pain symptoms for up to six months post-infusion. The World Health Organization lists ketamine as an essential medicine, primarily for its analgesic qualities.
It’s no secret that ketamine is a highly effective treatment for depression. Study after study has shown that intravenous ketamine is effective in improving depressive symptoms in about 70% of patients. And while IV ketamine infusions have emerged as the “gold standard” in administration, newer studies have explored other routes of administration: intramuscular, sublingual, and intranasal.
From CRPS to Lyme disease, migraine headaches, fibromyalgia, and more, ketamine infusions have proven to be one of the most effective chronic pain management options. For many of our patients who receive ketamine infusions for the treatment of CRPS and other chronic pain conditions, these infusions have been life-changing. After receiving ketamine infusions, many patients find their pain levels manageable enough that they can return to a more active and fulfilling lifestyle. And isn’t that the goal?
Our Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins area ketamine clinics have been treating patients for several years now, a time period over which we’ve been able to watch the progression of this drug as it evolves. We’ve always known, without a doubt, that ketamine is highly effective for the treatment of such psychiatric disorders as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and PTSD. However, the exact mechanism that makes ketamine such an effective antidepressant has been something of a mystery to researchers and clinicians alike.
In the 1980s, a Russian research team unveiled data indicating that ketamine may be useful in the treatment of drug and alcohol dependency. In the study, 66% of patients receiving ketamine treatments maintained abstinence for an entire year, compared to 24% who received only psychological counseling.
In August 2016, Janssen Research & Development—a Janssen Pharmaceutical Company of Johnson & Johnson—announced that an isomer of ketamine, called esketamine, had received Breakthrough Therapy Designation by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Similarly to ketamine, esketamine has shown huge promise as a depression treatment, especially for those experiencing suicidal ideation, or who have resisted other treatment methodologies.
Ketamine has been around since the 60s. A popular battlefield anesthetic used liberally in the Vietnam war, ketamine has experienced something of a renaissance in recent years, emerging as a powerful treatment for depression, anxiety, psychiatric disorders, and various chronic pain conditions. It's renaissance in the realm of pain management is controversial, though—according to the National Pain Report and clinicians around the country—it should not be overlooked.
Researchers first discovered the antidepressant effects of ketamine back in 2000, and have since come to recognize the drug’s ability to improve depressive symptoms—even in patients who had not responded to other methods of treatment—in a matter of hours. Private ketamine clinics, like ours, began to open their doors around 2013, bringing hope to many people who had none.
Ketamine has the potential to treat even the most severe cases of depression within a matter of hours. It has changed the lives of thousands of Americans. It has brought hope to those who have had none. And yet researchers still don’t know exactly how this drug works, the antidepressive mechanism still largely a mystery.
The holiday season is here, bringing along with it dozens of parties, days upon days of shopping, countless hours of gift wrapping, decorating, cooking, baking, entertaining…and, for millions of Americans, stress and depression. From dealing with unwelcome guests and overexcited children, to diet and exercise woes, the demands of the holiday season can be dizzying, to say the least.
At Vitalitas Denver, we use ketamine to treat patients suffering from a wide range of chronic pain conditions. From CRPS and fibromyalgia to Lyme disease and more, ketamine is absolutely one of the most effective non-opioid pain management options available to those suffering from chronic pain. But there is another condition that we’ve been able to treat remarkably successfully through the administration of ketamine infusions: migraine headaches.
When it comes to the relationship between chronic pain and depression, it’s very much a chicken-or-the-egg type of debate. The physical manifestations of depression—while hard to explain—can be quite painful: back pain, migraine headaches, etc. The mental manifestations of chronic pain can be equally troubling: stress, difficulty sleeping, low self-esteem, etc. Chronic pain and depression oftentimes work in a vicious cycle, where pain exacerbates the symptoms of depression, which, in turn, exacerbates the feelings of physical pain. And the cycle continues…
A difficult-to-diagnose bacterial infection caused by specific types of tick bites, Lyme disease – and, more specifically, chronic Lyme disease – is a debilitating condition that can leave patients with a worse quality of life than those suffering from such disorders as congestive heart failure, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and arthritis. The symptoms of Lyme are diverse: fatigue, trouble sleeping, joint and muscle pain, depression, cognitive impairment, neuropathy, and headaches are just a few of the manifestations. No matter how chronic Lyme disease presents itself, the impact is almost always devastating.
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.
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.