Ketamine Treatment for Depression and PTSD.
Ketamine is the new kid at pharmacology school. Ketamine was a drug originally developed as a veterinary tranquilizer or a “dissociative anesthetic.” Though it gained its notoriety as a drug of abuse during the rave years of the late 80s and early 90s, ketamine began proving itself to the medical community on the battlefields of Vietnam. The anesthetic tranquilizer was ideal for wounded soldiers being extracted from volatile situations. In the years since combat medics and first responders around the world have used ketamine in this capacity to great effect.
There is, however, groundbreaking new research into the drug’s psychotherapeutic benefits, particularly in the treatment for depression and PTSD. Though ketamine’s exact chemical mechanism remains unknown, it is understood that the drug operates on the brain’s NMDA receptors. Ketamine treatment for depression binds to the NMDA receptors, which increases the levels of the neurotransmitter glutamate. The NMDA blockage and the co-occurring abundance of glutamate activate AMPA receptors. AMPA receptors release chemicals that allow neurons to communicate with one another along new pathways in a process called “synaptogenesis.” Ketamine may also reduce neurological inflammation.
The most incredible aspect of ketamine is its rapid efficacy. Unlike SSRIs and other forms of therapy, ketamine can improve the patient’s health condition almost immediately. Thus, ketamine treatment proves particularly effective for patients who are struggling with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts or are in a crisis. In a 2014 trial, 29 patients suffering from PTSD were given intravenous ketamine. After the first day, the group that received ketamine treatment had an average score on the IES-R scale (a metric for measuring traumatic experience) that fell from 46 to 14.
That research happened nearly six years ago. Now deployed by medical organizations like the Veteran’s Administration, ketamine treatment offers countless examples of diminished depression and mitigated trauma. Though ketamine treatment does have side effects (high blood pressure, disorientation, hallucination) and the drug has potential for abuse, the misplaced stigma surrounding “special K” is disappearing. Doctors around the world are hailing ketamine as a miracle drug treatment for mental health disorders such as depression and PTSD. Now that’s special. Chicago Rehab Center offers PTSD treatments and therapies to help those live healthy lives both physically and mentally.
Reviewed by Dr. Beth Dunlap
Dr. Beth Dunlap, a board-certified addiction medicine and family medicine physician, is the medical director at CRC Institute, where she is responsible for overseeing all the integrated medical services at the Institute. Beth completed medical school, residency, and fellowship at Northwestern University, where she continues to serve on the faculty as a member of the Department of Family and Community Medicine. She has extensive experience in addiction medicine at all levels of care, and her clinical interests include integrated primary care and addiction medicine, harm reduction, and medication-assisted treatment.