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Ketamine Infusions as Alternative Medicine in Mental Health

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

The profound mental health crisis in the United States, exacerbated by COVID-19, has expedited an ongoing, international exploration into alternative treatment methods for those suffering from mental health disorders, especially treatment resistant depression (TRD). Researchers and health care providers alike have been pursuing a new application for an old drug - ketamine.

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that has been safely used in operating rooms for nearly fifty years. While ketamine may also be described as a psychedelic agent with potential hallucinogenic properties, the longstanding and safe use of ketamine in hospital settings has encouraged researchers to explore all the drug can do. In the last fifteen years, research has shed light on the fast-acting antidepressant properties it holds. While the transition from an operating room to a mental health setting may seem a stretch, the use of alternative medicine to enhance mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing is a longstanding historical practice that has been found throughout diverse cultures over time.

Ketamine for Depression

Ketamine can be administered orally, intranasally, or via IV. The most profound results have been seen with IV ketamine therapy, wherein a low dose of ketamine is delivered directly into the bloodstream, typically through a vein in the arm or hand, over about 40 minutes. Ketamine affects the brain in a variety of ways, but one important modality by which ketamine may treat depression is a process known as synaptogenesis. Synaptogenesis helps the neurons in one’s brain communicate more effectively with one another. This smoother communication is thought to improve one’s cognitive functioning, patterns of thought, and mood.

Historical Use of Psychedelics for Health

Similar therapeutic effects are being discovered through the use of other alternative medicines and modalities, including psilocybin, LSD, and MDMA. In 2008, archaeologists excavated a thousand-year-old ritual bundle, thought to belong to a shaman from a pre-Inca civilization, which included psilocybin. Comparable evidence of the use of peyote, which contains a psychedelic agent known as mescaline, has been found over the last 5000 years among indigenous cultures. While ketamine for depression may appear to be a departure from its intended use, the drug shares similar pharmacologic profiles with some of the most enduring chemical compounds known to humanity.


Woman holding IV bag

In the United States, the use of and interest in these agents dates as far back as 1897 and continued until 1967, at which point psychedelic drugs were banned by the US Government. Prior to the ban, however, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded over 130 grants for the study of LSD. While those studies took place over the course of only two decades, a long-term follow-up analysis found that the tens of thousands of participants had no increase in psychiatric problems. Today, the NIH has once again embraced an interest in alternative treatments for mental health, ketamine included, and is actively exploring FDA approval for IV ketamine infusions. The already extensive research regarding the use of ketamine for mental health has only confirmed what those in the operating room have been observing for fifty years: ketamine is a drug with an impressive safety profile and a profound ability to assist those suffering from depression, anxiety, and PTSD.


Find Your Path to Healing Today

Alternative medicines have a long history of being used for healing. At Freedom Ketamine Treatment Centers, our offices focus on safe, medically supervised administration of ketamine to help treat mental health disorders. Patient records are reviewed extensively before anyone is approved for treatment, and infusions are delivered in a slow, controlled setting. Our trained providers deliver quality, compassionate care under closely monitored conditions to help those suffering from depression take steps towards healing.

With six clinics across the DMV, our physician founded and led team is eager to serve you on your journey towards healthy outcomes. We make every effort to arrange appointment times around your schedule. Please refer to our list of Frequently Asked Questions, and contact us with any additional questions or concerns.


The photo used in this article is by Mat Napo.

 

References

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/ketamine-for-major-depression-new-tool-new-questions-2019052216673

https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/how-ketamine-relieves-symptoms-depression

Li L, Vlisides PE. Ketamine: 50 Years of Modulating the Mind. Front Hum Neurosci. 2016 Nov 29;10:612. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00612. PMID: 27965560; PMCID: PMC5126726.

Nikayin S, Murphy E, Krystal JH, Wilkinson ST. Long-term safety of ketamine and esketamine in treatment of depression. Expert Opin Drug Saf. 2022 Jun;21(6):777-787. doi: 10.1080/14740338.2022.2066651. Epub 2022 Apr 19. PMID: 35416105.

Nutt D. Psychedelic drugs-a new era in
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. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2019;21(2):139-147. doi: 10.31887/DCNS.2019.21.2/dnutt. PMID: 31636488; PMCID: PMC6787540.

Ramadan AM, Mansour IA. Could ketamine be the answer to treating treatment-resistant major depressive disorder? Gen Psychiatr. 2020 Aug 18;33(5):e100227. doi: 10.1136/gpsych-2020-100227. PMID: 32875273; PMCID: PMC7437682.


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