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Ketamine Matches Electroconvulsive Therapy Effectiveness, Minimizes Side Effects

In a study published in June 2023, researchers at Massachusetts General Brigham evaluated how well ketamine works in treating depression compared to Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). They found that 55 percent of the patients who received ketamine infusions had improved symptoms without many side effects.

The study compared these two treatments as ketamine infusion therapy is relatively up-and-coming, and ECT has been used historically, but can be controversial. ECT can cause memory loss and requires the use of anesthesia. It also “is associated with social stigma” according to Amit Anand, director of Psychiatry Translational Clinical Trials at Mass General Brigham and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

This study is the biggest one yet comparing ketamine and ECT for depression, and it's the only one that’s looked at how both treatments impact memory. With around 21 million adults in the U.S. diagnosed with depression, more studies like this are necessary to help prove the efficacy of cutting-edge options like ketamine infusion therapy.

How the ketamine and ECT study worked

The study included 403 patients who were split into two groups. One group got ECT three times a week, and the other got ketamine infusions twice a week for three weeks. The researchers followed the patients for six months, asking them questions about how they felt and testing their memory.

The results

The results showed that 55 percent of the people who got ketamine and 41 percent of those who got ECT felt at least 50 percent better and had an improved quality of life that lasted for six months. ECT caused memory loss and other problems, but ketamine didn't have many side effects, other than a temporary feeling of being “disconnected” during the infusion.

The researchers admit that the study has some limitations, such as relying on what patients self-reported about their experiences. But they also believe that its patient-centered approach makes it useful for real-world situations. The team is now planning another study to see if ketamine has the same positive effects for people with acute suicidal depression.

This study is the biggest real-world comparison of ECT and ketamine so far. It shows that ketamine is just as effective as ECT for treating depression, and it could be an incredible option for patients who experience the debilitating symptoms of treatment-resistant depression.

Find hope with us

If you’re interested in trying ketamine infusion therapy, consider Freedom Ketamine Infusion Centers, with six convenient offices spread across the DMV area. Our dedicated team of Board-Certified Physicians is passionate about delivering compassionate and advanced mental healthcare at our locations in Bethesda, Rockville, Columbia, Vienna, Reston, and Marshall.

Experience a safe infusion process that is typically free of side effects and comes highly-recommended. If you're ready to take the first step toward a more hopeful tomorrow, reach out to us today to schedule a free phone initial consultation with one of our Physicians.

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