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When is Depression Considered Treatment-Resistant?

As a lead physician at Freedom Ketamine Infusion Centers, I’ve been treating patients struggling with mental health disorders throughout my career. My name is Aubrey Verdun, MD, I’m a double-board certified anesthesiologist and pain management physician, and today I’m delving into a topic at the core of our work: treatment-resistant depression.

About my work in this field

My path in medicine has been shaped by a relentless pursuit of understanding and healing. Having completed my undergraduate degree at The George Washington University and medical school at Wayne State University, my journey took me through Anesthesiology residency at The University of Chicago Hospital and a Pain Management Fellowship at Johns Hopkins University. Currently, I work in the Wounded Warrior Pain Care Initiative at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, serving those who bear the weight of acute and chronic pain, often intertwined with the complexities of mental health.

In my years of practice, I’ve encountered a growing number of patients whose battle with depression defies conventional treatment methods. This phenomenon, commonly known as treatment-resistant depression, presents a unique challenge that demands a comprehensive understanding and a nuanced approach.

When do we begin to call depression ‘treatment-resistant?’

Depression manifests in many different ways, varying person to person. Traditional treatments, including talk therapy and various classes of medications, often prove effective for many who try them. But for some, traditional methods never seem to take root. That’s when most clinicians agree that we’ve entered the realm of treatment-resistant depression.

The label of "treatment-resistant depression" is typically applied when a patient's symptoms continue, despite undergoing multiple rounds of “standard” treatments. It's not a mark of personal failure or an insinuation that the patient is beyond help. Rather, it’s a call to reevaluate our understanding of the condition and to explore alternative avenues for healing, both for the wellbeing of the patient individually, and society as a whole.

At Freedom Ketamine Infusion Centers, we specialize in a unique approach that has shown promise in breaking through the barriers of treatment-resistant depression. My extensive experience in treating patients with ketamine infusion therapy has, for me, proven its potential as a transformative tool in mental health.

Infusion chair with blanket that says Freedom Ketamine Infusion Centers
One of the comfortable infusion chairs at our offices

What is ketamine infusion therapy?

Ketamine, traditionally used by anesthesiologists for various medical conditions, has emerged as a compelling option for those battling depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and even in some cases, addiction. The most compelling data I've seen supports its efficacy in alleviating the persistent symptoms that characterize what we’ve come to know as treatment-resistant depression.

Ketamine infusion therapy can be used for patients with major depressive disorders, postpartum depression, bipolar depression, anxiety syndromes, and severe chronic pain conditions. We generally provide the medication under medical supervision very slowly over about 40 minutes. More information about our process can be found here.

Important considerations with treatment

One important thing to note, though: ketamine should be used as part of a broader treatment plan. In our practice, we believe that the true power of ketamine infusion therapy is unleashed when coupled with existing traditional methods, such as talk therapy. This dynamic provides an invaluable window for introspection and addressing the underlying issues that contribute to the complexity of each case.

My dedication to the field of pain management and mental health extends beyond the confines of our six offices throughout the DC Metropolitan area. It is my hope that this work will contribute to a more profound understanding of treatment-resistant depression, and help pave the way for full FDA clearance for ketamine therapy for mental health treatment, as well as continued research into alternative forms of treatment for mental health conditions. 

In the ever-evolving landscape of mental health, Freedom Ketamine Treatment Centers is proud to be part of the pursuit of greater mental healthcare options, and the restoration of hope to members of our community struggling with mental health disorders.

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