Today, millions of people around the world suffer from depression and depression-related mood disorders. Thankfully, there are many common frontline treatments are available to treat this class of disorders, including pharmaceutical drugs like Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs).
However, there are many people who live with depression who are resistant to conventional treatments. Sadly, there is no cure for major depressive disorder (MDD) or related depressive illnesses. In an attempt to find new ways to help treatment-resistant patients, researchers have turned to ketamine to see if it holds therapeutic potential.
Years of research indicates that ketamine has the potential to positively affect the lives of those living with depression. Do you want to find out more about this fascinating experimental medicine? In this article, our experts go over the basics of ketamine infusion therapy and how it’s administered in clinical settings.
Ketamine Infusion 101
A ketamine infusion is a kind of experimental medical procedure used to treat depression in those who are resistant to conventional therapies. Although ketamine treatment may sound intimidating to some, it is a simple procedure that encompasses fewer risks and other considerations when compared to an aesthetic-based treatment.
Ketamine is a psychoactive substance with dissociative and analgesic effects. When administered in medical dosages by trained professionals, ketamine has the potential to relieve pain and distress in depression patients. This effect has been demonstrated by numerous research studies conducted over the past decade.
The onset of ketamine infusion therapy is rapid. Within seconds, the effects of intravenous (IV) ketamine infusion are observed by the patient. Occasionally, side effects such as grogginess can occur. For this reason, we advise against drinking alcohol or taking substances with depressant effects after undergoing ketamine infusion.
Is Ketamine Infusion Safe?
According to a breakthrough 2015 research study, ketamine infusion has been determined safe and to encompass no greater risk than conventional antidepressant therapies. In the study, a 64-year-old retired civil servant successfully underwent ketamine infusion therapy without serious side effects or withdrawal symptoms.
Since ketamine has mind-altering potential when administered in high dosages, it is important that the informed consent of all patients is obtained beforehand. Also, ketamine infusion should only be carried out by licensed medical facilities under the supervision of a consultant anesthetist.
As the expression goes, “the dose makes the poison.” This, of course, is true of ketamine as it is with any other drug. It is important that those who undergo ketamine infusions take the proper medically appropriate dose if they want to stay safe. In most cases, this is roughly half a milligram of ketamine diluted in 100 milliliters of saline liquid.
Is Ketamine FDA Approved?
In short, no. Ketamine is not yet approved by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, this is likely to change in the coming years as ketamine gains increased recognition among the scientific and medical community.
Controlled studies have shown that ketamine is effective in treating major depressive disorders, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and other serious mental illnesses. In time, you can expect the FDA to approve of ketamine for pharmaceutical use. First, scientific data proving its efficacy and safety needs to continue being published.
Ketamine Infusion Therapies
For decades, ketamine has been recognized as one of the world’s most powerful anesthetic agents. Hospitals and veterinary clinics around the world have used ketamine successfully to treat neuropathic pain and other pain-related diseases safely. However, the doses used for psychiatric illnesses are far lower than that of physical ailments.
Ketamine infusion therapy is an experimental treatment that will join the ranks of ECT, TMS, and other secondary treatments for major depressive disorders. While mild to moderate depression can be effectively treated with psychotherapy and frontline medications, ketamine infusions can be used for those who are resistant to such treatment options.
How Long Does a Ketamine Infusion Take?
The ketamine administration process takes no longer than an hour in most cases. However, the majority of ketamine infusion clinics will require patients to wait for up to an hour after administration before discharging them.
The procedure does not require the patient to be rendered unconscious. Rather, ketamine infusion patients are awake and alert the entire time and are not subject to any physical pain or distress. In fact, the experience is generally considered to be mild, well-tolerated by the body, and short-lived for most patients.
How Ketamine Infusion Works
Unfortunately, without FDA approval it is impossible to diversify ketamine infusion treatment methods. At present, the majority of ketamine infusion clinics around the world offer intravenous administration only, which is administered via a supervised injection. However, in the future, we can expect oral or nasal applications to be approved for clinical use.
Since ketamine is a powerful substance, there are other drugs that are contraindicated for use with ketamine. For example, the entire benzodiazepine class of drugs used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, need to be avoided when undergoing ketamine infusion therapy. These include Ativan, Xanax, and Valium, among others.
The Infusion Experience
Most first-time patients are confused about what to expect when it comes to ketamine treatment. This is a perfectly natural concern to have since ketamine infusion is unlike most other therapies for depression or mood disorders.
Before receiving a ketamine infusion, you need to consult with the clinic that will render the treatment. There, a doctor will assess your condition and determine whether you are a good fit for the treatment based on your medical records and physician referrals.
After, you will be placed in a private room where a comfortable chair or bed is placed in the middle. A doctor or anesthetist will then locate a suitable vein on your arm for administration. Then, a small IV needle will be used to inject the ketamine. This process is very brief and results in minimal pain. No scarring or cutting will occur as a result of the injection.
Once the doctor has determined that you are not suffering from any side effects, you will be free to go. Within minutes you should feel at ease and fully functional to perform day-to-day tasks. However, some clinics may require a loved one or third party to briefly supervise you once you leave the clinic.