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What is Ketamine Therapy?

What is Ketamine Therapy?

So, what is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a medication that has been used for decades in hospital settings as an anesthetic. Ketamine was first synthesized in the 1960s and approved for human use in 1970 by the FDA. It was widely used during the final stages of the Vietnam War as a battlefield anesthetic.

However, its increased use for recreational purposes due to its dissociative effects in later years prompted its placement in the Schedule III of Controlled Substances in the U.S.

However, in recent years, researchers have begun to study ketamine and its potential as an alternative treatment for severe mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suicidal ideations.

The results are overwhelmingly positive, and some experts have gone ahead to call ketamine the biggest breakthrough in mental health treatment in the last five decades.

How Does Ketamine Work?

Ketamine’s mode of action is still not entirely understood. However, researchers believe that ketamine for mental health treatment works by targeting the brain’s glutamate system.

Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter that plays a vital role in the formation of new memories and connections between neurons (a process known as synaptic plasticity).

By manipulating the glutamate system, ketamine can help “reset” the brain leading to an improvement in mood and brain functionality. This “healing effect” on the brain helps manage the symptoms of mood disorders and can also temporarily reverse the course of these disorders, leading to prolonged relief.

Ketamine also has a strong analgesic (pain-relieving) effect which makes it an ideal treatment for chronic pain conditions.

What to Expect During Ketamine Infusion Therapy

Ketamine is mostly administered intravenously (IV infusion) in small controlled doses in a medical setting. A single infusion session typically lasts between 40 minutes and one hour. The treatment usually takes place in two phases: the induction phase and the maintenance phase.

The induction phase aims to provide rapid relief from symptoms and usually consists of 6-8 infusions over a period of 2-3 weeks. Most patients report significant or complete remission from their symptoms after this initial phase of treatment.

The therapeutic effects of ketamine can last for several weeks to months, so maintenance therapy or “booster” infusions are sometimes needed to keep the symptoms away for good.

The maintenance phase involves receiving infusions every once in a while or as instructed by your doctor. The frequency of the infusions will depend on the individual and their particular needs.

Thanks to the high efficacy of ketamine infusions in managing mood disorders, the FDA recently approved a ketamine-based nasal spray, Esketaine, to help curb very severe cases of depression.

The Safety of Ketamine Therapy

Ketamine therapy is generally well-tolerated among patients. Its many years of use as an aesthetic of choice for many doctors during minor procedures such as dental work and minor skin surgeries attest to its safety profile.

However, like with many other medications, some people may experience mild side effects that include dizziness, nausea/vomiting, increased blood pressure, mild dissociation/hallucination, and sweating.

These side effects are typically short-lived and go away in no time. However, it is worth noting that ketamine should only be administered in a medical setting under the supervision of a qualified medical professional.

Who Can Benefit From Ketamine Therapy?

Currently, ketamine is being used as an off-label medication and is mainly recommended for individuals who have not found relief from their mental health symptoms despite trying several traditional treatments.

This includes people with treatment-resistant forms of major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Its rapid modes of action and ability to provide relief within hours make ketamine an attractive new treatment option for debilitating pain and a lifesaver for people experiencing suicidal ideations.

Ketamine therapy may also be a good option for those who are looking for an alternative to traditional medications like antidepressants which often come with unpleasant or even dangerous side effects.

Final Thoughts

Ketamine therapy is truly an exciting discovery that brings a much-needed paradigm shift in the treatment of mental health disorders and chronic pain as traditional therapies have failed to live up to expectations.

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