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Ketamine for Depression

Ketamine for Depression

Table of Contents

What is Ketamine?

History

Discovered in 1962 by Honorary Doctor Calvin L. Stevens, Ketamine has gone on to serve several different purposes.​​​1 Nasal Spray is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of uses. We’re going to cover absolutely everything you need to know about Ketamine, including its nasal spray usage, recreational drug properties, side effects, and more.

Medically

Medicinally, Ketamine is often used as a sedative and can be used to treat depression and chronic pain. Because it takes effect within 10 minutes, it was ideal for battlefield applications. It is also a dissociative, meaning that higher doses result in out of body experiences with both visual and audio hallucinations and disconnection from surroundings.

Is It Addictive?

Ketamine is addictive. There aren’t any studies that show exactly how addictive it is but there are reports of some people experiencing cravings after only a few uses. Some people also develop significant tolerance to the drug early on which is a sign of pending addiction. This drug is a powerful anesthetic so spotting someone who’s high on it isn’t too difficult. Even low dosage chronic users will exhibit loss of motor skill, slurred speech, and reduced higher brain capacity.

What Class is It?

Ketamine is classified as a dissociative hallucinogen, NMDA receptor antagonist, and general anesthetic.

Where is It on the Schedule?

In the U.S., ketamine is listed as a schedule 3 drug. Keep in mind that there are a total of 5 schedules with danger ascending from 1-5. So, it is just past the halfway point. Schedule 3 drugs are drugs with moderate to low potential for abuse.

Ketamine for Depression

Ketamine uses for depression have been studied since the 1990s. There are still some scientific mysteries as to how exactly it helps but the general consensus is that it stimulates a brain chemical called glutamate. What happens is, ketamine synthesized for depression uses binds to the NMDA receptor and causes increased connections in the brain. This results in an improved ability to think happy thoughts.

Initially, it was thought that the cause of depression was due to a limited supply of serotonin (the feel-good chemical) and while this is partially true, depression has proven to be more complex than a single chemical. Ketamine compounds for depression also help reduce inflammation which helps the body regulate its hormone levels.

One of the biggest reasons ketamine is used for depression is due to its fast-acting abilities. Many depression treatments take effect over months but to those with suicidal thoughts, a few months might not be quick enough. This drug kicks into effect almost instantly and lasts longer than alternatives. It also can lessen the symptoms of depression if you have found little to no relief from other treatment options.

Ketamine Nasal Spray

Ketamine nasal spray is a fairly new product that became FDA approved in 2019 to treat depression.​​​2 In this medicinal form, it’s called esketamine. Because the nasal spray is FDA approved there’s a chance that it may be covered by insurance policies. After each dosage of the nasal spray, there is a 2-hour monitoring period to ensure the patient isn’t suffering any negative side effects.

Ketamine Infusion

A ketamine infusion is an intravenous (IV) procedure reserved only as a last resort for those who have severe, long-lasting depression and whose other treatments were ineffective. A patient may receive up to 6 infusions in only 2-3 weeks. The process can range from 30 mins – 1 hour and some patients feel reduced suicidal thoughts after the first treatment. It’s not uncommon to need a few treatments before feeling the effects. After each session, there is a 2-hour monitoring period to ensure there are no negative side effects.

Ketamine’s Side Effects

Because it is a powerful hallucinogen it can only be taken in a hospital environment. Patients that use ketamine nasal spray or take it intravenously often feel:

Nausea

Experience hallucinations

Dizziness

Vertigo

However, these symptoms subside or abate over time. You are unlikely to develop a tolerance because you are taking it in a controlled, medically supervised environment. This means if it works the first time then Ketamine will most likely relieve depression symptoms over the long-term.

What Does Ketamine Do?

Ketamine can cause a trancelike state due to intense feelings of euphoria and disassociation. However, as mentioned, the nasal spray can stimulate glutamate production in the brain which results in increased neural connectivity.

Let’s break it down a little further,

Your brain is filled with neuropathways. Your neurons connect to other neurons to form these pathways. These connections happen from learning, thinking, and healthy eating. These connections are vital to mental health, brain plasticity (its ability to adapt and learn), and mood. However, these pathways can break down over time due to age, and unhealthy eating. They can also break down due to increased cortisol levels.

When you’re stressed or depressed the body produces high amounts of cortisol, the stress hormone, which wreak havoc on the brain.

Ketamine increases the production of glutamate which helps counteract cortisol levels, increase serotonin levels, and makes other changes in the brain which in the end, can help reduce depression and suicidal thoughts.

How Long Does Ketamine Last?

How long the nasal spray or IV last is mostly dependent on the person. However, the general range is 5 – 30 minutes in terms of the hallucination and side effects. In terms of being able to detect ketamine in urine or hair samples, it is noticeable for up to two weeks.

In terms of treating depression both the nasal spray and IV were documented lasting up to 2 weeks after use.

Some people must routinely take ketamine throughout their life to stave off depression whereas others are “cured” after only a few treatments. This depends entirely on the individual and the stressors in their life that may bring about depressive thoughts.

Ketamine’s Half-Life

The half-life refers to the amount of time a chemical takes to reduce its value or effectiveness by half over time. Ketamine has an exceptionally short half-life of 2-4 hours.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Ketamine, as with most addictive substances, can cause withdrawal effects once a dependency has formed. It is still being studied but the most common side effects are:

Hallucinations

Disassociation

Agitation

Lack of appetite

Jitters or an inability to stay still

Lethargy

Hearing loss

Diminished higher thinking

Powerful ketamine cravings

Increased heart rate

Insomnia

The withdrawal effects can last anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks depending on the individual and level of addiction. Withdrawal effects will be lessened or nonexistent when using the nasal spray or IV to treat severe depression under medical supervision.

Treatment for Ketamine Addiction

If you or a loved one is suffering from ketamine addiction then reach out and talk to someone. There are many programs, studies, and support systems put in place for anyone suffering from addiction, and getting help is the first step.

Ketamine when used incorrectly is deadly and should only be sought after in medical environments for applied uses. If you suffer from depression and are looking into ketamine as an option then remember to give it time to work and to follow doctor’s orders. Stay safe, stay positive, and remember that depression isn’t all that you are.


Resources

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5126726/
  2. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-new-nasal-spray-medication-treatment-resistant-depression-available-only-certified

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