Millions of people are living with treatment-resistant depression, which can be incredibly lonely, especially if you’ve tried various treatment methods in vain. For some people, no treatment relieves their symptoms long enough or adequately enough to make a difference. While the fact that one in three people with major depression is unable to find relief might be comforting in a way (as it means that the other two did find some relief), it doesn’t change the fact that there’s nothing to help them. This can lead to a whole host of issues, including how one acts, feels, and thinks. In some cases, it will only affect their mood. In others, it will also affect personal relationships and their overall productivity. And in others still, they may become a danger to themselves or even others.
Fortunately, researchers are making some serious headway with ketamine as a very fast and effective treatment option. It’s been FDA-approved as an anesthetic since the 1970s and was recently approved as a nasal spray in 2019. While IV infusions aren’t FDA-approved, many practitioners are administering them off-label and having great success.
How Many Ketamine Infusions Does a Person Need?
The number of ketamine infusions a person needs to get the full effect depends on several factors, including the purpose of their treatment and how effective (or not) the first couple of sessions are. Most patients will be assigned between four and seven treatments over many weeks. Depending on the results and side effects the patient experiences during the first couple of sessions, the infusions may need to be adjusted. As with any treatment, it is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. While many patients experience relief with one session, for others, it might take three to four sessions for the treatment to have an effect.
All conventional antidepressants need to build up in the system over a span of weeks or months before they have any kind of effect. Ketamine, on the other hand, can provide immediate relief from the symptoms of major depression after just one infusion. To be clear, depression is not even close to being treated or cured after just one session. It is meant to be a controlled therapy that helps patients restore brain function at a steady pace.
Patients with treatment-resistant depression and other severe mood disorders typically receive six to eight ketamine infusions over three to four weeks. While some people feel better after the first session, most don’t feel the effects until after three to four sessions are completed.
Most patients who find relief in ketamine infusions can benefit from regular maintenance infusions once their course of treatment ends. Maintenance infusion schedules vary depending on the person and diagnosis. Some patients require one to two doses per month, while others can manage their symptoms without getting any additional ketamine treatments.