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Ketamine and Major Depressive Disorder

Ketamine and Major Depressive Disorder

Due to ketamine’s dissociative properties and sedative effects, the drug has been abused recreationally, but today it is quickly becoming popular as an off-label treatment for treatment-resistant depression. Although the FDA approved it for use as an anesthetic in 1970 and again as a nasal spray in 2019, they have yet to approve it as an IV infusion treatment. But because it is legal and well-studied, a licensed facility with an accredited staff can operate as a depression ketamine clinic, offering unusually fast and effective results.  

Two Decades of Research

Doctors at the Yale School of Medicine began researching ketamine as an antidepressant in the 1990s. Over the last two decades, Yale researchers have spearheaded ketamine research to help patients with severe depression who have found no relief in traditional antidepressant treatments. 

How Ketamine is Effective in Treating Depression

Yale research labs have shown how ketamine triggers glutamate production in the brain, which prompts it to form new neural connections. These new connections help the brain adapt and create new pathways. This production allows patients to repair parts of the brain damaged by stress while developing positive thoughts and behaviors. Furthermore, the positive thoughts being created through the neural connections are prompting the Yale researchers to explore the effectivity of talk therapy in order to get even longer lasting results.

Ketamine works by binding to receptors in the brain that are controlled by glutamate, a chemical that plays a significant role in mood regulation. Although researchers have yet to determine the exact role that glutamate plays in depression symptoms, they know that low levels of glutamate in the brain can cause symptoms of depression. As such, there is an impetus to further explore this connection.

Fast and Effective

One of the most critical problems ketamine solves is the duration in which it takes to affect the mind of a depressed person. Traditional antidepressants and depression treatments take weeks to months to have a noticeable effect on the patient, which presents untold dangers. Ketamine, on the other hand, often brings relief to the patient in as little as an hour. Moreover, it also seems to work for patients who did not respond to the classic antidepressant medications, with patients who had multiple other treatments fail them respond positively to ketamine the same day of their treatment.

Types of Ketamine Treatments

Although ketamine comes in several forms, the only one that’s FDA-approved as a treatment for depression is a nasal spray (Spravato) made with a type of ketamine called esketamine. This treatment is approved for adults who are suicidal, haven’t found symptomatic relief from antidepressant pills, or have major depressive disorder. For the treatment, they’re advised to continue on their current antidepressant while receiving esketamine in a clinic or at a doctor’s office, where a medical professional oversees the treatment process. Nonetheless, ketamine is not illegal, and as the infusion treatments are showing great promise, there are people for whom that will be the best route to take.