Do Ketamine Infusions Help Depression?

Mood disorders like anxiety and stress are prevalent, with the U.S. Census Bureau finding a third of Americans are showing signs of depression. The good news is ketamine infusion therapy may help control symptoms of depression or anxiety.


Not all medicine needs to be dispensed orally. Instead, some doctors will administer medications like ketamine by injecting through a patient’s vein intravenously. Years ago, infusion systems could only be used in hospital settings, but now they are also available in standalone clinics and homes administered by specialized nurses or other staff. In newer systems, the ketamine dosage and flow rate are controlled digitally, ensuring you only receive the prescribed amount over a certain time period.


Wrong. That’s one of the great myths about the medicine, that and the one that it’s more known as a club drug than anything else. Don’t kid yourself into believing pop culture myths about ketamine. The drug originated as an anesthetic in 1962 and that’s still its top medicinal use. But ketamine also works as a sedative and is even used to help treat depression when dispensed as a nasal spray or through infusion therapy.


If you watch televised hospital dramas, patients getting treatment intravenously (infusion therapy) is a common sight. But did you ever stop to wonder about the history of the process? Probably not, but that’s ok. Since at least the Middle Ages, mankind had been looking for ways to transfer blood from human to human, mostly to cure or prevent illnesses, oftentimes failing or just being told the attempt was illegal. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Sir Christopher Wren made the first successful transfusion machine using a pig’s bladder. The 19th century saw more tweaks to infusion design, and by the mid-20th century, the machines were commonplace in hospitals across the country. But they’re more than just blood transfer devices.


The short answer is yes, most patients who undergo infusion therapy to treat depression experience positive outcomes in a short period of time. But getting to that point is often a long, arduous journey. In fact, COVID-19 has only made it worse. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that 40 percent of U.S. adults reported mental health issues as of June 2020, coinciding with the pandemic, ruined economy, and social and racial disruptions.
People who are depressed often struggle with symptoms like anger, sadness, fatigue, trouble sleeping, and many others. Women are more likely than men to be depressed, but the illness also affects children and teens. One common storyline in all cases is that mental health disorders can’t be cured, but their symptoms can be treated, often with a combination of psychotherapy and antidepressants or newer therapeutic options like ketamine infusion. But how does ketamine work?


All pain, mental and physical, is controlled by the brain. Though science and medicine have made strides over the last several decades in understanding the relationship between the two, no one knows for certain how to completely regulate the brain’s perception of pain and depression. Understanding the glutamate system is key, as it’s the starting point for the billions of neutrons transmitting information back and forth related to memory, punishment and reward, and moods, for example. When those neurotransmitters are out of whack, trouble starts brewing. Ketamine may strengthen neurotransmitters, thereby soothing common symptoms of depression in the process.


If you’re suffering from depression, you’ll need a diagnosis before treatment begins. First, a medical doctor will give you a physical, inquire about medical history, and run tests that could exclude conditions that could result in depression. Second, or instead of a physical, a therapist will perform a psychological exam focusing on emotions, behavior, and moods. Finally, the outcome of one or both exams is then compared to conditions in the DSM-5 for a formal diagnosis.


Instead of getting help to fight depression, most people do nothing, either out of shame, lack of resources or they don’t recognize there’s a problem. People with mental illness who commit to treatment usually undergo psychotherapy, self-help, take antidepressants, or take medicine. Some try alternatives like ketamine infusion therapy.


If you are suffering from depression, get help, and don’t wait for the symptoms to worsen. Talk with your doctor or mental healthcare professional about therapy or medication best suited to your condition and ask about the health benefits and potential risks of using a newer treatment like ketamine infusion therapy. Contact us today!


What Part Of The Brain Does Ketamine Affect?

The human brain is the most complex organism known to man – containing more than 100 billion neurons – and it’s the pain control center of our lives. If you’re experiencing mental or physical discomfort that persists despite conventional treatment, you may benefit from alternative drugs like ketamine which can offer relief.


Originally synthesized as an anesthetic in 1962, ketamine was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration eight years later for human use. Today, the drug is still called on for anesthesia for patients having minor surgical procedures and as a sedative for irate or agitated persons. Over the last four decades, ketamine has been subjected to much study and debate about its efficacy in treating symptoms of mental illness, including bipolar disorders, depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder.


One key to ketamine’s potential therapeutic value in helping the brain manage pain is its effect on the glutamate pathway. Glutamate is an important neurotransmitter in the brain and controls large swaths of our nervous system. If the glutamate receptors are overactive, you could experience long-term depression, but ketamine does its thing by blocking glutamine receptors. The drug also has strong anti-inflammatory properties, which is one of the reasons it may work to reduce chronic inflammation associated with depression.
Ketamine and its therapeutic effect on our brain are subject to much debate. Researchers know that ketamine has been demonstrated to lower some of the symptoms of mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and physical discomfort associated with chronic pain, but even scientists on the side of caution also advocate more thorough testing thanks to its potential benefits.


Several areas of the human brain may be affected by ketamine, but research has yet to conclude the power the drug has on these compromised regions. Parts of the brain affected by ketamine:

Medial prefrontal cortex

The Medial prefrontal cortex is in the frontal lobe. Chronic pain affects decision-making, self-control, processing risk and fear, how emotions get regulated, and power over amygdala activity. This area controls emotion-driven behaviors. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health: “Chronic pain is considered to develop as a result of the persistence of pain memory and inability to erase pain memory after injury.”


The Amygdala is situated near the hippocampus, in the temporal lobe’s frontal portion. The brain’s decision-making ability, determining punishment versus rewards, memory, and emotional responses are affected by chronic pain. This region of the brain is important in forming affective disorders.

Periaqueductal gray

The Periaqueductal gray surrounds the cerebral aqueduct in the tegmentum of the midbrain.

Anterior cingulate cortex

This is housed in the cingulate cortex’s frontal area. It’s here our brain works overtime regarding chronic pain, performing most of the heavy lifting. This region has some say in autonomic functions, attention allocation, morality, and ethics, anticipating rewards, controlling impulses, decision-making, emotion, and understanding physical pain.


The Hippocampus is located in the medial temporal lobe. This is where the brain works on the consolidation of memories, spatial orientation, navigation, emotion, and learning. The Hippocampus belongs to the limbic system, with changes in it caused by the brain’s acknowledgment of chronic pain.

Nucleus accumbens

The Nucleus accumbens lives in the basal forebrain. This is where aversion, reward, interpretation of motivation, reinforcement learning, and the brain’s interpretation and reaction to addiction happens. Brain research shows the transition of pain to something more chronic is controlled by the malleability of the nucleus accumbens.


The experts at MedicalNewsToday say that “Ketamine is safe to use in controlled, medical practice. Used outside the approved limits, its adverse mental and physical health effects can be hazardous. Like any form of medication, you need to consult with a medical professional before use.


Though ketamine has been around for almost 60 years, its therapeutic use in calming symptoms of mental illnesses has only been researched for about 20 years. Based on your illness, symptoms, and under optimal conditions, treatments like ketamine can help minimize distress from bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.

If you or a loved one have questions about the clinical use of ketamine we can help. Contact us today to learn more about the innovative new treatments that we offer.

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