Ketamine – an abbreviated history
- 1962 – Synthesized by U.S. scientists in Detroit, Michigan.
- 1963 – Patented as a human-safe anesthetic in Belgium.
- 1966 – Patented as human anesthesia in the U.S.
- 1970 – Receives approval from U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in anesthesia.
- 1960s-1970s – Ketamine is the most widely used anesthetic for U.S. troops in Vietnam.
- 1970s – Veterinarians begin using the medicine.
- 1985 – Added to the list of Essential Medicines by the World Health Organization
What is ketamine used for medically?
It’s been well-documented that ketamine’s first use was for anesthesia. Since it was synthesized, the medicine has also been used as a powerful sedative in non-surgical settings. In fact, The United States Defense Health Board says that morphine is losing its status as the preferred anesthetic in “Tactical Combat Casualty Care pain management” and advises ketamine as a new option to battlefield analgesia.
“Ketamine has been widely used to provide analgesia in burn dressing changes, during excision and grafting, and for sedation. It has a major role in repeated anesthetics for burns dressings. The major advantage of ketamine in burns is that unlike other agents, it usually preserves airway and spontaneous respiratory function in addition to providing good sedoanalgesia.”
Acute Pain Management
Many doctors have started recommending ketamine for this purpose. Acute pain is a type of pain that is localized, has a specific cause, and goes away relatively quickly on its own as your body heals. But in some cases, particularly after surgery, you may need help managing acute pain.
Opioids are often the go-to choice for acute postoperative pain. “Unfortunately, possible hyperalgesia from opioids can result in increased analgesic requirements. Ketamine, however, can block these mechanisms; when administered at sub-anesthetic and repeated doses, ketamine has been shown to prevent the development of increased pain sensitivity and opioid tolerance.”
Chronic Pain Management
“While acute pain is a normal sensation triggered in the nervous system to alert you to possible injury and the need to take care of yourself, chronic pain is different. Chronic pain persists. Pain signals keep firing in the nervous system for weeks, months, even years.”
The odd thing about chronic pain, of course, is you do not necessarily remember when it began or what caused it. You may have had hip replacement surgery a decade ago, but even though your doctor says nothing is physically wrong, the pain continues. Or you may have realized that you have lower back pain, even though you’ve never had an injury or illness that would contribute to such pain.
In this case, a doctor may recommend ketamine to reduce the symptoms and discomfort in the affected area of your body. Ketamine may be prescribed to help manage chronic pain which could be caused by several conditions, including:
- Sprained muscles
- Broken bones
- A back injury
- Injury following a surgical procedure
- An ear infection
- Neurogenic pain, or pain caused by nerve damage
- Psychogenic pain (pain not caused by previous injury or disease or any apparent sign of harm outside or inside the nervous system)
Ketamine for adolescents?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than three million adolescents between 12- and 17-years old experience symptoms of depression every year. In a 2019 study by Pew Research Center, 70 percent of teenagers called depression and anxiety a “major problem” for “them and their peers.”
Ketamine has been used successfully to treat teenagers suffering from depression since the medicine was approved in 2019. A report by the U.S. National Institutes of Health was cautiously optimistic for its use with teenagers: “Ketamine was shown in youth to generally improve depressive symptoms, decrease acute suicidality, and reduce mood lability, though a number of subjects remained resistant to its treatment. These findings substantiate the need for further longitudinal studies investigating ketamine’s long-term safety, its efficacy, and abuse potential in the youth.”
A doctor specializing in pediatric psychiatry is best capable of assessing your child’s condition and treatment options.
Ketamine has a number of uses beyond its original intent for anesthesia, including managing symptoms of treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health and chronic pain conditions.
An innovative new treatment option, ketamine started as a fast-acting anesthetic and pain reliever. Research in the last two decades has shown that ketamine is a powerful new tool for the treatment of mental health and mood disorders or pain conditions.
Ketamine works to stimulate the growth and regrowth of neurotransmitters in the brain, essentially rewriting the parts of the brain causing distress. Up to 70% of patients may be able to find relief from the symptoms of depression after a series of IV ketamine infusions.
Contact us today to learn more about this innovative new treatment option.