What is Ketamine and How Does it Work?
Ketamine is a medication that is primarily used as a dissociative anaesthetic, meaning it induces a state of dissociation or detachment from one’s surroundings. It was first developed in the 1960s and has since been widely used for both human and veterinary purposes.
As an anaesthetic, ketamine produces a state of sedation, pain relief, and amnesia while preserving respiratory function and maintaining cardiovascular stability. It’s commonly administered intravenously or intramuscularly, although other routes of administration, such as intranasal or oral, can also be used.
Ketamine’s mechanism of action involves antagonising the effects of a neurotransmitter called glutamate in the brain. By blocking certain glutamate receptors known as NMDA receptors, ketamine disrupts the transmission of signals between the conscious mind and the rest of the brain, resulting in a dissociative state. This dissociation can manifest as a sense of detachment from one’s body, altered perceptions, and a dream-like or hallucinatory state.
In addition to its use as an anaesthetic, ketamine has gained attention for its potential therapeutic applications, particularly in the field of psychiatry, this is known as ketamine treatment. Research has suggested that ketamine treatment may be effective in treating depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), epileptics, and certain types of chronic pain. Ketamine treatments for these conditions often involve lower doses and different administration methods compared to their use as an anaesthetic.
It’s important to note that while ketamine treatment has valuable medical uses, it is also a controlled substance due to its potential for abuse and recreational use. Misuse or high doses of ketamine can lead to profound hallucinations, delirium, and potentially dangerous dissociative effects. Therefore, the use of ketamine should always be closely supervised by a qualified medical professional to avoid ketamine addiction and abuse occurring.
Ketamine Treatment Therapies
As ketamine treatment attracts attention for its therapeutic potential for various mental health disorders, NCBI explains that it’s particularly noted for treatment-resistant depression. Ketamine has shown promising results in the treatment of severe depression that do not respond to other treatments. It has been found to have rapid-acting antidepressant effects, with some patients experiencing improvements within hours or days after administration. Ketamine is often administered intravenously in a controlled clinical setting.
Ketamine has also been investigated as a potential treatment for PTSD. Some studies suggest that ketamine administration can reduce the symptoms of PTSD, including intrusive thoughts and avoidance behaviours. It may help disrupt the consolidation of traumatic memories and promote their reintegration, allowing individuals to process their trauma more effectively.
Another mental health disorder that ketamine has the potential to treat is anxiety. Ketamine has demonstrated anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects and has been explored as a treatment option for various anxiety disorders, such as generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It may provide rapid relief from anxiety symptoms, helping individuals engage in therapy and make progress more effectively.
While ketamine shows promise as a treatment option, it is typically used in controlled clinical settings under the supervision of medical professionals. The optimal dosage, frequency, and long-term effects of ketamine treatment are still being studied, and it is not yet considered a first-line treatment for these conditions and requires further research.
Ketamine Treatment Process
The drug Ketamine is able for use in several different forms. The only type that the FDA has approved as a medication for depression is the nasal spray Esketamine (also known as Spravato). Ketamine is prescribed for adults who either haven’t been helped by antidepressant pills, experience major depressive disorders or have suicidal thoughts. In this method, a measured dose of ketamine is sprayed into the nostrils and absorbed through the nasal mucosa.
Intranasal ketamine offers a non-invasive and convenient option for administration, and it has been studied for the treatment of depression and acute pain. For people who experience treatment-resistant depression, a nasal spray is typically used twice a week for 1 to 4 weeks; then once a week for weeks 5 to 9; and then once every week or two from then on.
Intravenous administration is the most common and well-established method for ketamine administration. It involves injecting the medication directly into a vein. IV infusion allows for precise dosage control and rapid onset of effects. It is often used for the treatment of severe depression and other mental health conditions in controlled clinical settings.
Another method of ketamine administration is through oral lozenges or tablets. This approach involves ingesting the medication, and it is being explored as a potential treatment option for depression. Oral ketamine offers advantages such as ease of administration and reduced need for medical supervision compared to IV infusion. However, it may have a slower onset and less predictable absorption compared to other methods.
Potential Benefits of Ketamine Treatment for Depression
Ketamine treatment has shown several potential benefits, particularly in the context of mental health disorders. One of the most remarkable benefits of ketamine treatment is its rapid onset of action. Unlike many traditional antidepressants that can take weeks or even months to show noticeable effects, ketamine has been found to provide rapid relief from symptoms.
Some individuals experience improvements within hours or days after receiving ketamine. This rapid response can be crucial, especially for individuals with severe depression or suicidal ideation who require immediate relief.
Ketamine treatment can also help alleviate symptoms of depression, such as persistent sadness, loss of interest, and low energy levels. Ketamine treatment may enhance mood, increase motivation, and improve overall emotional well-being. Providing a rapid improvement in depressive symptoms can help individuals regain a sense of normalcy and engage more effectively in their daily lives.
As with many treatment plans, an individualised approach is key to success. To ensure ketamine treatment works effectively for you, it’s important to ensure you’re receiving a personalised treatment plan which includes consistent monitoring; this will help you to achieve optimal results.
While ketamine treatment can offer potential benefits, it is important to be aware of the potential side effects associated with its use. These include various psychological effects, such as dissociation, hallucinations, confusion, and changes in perception. Ketamine treatment can also cause temporary increases in blood pressure and heart rate, alongside nausea and vomiting. It’s essential to discuss the potential side effects and risks with your doctor to make an informed decision.