Ketamine is a medication that has been used for decades as an anesthetic. More recently, it has been found to be helpful in treating depression, especially when other medicines have not worked. Ketamine works differently than most antidepressants, which may be why it is effective in treating some forms of depression that are resistant to other treatments.
What Is Depression?
Before discussing how ketamine works differently from other antidepressants, it is important to first understand what depression is and how it affects people. Depression is a mental health disorder that can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender. It often causes feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable.
Other symptoms of depression may include:
- Feeling irritable or anxious
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Fatigue and decreased energy levels
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
While it is normal to feel sad or down at times, these feelings usually go away after a short period of time. When these feelings persist and start to interfere with everyday life, it may be a sign of depression.
There is no single cause of depression, but many factors can contribute to its development. These can include genetic factors, environmental stressors, chronic health conditions, certain medications, or imbalances in brain chemistry.
Types of Depression
There are many different types of depression, each with its own unique set of symptoms. Major depressive disorder is the most common type of depression, and it can cause severe symptoms that interfere with work, school, family, and social life. Other types of depression include:
- Persistent depressive disorder (also known as dysthymia)
- Postpartum depression
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
- Bipolar disorder
Despite the many different types of depression, several effective treatments can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Antidepressants are one common treatment option, but in some cases, they may not be effective or well-tolerated. In these cases, other treatments, such as ketamine therapy, may provide more benefit.
What is Ketamine?
Ketamine is a controversial new treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD), or depression. It’s an emerging therapy for patients who haven’t responded to other forms of treatment, including antidepressants and psychotherapy.
How Does Ketamine Work?
Ketamine works in ways that are different from traditional antidepressants. These drugs can take weeks or even months to start working. That’s because they affect the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, called neurotransmitters, which can take a while to rebalance.
Ketamine works quickly by changing how information is passed between different parts of the brain. This may help patients with severe depression re-establish connections in their brain that have become disrupted. Since ketamine kicks in so quickly, it may serve as a useful “bridge” to more traditional antidepressant therapies that take longer to work.
What Are Ketamine Side Effects?
However, ketamine is also known for its side effects. These include temporary changes in perception and feelings that can be unpleasant, such as hallucinations and confusion. For this reason, ketamine is typically only used for a short time in low doses.
Ketamine has shown promise as a treatment for depression that is resistant to other medications. Unlike traditional antidepressants, it can kick in quickly and start working within a few hours. But its side effects may be too difficult for some patients to manage, so it’s crucial to work with your doctor to determine if ketamine is the right treatment option for you.
Who is a Good Candidate for Ketamine?
If you’ve tried other treatments for depression with no success, you may be a good candidate for ketamine. Talk to your doctor about whether this treatment is right for you. They can help determine if it’s an appropriate option, and they can also work with you to manage any side effects that might arise along the way.
Examples of situations that indicate you may be a good candidate for ketamine include:
- Depression that doesn’t respond to traditional antidepressants
- Severe depression that causes significant impairment and interferes with your ability to function normally
- Constant feelings of hopelessness or despair
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
- Difficulty maintaining relationships due to depression symptoms
If you have tried other treatments for depression but continue to experience symptoms, ketamine may be worth considering. Talk to your doctor about whether this treatment is right for you and how to manage any side effects that arise along the way.
What Are the Risks of Ketamine?
Ketamine is a powerful drug that has been shown to help treat depression, but it’s also associated with some risks. These include:
- Short-term side effects: Ketamine can cause short-term side effects, such as hallucinations, confusion, and dissociation. These effects typically go away within a few hours.
- Long-term side effects: There is a potential for long-term side effects, such as damage to the bladder, when ketamine is taken for long periods.
- Addiction potential: Ketamine can potentially be addictive, and some people may find it difficult to stop taking this medication when they no longer need it.
To minimize these risks, it’s critical to work closely with your doctor to determine if ketamine is the best treatment for you. They can help you manage any side effects that may occur and monitor your progress to make sure the medication is working as intended.
Is Ketamine The Right Choice?
Ketamine is a medication that can effectively treat depression when other medications have not worked. While it works differently than most antidepressants, it can still be an option worth considering, especially if you’ve tried other available treatment options.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that the cost of ketamine treatments can vary depending on the facility where you receive them and your insurance coverage. Without insurance, ketamine treatments range between three and four thousand dollars per treatment.
Treatments include several ketamine infusions over a pre-determined length of time. Be sure to talk to your doctor about the costs involved and whether ketamine is a treatment option that makes sense for you.