Ketamine can be another option to consider for individuals with depression and substance use disorders who are not responding to medications or other commonly used treatments.

Ketamine is a psychedelic drug that is most commonly used medically for anesthetic purposes, however it is also used recreationally. Ketamine has been found to relieve pain and induce feelings of calm and relaxation.

Recently, ketamine has been approved for addressing treatment-resistant depression, or depression that has not improved from other forms of therapy.

How does Ketamine work?

Aside from ketamine’s anesthetic and hallucinogenic effects, research has suggested that ketamine prompts the production of glutamate in the body. Through a cascade of events, it stimulates the brain to create new neural connections, a process called neuroplasticity. As a result, the brain is able to adapt and individuals with depression have the opportunity to develop more positive behaviors and thought processes. 

Currently, there are two main methods of administering ketamine.

  • Intravenous (IV): Ketamine is infused into the bloodstream and commonly used to treat depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and chronic nerve pain.
  • Intranasal (IN): A more potent form of Ketamine, otherwise known as esketamine is administered by a nasal spray. This method is commonly used to treat treatment-resistant depression (TRD).
  • Other methods include intramuscular or oral routes.

Intravenous and intranasal methods of ketamine are FDA-approved. Administration guidelines require ketamine to be carried out in a physician’s office or clinic under the supervision of a healthcare provider.

What are the benefits of Ketamine?

In comparison to antidepressants, ketamine alleviates symptoms of depression quickly. Instead of seeing results over a period of weeks from medications, individuals with treatment-resistant depression have felt improvements within hours. 

Ketamine also serves as a potent anti-inflammatory for nerves and increases the body’s natural pain relievers.

What are the side-effects of Ketamine?

Patients may experience few side-effects during or after treatment. Ketamine may cause nausea, vomiting, high blood pressure, headache, drowsiness, or dissociation. However, these side-effects subside as treatment continues.