Every year in the United States, more than 16 million people suffer from at least one major depressive episode, and many of those people deal with chronic, ongoing symptoms that can be difficult to manage, even with medicine and therapy.
These people have what’s sometimes referred to as treatment-resistant depression, a debilitating condition that affects up to 30% of people diagnosed with major depressive disorder.
Decades of research have attempted to unlock new ways of managing treatment-resistant depression, mostly with low levels of success. More recently, researchers and doctors have been turning to an anesthetic medication called ketamine to help manage resistant depression and some types of anxiety — with very good results.
As lead clinician at Avesta Ketamine and Wellness, Ladan Eshkevari, PhD, CRNA, offers custom-tailored ketamine infusion therapy for patients in Chevy Chase and McLean, Virginia, providing the care and support each patient needs for better health and a better quality of life.
Keeping in mind Brain Awareness Week (March 15-21), the team at Avesta Ketamine and Wellness offers a quick review to help you learn about this novel treatment.
Used for decades as a surgical anesthetic, ketamine has only recently been studied as a possible treatment for depression and anxiety disorders.
Researchers still don’t know exactly how ketamine works to combat these mental health issues, but they do know that ketamine works differently than “regular” antidepressant medicines — and that’s what makes it so effective in hard-to-treat patients.
Chronic depression affects the brain in different ways. Studies indicate that people with depression often have problems with nerve signaling and communication pathways inside the brain.
Typical antidepressants like SSRIs and MAOIs work on single pathways and receptors to help improve signaling that plays a role in mood regulation. But they don’t work for everyone — and even when they do work, their effect can be limited.
Ketamine works differently. Instead of focusing on serotonin or dopamine (two common targets for antidepressants), ketamine targets glutamate, a common chemical messenger that plays a critical role in mood and mood disorders.
In fact, studies show that genes associated with glutamate signal transmission are also strongly associated with major depressive disorder.
How ketamine works on glutamate isn’t clear either. Initially, researchers believed ketamine helped promote better communication between nerve synapses inside the brain, restoring normal signaling that gets “short-circuited” in people with depression.
A recent study confirms that’s true — but it also shows that ketamine goes one step further by helping to regrow and repair nerve “circuits” that are damaged by chronic depression, restoring normal function so these circuits can transmit signals related to mood and well-being.
In fact, that study also found that ketamine seems to act in two ways, first helping to improve signaling and communication in the brain in just a matter of hours, then growing new nerve synapses later on.
Ketamine typically isn’t given as a first-line treatment for depression. Instead, it’s reserved for people who have not found success with traditional antidepressants. If that describes your experience, take a moment to learn about ketamine treatment at our practice.
Since a ketamine nasal spray was recently approved by the FDA, our practice offers both nasal and IV ketamine infusions, allowing the solution to enter the bloodstream directly. The infusions have been found to be most effective, and are performed in a quiet area where you can relax, with each session taking about 45-60 minutes.
We also offer FDA-approved Spravato, a nasal spray derivative of ketamine.
Ketamine can cause mild nausea in some people. For that reason, we also provide anti-nausea medications prior to treatment.
The effects of ketamine are felt quickly — sometimes within a matter of hours after treatment. Scientists are quick to point out, though, that ketamine is not a “permanent” cure. The effects will wear off eventually, and patients benefit from ongoing treatment, combined with their regular depression treatments, including therapy.
At our practice, we recommend six treatment sessions provided over 2-3 weeks, followed by an individualized maintenance phase.
Depression and anxiety disorders can wreak havoc on your life and the lives of your loved ones. If traditional treatments haven’t provided you with the relief and help you need, ketamine could be the solution you’re looking for.
To learn more about ketamine therapy, call or text the office or send us an email to book a free, confidential consultation.