What is Ketamine and How Does it Work?
Updated: Jul 28
Wondering what exactly Ketamine is and how it works? You may have heard that Ketamine is available for the treatment of major mood disorders such as depression, PTSD, anxiety as well as chronic pain, but beyond that you may not know much more. Certainly there is a bit of a stigma surrounding Ketamine because, unfortunately, at times, it has been obtained illegally and sold as the street drug known as “Special K.” However, to date, drug task forces are increasingly cracking down on illegal prescription drug sales, particularly because of the widespread opioid epidemic. In instances of illegal use, Ketamine can be unsafe. However, the same holds true for drugs such as OxyContin, Codeine, Vicodin, Adderall, Ambien, Xanax, and many others. When misused, prescription drugs can be dangerous, addictive, and life-threatening. So what is the difference and how does Ketamine work?
Main Ketamine Considerations
Ketamine is not available by prescription
Patients cannot administer Ketamine themselves
Ketamine is non-addictive
Patients must demonstrate a clinical need
Ketamine is only available at a certified doctor’s office or clinic
What is Ketamine
I address this topic in depth elsewhere on my blog, but most importantly, the World Health Organization (WHO) deems, “Ketamine [is] one of the most essential medications due to its therapeutic effects and wide margin of safety.” Developed in the 1960s and approved for use in the United States in 1970, Ketamine works by inducing both hypnotic (sleep-inducing) and analgesic (pain-relieving) effects. Ketamine is deemed a complete anesthetic with minimal effects on cardiovascular function, respiratory drive, and airway reflexes. It is used extensively for pediatric and adult treatment in surgery, emergency departments, trauma medicine, and war zones.”
The point here is that Ketamine has been around for a long-time and there is a lot of research supporting its safety. Additionally, in recent years a sister compound known as esketamine has been approved by the FDA for treatment-resistant depression. Esketamine is a nasal spray and has similar properties to ketamine. Like ketamine, esketamine is only available at a certified doctor’s office or clinic. The difference is that esketamine is FDA approved for treatment-resistant depression and administered via a nasal spray whereas ketamine is still off label and administrated via IV infusion. Primarily, esketamine is simply a bit easier to administer, however, in my twenty years working in anesthesia, pain management, and alternative medicine, my patients have experienced better results with IV Ketamine infusions.
The conversation about esketamine and FDA approval is important and brings us one step closer in the search for better and more effective mood disorder treatments. The science and research shows that ketamine is effective for treatment-resistant depression and gives patients hope that is otherwise lost when prescription drugs fail. If a patient is suffering from treatment-resistant depression I believe patients experience better and more lasting results with ketamine IV infusions, mainly due to better absorption rates with iv infusions.
How IV Ketamine Infusions work
When a patient has a demonstrated need for ketamine infusions, treatment induction is recommended. Treatment induction includes 6 one 45-60 minute sessions spread over a 2-3 week period. Research has shown this regimen to be the most effective induction method. At the start of each treatment, the patient's baseline vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, oxygenation are checked. Then, treatment begins on an intravenous (IV) line, which takes about 45-60 minutes. During this time patients relax in an environment that is private and quiet. Additionally, patients are monitored intermittently throughout the infusion and may listen to their own choice of soothing music. Patients typically feel effects within the first 4 treatments, and are recommended to continue their regular care with a mental health practitioner. Additionally, ketamine booster infusions are generally needed periodically following the induction treatment to maintain relief. During treatment, Ketamine works by modulating Glutamate at specific receptors in the brain. In effect, Ketamine works to retrain how neurons respond, effectively leading to relief, and even remission following treatment induction. Most patients express feeling more relaxed and at ease after individual treatments and report continued relief throughout the induction period.
To find out if ketamine IV infusions are right for the treatment of your depression, PTSD, anxiety or chronic we invite you to schedule a free consultation with us today.
If you would like to learn more about Avesta Ketamine and Wellness, please review our About Us page our Ketamine Infusions page. Also, follow us on our new Facebook page for updates, tips, ideas and more.