Ketamine has been around for at least five decades. It was widely used on the battlefield to help wounded soldiers during the Vietnam War, and is frequently used by veterinarians as an animal tranquilizer.
In recent years, the drug has found favor as an illegal party drug or “club” drug. Often known as “Special- K,” ketamine brings on hallucinations, euphoria and out-of-body experiences known as “K-hole”. Unfortunately, it is associated with a number of side effects ranging from poor judgment, confusion and aggression to rapid heartbeat, severe respiratory distress and overdose.
A Lifesaver for Suicidal Patients?
Somewhere along the way, somebody discovered that ketamine appears to relieve depression when nothing else has worked. Since 2000, a number of small studies confirm that the drug improve depressive symptoms in a relatively short time.
Ketamine has proven to be a “lifesaver” for many suicidal patients. Oddly, the drug seems to completely erase thoughts of suicide, even in cases when feelings of depression are still present.
Researchers aren’t yet sure how ketamine relieves depression. They think it alters the way brain cells communicate with one another, unlike antidepressants that work by shifting the neurotransmitter balance associated with severe depressive disorder.
In the United States, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted ketamine-based drugs with special breakthrough therapy status – an expedited designation for treatment of serious conditions. At this time, the drug is available on a limited basis, and in only a few states.
How Ketamine Treatments Work
Ketamine is administered by physicians at designated clinics. It is usually administered intravenously, but some providers may offer the drug in nasal sprays or via other routes of administration. Generally, doses are administered every other day for a couple of weeks.
Side effects are short-lived, generally consisting of wooziness, nausea, fuzzy vision and an out-of body sensation. Ketamine can also spike heart rate and blood pressure, but usually isn’t a problem for people with healthy hearts. Studies have been limited so the long-term effects are unknown; however, addiction is a distinct possibility.
Although ketamine produces benefits, it shouldn’t be considered a miracle cure for depression. Long-term improvement requires a long course of treatment, and is most beneficial when used in conjunction with therapy, counseling and biochemical restoration of the body.
Ketamine therapy isn’t cheap, and treatments generally aren’t covered by most insurance plans. However, American pharmaceutical companies are working feverishly on a variety of ketamine-related drugs.
Ketamine may also be helpful as a treatment for post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety or other mood disorders.
Although depression is a difficult disorder, it is treatable. If you or somebody you love is struggling with severe depression or thoughts of suicide, don’t wait to seek help. Consider residential treatment for depression. Enter drug and alcohol treatment or rehab if depression accompanies substance abuse.