Ketamine is not a new drug. It has been around since the 1960s, used in the clinical setting as an anesthetic. Even back then, scientists noticed patients experiencing dissociation, meaning they might appear to be awake, but they are unresponsive to external stimuli. That is the reason why patients looked like they are in a trance.
But, does ketamine treatment work to manage the symptoms of depression? In a word, yes. But it is not for everybody.
On March 5, 2019, the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration approved the first-ever Ketamine-based nasal spray for depression. The medication targets individuals who have not responded to other treatments for their condition.
Before anything else, you need to know some facts about depression first.
The Depressing Stats
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 17 million adults in the US had experienced one major depressive episode in 2017. For prevalence, females are more susceptible to experiencing depression (8.7%) compared to their male counterparts (5.3%). In terms of the demographics, those belonging to ages 18-25 are more vulnerable to experiencing a depressive episode.
Depression increases the risk of suicide. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services revealed that two percent of depressed people who are in an outpatient setting would commit suicide. Interestingly enough, if they are in an inpatient setting, the suicidal rates double.
Meanwhile, six percent of people treated for depression who previously tried to commit suicide will succeed.
While women outnumber men in terms of prevalence, males are more likely to die by suicide (7%) compared to females (1%).
The Science Behind the Treatment
But going back to the question, “Does ketamine treatment work?”
At the outset, even if ketamine has been around for more than 60 years, nobody knows precisely how it works.
Scientists believe that the drug revitalizes the connections between neurons (called synapses). In effect, it rewires the brain. The ketamine treatment is vastly different from the mainstream protocols used by therapists to address depression. Whereas the standard depressants target dopamine, norepinephrine, or serotonin, ketamine stimulates the glutamate.
In simple terms, ketamine, when administered under controlled conditions, will affect areas in your brain that govern mood. As ketamine creates new neural pathways, the patient will then develop more positive behaviors and thoughts.
What to Expect from Ketamine Treatment Procedure?
First, not everybody is a candidate for this type of procedure. You need to be screened by a psychiatrist to determine if the treatment is ideal for you. When you secure the approval, the clinic will then set your schedule.
The patient should arrive at the clinic 15 minutes before the schedule. They need to sign some papers and complete the admission process. The patient will then be wheeled into the private room and be hooked to an IV. You can sit down on a plush seat while watching cable TV, iPad, or Netflix.
The entire procedure will last for about 40 minutes. However, you will remain at the clinic for observation for any side effects. You are prohibited from going behind the wheel, so you need a family member with you. The clinic will also hail an Uber for you if nobody is around to drive you home.