While mental health practitioners have come a long way in the treatment of depression, many patients still suffer from depressive episodes despite psychotherapy and regular, prescribed medication. This treatment resistant depression is a source of major frustration, not only for desperate patients but also for health professionals unsatisfied with the efficacy of these traditional methods. Even in situations where antidepressant medications are effective, they only become so after being allowed to build up in the body over a long period of time.
Ketamine, long known as a useful anesthetic, is now emerging as the preeminent solution to treatment resistant depression, as well as anxiety disorder. Unlike with antidepressants, patients feel the effects of ketamine almost instantly. The typical side effects associated with tricyclic antidepressants and SSRIs, such as drowsiness, constipation, weight gain, decreased libido, and nausea, are not present with ketamine treatment.
The possible side effects of ketamine therapy are few and mild. Patients sometimes report a dreamy, floaty sensation, as well as a feeling of dissociation or disconnectedness. Typically, however, these side effects are either negligible, rather pleasant, or nonexistent. The majority of patients describe the effect of the treatment as immediately noticeable and beneficial.
Used in a clinical setting, ketamine takes two forms. One is esketamine, a more potent derivative of ketamine used to produce a nasal spray marketed under the name Spravato. The other is racemic ketamine, sometimes referred to as IV ketamine, which is used in the intravenous delivery of the drug. Chemically, these two variants have a few differences on the molecular level, but perform the same function. Both methods of delivery are FDA approved for use under professional supervision in licensed ketamine clinics.
IV ketamine therapy is the more popular of the two delivery methods. An intravenous ketamine session occurs over the course of a few hours; there’s no need for overnight stays, and most ketamine clinics don’t provide this service. However, many patients choose to relax for an hour or so after the treatment is concluded, which is considered a regular part of the treatment process. The ketamine itself is delivered in several low doses, with the procedure being mostly painless.
Just as important as the ketamine is the setting in which it is administered. Ketamine treatment centers are usually equipped with cozy reclining seats or beds. Depending on the practitioner, rooms will be minimal or decorated, with the goal being to establish a soothing, comforting setting. Because many patients prefer to close their eyes during treatment, ketamine treatment rooms will often feature dimmable lights. Ketamine technicians — those who administer the drug and supervise patients during the session — are trained to coach and guide patients through their experience, allowing the patient to reap the greatest possible benefit from what may very well be a unique, exciting, and uncertain experience for them. Ketamine technicians should have educational backgrounds in psychology or neuroscience or a related field.
If you’re suffering from depression, and you haven’t gotten satisfactory results from tricyclic antidepressants or SSRIs, or the traditional verbal therapy sessions, ketamine treatment may be the answer. TMS & Brain Health, serving Los Angeles and Santa Monica, are available to answer any questions and address any concerns regarding this wonderfully effective treatment.