What is Ketamine? And How Does it Treat Depression?
Depression is a mental health condition that can negatively affect all aspects of a person's life. Traditional treatment methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressants are successful for many people, however, they may not provide complete relief for everyone. Recently, ketamine has emerged as an alternative treatment, especially for those who suffer from treatment-resistant depression. Depression is considered treatment-resistant when someone has tried at least two different medications without adequate relief of symptoms.
Ketamine has been used during anesthesia since the 1960s and has an excellent safety profile. Recent research has shown that low dose ketamine can produce rapid and significant antidepressant effects, leading to its use in treating depression. Studies have shown that ketamine can successfully reduce most symptoms, with remission rates as high as 70-80%. The duration of antidepressant effects from ketamine may vary between patients. Many people experience a sustained response lasting several weeks to months, while others may require more frequent doses.
Most recently, research has found that ketamine may work by altering certain chemicals in the brain, called neurotransmitters, that regulate mood. In particular, by blocking the N-methyl-D-asperate (NMDA) receptor, ketamine can increase the levels of a neurotransmitter called glutamate. Glutamate can increase neuroplasticity, which helps the brain form new connections and become more adaptable. This quickly improves depression symptoms. Ketamine may also reduce inflammation in the body, which could further contribute to its ability to alleviate depression.
While ketamine has been widely recognized for its potential to treat depression, research also suggests it may also help treat other mental health conditions. For example, studies have shown that ketamine may effectively reduce symptoms of anxiety disorders such as social anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Furthermore, ketamine is being explored as a potential treatment for suicidal ideation and self-harm in individuals with mood disorders. However, it's important to understand that while these initial findings are promising, more research is needed to fully understand the efficacy of ketamine in treating these conditions.
Feder, A., Parides, M. K., Murrough, J. W., Perez, A. M., Morgan, J. E., Saxena, S., Kirkwood, K., aan het Rot, M., Lapidus, K. A. B., Wan, L.-B., Iosifescu, D., & Charney, D. S. (2014). Efficacy of intravenous ketamine for treatment of chronic posttraumatic stress disorder: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Psychiatry, 71(6), 681–688. https://doi-org.frontier.idm.oclc.org/10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.62
Samuel T. Wilkinson, M. D., Elizabeth D. Ballard, P. D., Michael H. Bloch, M. D. . M. S., Sanjay J. Mathew, M. D., James W. Murrough, M. D. . P. D., Adriana Feder, M. D., Peter Sos, M. D. . P. D., Gang Wang, M. D., Carlos A. Zarate, J., M. D., & Gerard Sanacora, M. D. . P. D. (2018). The Effect of a Single Dose of Intravenous Ketamine on Suicidal Ideation: A Systematic Review and Individual Participant Data Meta-Analysis. American Journal of Psychiatry, 175(2), 150–158. https://doi-org.frontier.idm.oclc.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.17040472
Taylor, J. H., Landeros-Weisenberger, A., Coughlin, C., Mulqueen, J., Johnson, J. A., Gabriel, D., Reed, M. O., Jakubovski, E., & Bloch, M. H. (2018). Ketamine for Social Anxiety Disorder: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Crossover Trial. Neuropsychopharmacology : Official Publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 43(2), 325–333. https://doi-org.frontier.idm.oclc.org/10.1038/npp.2017.194