Lauren Pestikas holds her dog Sambuca in Chicago on Aug. 1, 2018. Since starting treatments with ketamine infusions, she says she feels much better for a few weeks after each session. Pestikas struggled with depression and anxiety and made several suicide attempts before starting ketamine treatments. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford)
Depressed? Struggling with anxiety? Suffering from PTSD? Do you ever wonder if there is a treatment that will work quickly? Faster than antidepressants or talk therapy? Sometimes you need to quickly reset your brain so you can focus on the process of healing.
Ketamine had its beginning decades ago as an anesthetic for animals and people. It later became a widely-used pain reliever on the battle field in Vietnam and eventually morphed into a club drug called Special K.
In 2020, ketamine is receiving new attention as a treatment for depression, anxiety, suicidal behavior, PTSD and other mental health conditions. Is ketamine a good alternative to traditional treatments such as medication and behavioral therapy, especially if those treatments have been less that successful?
For 36-year-old Chicago teacher Lauren Pestikas, ketamine treatment has been “worth every dime and penny.” Pestikas struggled with depression and anxiety and made several suicide attempts before trying ketamine in 2018. ¹
Ketamine has not yet received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating depression, but doctors can use it for that purpose. Many ketamine patients are finding that relief from their symptoms is worth the cost of treatment.
According to a 2018 article from Associated Press (AP), the use of ketamine to treat MDD (major depressive disorder), anxiety, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is growing. Ketamine’s potential for almost immediate, if temporary relief, is what makes it so exciting, said Dr. Jennifer Vande Voort, a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist who has used ketamine to treat depression patients since February 2018. ¹
“It truly has revolutionized the field,” showing that almost immediate relief is possible, and changing the way scientists view depression and its effect on brain chemistry, said Yale University psychiatrist Dr. Gerard Sanacora, who has done research for or consulted with companies to develop ketamine-based drugs. Sanacora stated that additional research needs to be done in the development of ketamine as a standard depression treatment. ¹
Ketamine has been used as an anesthesia drug since the 1960s because it doesn’t suppress breathing. Compared to opioids such as morphine, ketamine isn’t as addictive and doesn’t cause breathing problems.
Animal experiments in the late 1980s and early 1990s revealed ketamine’s use as a depression treatment drug. It was discovered that ketamine works to target glutamate, a brain chemical messenger which plays a role in depression. Ketamine may work to reset the glutamate pathway in the brain.
Conventional antidepressants like Zoloft, Celexa, and Prozac target a different brain chemical, serotonin, but usually take weeks or months to start working — a delay that can cause severely depressed patients to give up hope.
The strongest studies suggest that ketamine is safe and most useful in providing short-term help for patients who have not benefited from antidepressants. Currently about one-third of people worldwide suffer from depression. ¹
Exactly how ketamine works is unclear, but one theory is that ketamine helps nerve cells re-establish connections disabled by depression by elevating glutamate levels, said ketamine expert Dr. Carlos Zarate, chief of experimental therapies at the National Institute of Mental Health. ¹
A small Stanford University study published in August 2018 suggested that ketamine may also help relieve depression by activating the brain’s opioid receptors. ¹
Dr. Rahul Khare, an emergency medicine specialist in Chicago, first learned about ketamine’s ability to treat mental health symptoms when he was sedating a depressed and anxious patient before repairing a dislocated shoulder.
“He said, ‘Doc, give me what I got last time. For about three weeks after I got it, I felt so much better,’” Khare recalled.
Intrigued by this discovery, Khare began offering ketamine for severe depression in 2018 at his outpatient clinic. He also joined the American Society for Ketamine Physicians, a group representing U.S. doctors, nurses, psychologists and others using ketamine to treat depression, anxiety, and other mental health symptoms. According to society co-founder, Dr. Megan Oxley, there were about 150 U.S. ketamine clinics in 2018. And the number of clinics continues to rise.
Khare said the field of ketamine treatment “is like a new frontier” where doctors gather at meetings and compare notes. He has treated about 50 patients with depression including Pestikas. His patients are usually desperate to find a treatment that relieves their symptoms. Most have not responded favorably to antidepressants. Ketamine allows many to function in their lives, after losing jobs and relationships because of severe mental health symptoms, Khare said.
At Pestikas’s seventh session, a nurse hooked her up to a heart and blood pressure monitor as she relaxed on a white reclining chair. Dr. Khare injected a small dose of ketamine into an IV bag hanging above the chair, then pulled the window curtains closed, dimmed the lights, and asked if she was feeling ok or if she had questions.
“No questions, just grateful,” Pestikas replied, smiling.
Lauren Pestikas sits as she receives an infusion of the drug ketamine during a 45-minute session at an outpatient clinic in Chicago on July 25, 2018.
During the treatment Pestikas listened to music on her iPhone and watched videos as the ketamine entered her body. After her IV was removed, Pestikas said she felt calm and relaxed the rest of the day, and that the mood boost can last for weeks.
The single dose of ketamine given to Pestikas is much smaller than what is used for sedation or as a party drug. Studies suggest ketamine infusion can help many patients gain relief within about four hours and lasting nearly a week or so. Ketamine should always be administed by IV under controlled conditions and close monitoring of a certified medical team.
Janssen Pharmaceuticals introduced its nasal spray, esketamine in September 2018 after receiving FDA approval. Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Allergan are among drug companies developing ketamine-like drugs for depression. Although esketamine has been approved, studies have shown that ketamine IV treatments work better for depression and anxiety than the nasal spray form of the drug.
How Ketamine Therapy Resets Your Brain
Unlike traditional antidepressants, ketamine therapy can actually repair damaged neural pathways rather than dulling the signals. When people experience depression, anxiety, pain, and other forms of stress, the brain’s communication system for memory, learning, and higher-order thinking can be damaged. Ketamine is thought to repair this damage on several levels.
Ketamine acts as an N-Methyl D-Aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist, meaning that it inhibits the transfer of electric signals between neurons in the brain and the spinal column. This is why ketamine has traditionally been used as a very safe and effective anesthetic in medical and surgical situations for children, adults, and animals for more than 50 years. Because of this effect, ketamine can help train chronic pain without the addictive qualities of opioids.
Ketamine also acts as a glutamate receptor antagonist. Glutamate regulates large regions of the nervous system and is the most prominent neurotransmitters in the brain. When glutamate receptors are overactivated, a person may experience long-term depression. Ketamine works by blocking these glutamine receptors.
Studies have also shown that ketamine enhances the brain’s structural plasticity, or its ability to change its physical structure as a result of learning. If the mind is injured or damaged by disease or stress, neuroplasticity allows it to reset and recover by reorganizing its physical structure. ²
Depression, anxiety, pain, and other types of stress can damage the communication system between the areas of the brain responsible for memory, learning, and higher-order thinking. Unlike antidepressants, which work by shifting the balance of brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, ketamine stimulates neuron growth and helps your brain cells communicate better with each other.
Is Ketamine Safe?
Ketamine has traditionally been used as a very safe and effective anesthetic in medical and surgical situations for children, adults, and animals for more than 50 years. Because of its history, ketamine can help train chronic pain without the addictive qualities of opioids. More recently, ketamine has been a valuable and highly effective treatment for patients with depression, suicidal ideations, anxiety, certain pain disorders, and other afflictions. It is on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines.
When administered in a controlled medical setting by a properly trained physician using established methods, such as at Therapy Reset, ketamine is very safe.
What conditions respond well to ketamine therapy?
Ketamine therapy can help treat a broad spectrum of conditions such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), fibromyalgia, major depression, mood disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), nerve-related pain, pain syndromes, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), postpartum depression, suicidal ideation, and reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) among others. Ketamine can help patients who have not experienced full relief of depression, pain or other conditions from traditional medications and therapies.
Clinics such as Therapy Reset focus on ketamine therapy for depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mood disorders. Our anesthesiologists and pain management specialists have extensive experience with ketamine and know how to perform infusions.
Is there a ketamine clinic near me?
Therapy Reset is conveniently located in South Ogden, Utah and serves patients from all of Northern Utah and the western United States. We are currently helping patients from Salt Lake City, Ogden, Kaysville, Layton, Morgan and surrounding areas.
What is the cost of ketamine infusion therapy?
Therapy Reset offers very competitive pricing for ketamine infusion therapy. Our fees cover the full patient journey, including long-term monitoring, clean private infusion rooms, and any additional medicines needed for comfort during your treatments. We offer personalized payment plans and discounts for veterans and first responders. Please contact us at our office in South Ogden, Utah to learn more about the affordable cost of this transformative therapy.
How can I get more information about ketamine?
At Therapy Reset, we have many processes and standards in place to guarantee the best experience for our patients as they receive their ketamine therapy. Your experience with us begins with a free, no-obligation call with our skilled clinicians who can answer all your questions about our clinic and ketamine therapy. Before your first treatment at Therapy Reset, we will conduct a full medical, symptomatic and diagnostic review, evaluation, and consultation to determine how you might to respond low-dose ketamine therapy infusions.
While receiving ketamine therapy at Therapy Reset, you can enjoy a friendly and inviting atmosphere. We prioritize your peace of mind, comfort, health, and safety with private rooms, luxury lounge chairs, ongoing monitoring, and advanced IV technologies.
After your treatment, our caring, compassionate, and experienced team will monitor your journey and conduct post-treatment evaluations and consultations.
Call or visit Therapy Reset in South Ogden today for a free, no-obligation visit to explore how ketamine can help reset your brain and your life.