How Does Ketamine Therapy Work?

Imagine feeling depressed all the time or even most of the time, despite taking various antidepressant protocols. Imagine feeling sad, tearful, hopeless, and even suicidal. You can’t seem to cheer yourself up no matter what you try. You have many things in life to make you feel blessed, yet you can’t feel blessed.

This is the effect of treatment-resistant depression. When you have tried every traditional treatment to improve depressive symptoms, but nothing works, there is another option. It’s called Ketamine therapy.

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine was once used as anesthesia for animals, in its early days in Belgium, in the 1960s. Later, it was used to treat wounded soldiers in the Vietnam war. It was somewhat of a miracle anesthetic since it didn’t require a ventilator to be on it. Because it didn’t slow heart or respiration rates. Veterinarians in the United States have also used it to sedate horses and other large animals, prepping them for procedures. Through the 1970s, scientists were discovering new uses for ketamine, including treating psychiatric disorders.

Emergency responders started using ketamine on calls where they encountered agitated or suicidal people. In the ambulance, they would give a dose of ketamine. Many months later, those same patients would report not feeling suicidal or overly agitated since that initial dose. Reports like these are amassed, and doctors realized ketamine could positively affect the human brain, especially for those struggling with depression and other mental illnesses.

Ketamine Uses for Mental Health

Ketamine’s effects include hallucinations and feeling like you have an out-of-body experience. You feel euphoric, calm, relaxed, and have an overall sense of well-being. It became more widely used as a street drug by those who wanted to experience its effects. President Nixon banned ketamine and made it illegal.

However, in recent years, ketamine has been making a comeback for healing purposes, specifically for those with treatment-resistant depression. Research shows when ketamine is administered in low doses in a clinical setting by a psychiatrist, the benefits are substantial.

How Does Ketamine Work?

Ketamine changes receptors in the brain and body, helping them release “feel good” chemicals at an average or higher rate. Those with treatment-resistant depression have neurotransmitters that release deficient levels of “feel good” chemicals like Serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

When this happens, the brain can sometimes get stuck in a cycle of feeling sadness, pain, anxiety, and other symptoms that may even lead to suicidal thoughts. No matter what you do, nothing improves your symptoms. Ketamine helps get your brain out of this cycle.

Neuroplasticity, or the activity of retraining the brain to release chemicals normally, occurs when ketamine is administered. The effects of ketamine last a little longer than your session, but neuroplasticity continues for weeks and months.

Glutamate is a neuron in the brain that gets nerve cells excited. In people with severe depression, glutamate no longer causes excitement. Ketamine is said to help glutamate start working again, allowing you to feel good.

How is Ketamine Administered?

There are three choices when it comes to administering ketamine. Your psychiatrist can use an injection of ketamine into your shoulder or muscle through infusion using an IV or with a nasal spray.

Choice of administration affects how quickly you feel the effects of ketamine. The procedure is performed on an outpatient basis, but you will not be able to drive afterward. A minimal dose is given to you in a private, relaxing environment.

What About Ketamine Psychotherapy?

You can choose to receive ketamine doses during therapy sessions with your counselor. Doing so allows your therapist to expand the neuroplasticity. Ketamine opens your mind. While it is open, your therapist can suggest positive, healing statements that can replace the negative ones you have been coping with for so long.

Sessions last about an hour, and as you enter a semi-conscious state, your therapist can begin cognitive-behavioral therapy or talk therapy, which can extend the benefits of ketamine.

What to Expect with Ketamine Therapy?

Once the ketamine dose is administered, you may start to feel a warmth flow through your body within a minute or so. You will have an overall feeling of comfort, relaxation, and euphoria. Depending on your dose, you may also feel deep feelings of love, peace, and out-of-body experiences described as positive. Some say they feel lighter, without the gloomy darkness they felt before.

The number of ketamine therapy sessions can be as many as six for maximum, long-lasting results. All sessions take place during a two-week period. In the months and years following, you can receive booster doses to continue the positive effects.

You will not receive a prescription for ketamine. Doses are only administered by your psychiatrist during planned sessions in their office.

Are You A Good Candidate for Ketamine Therapy?

A psychiatrist will conduct an extensive assessment to determine if you qualify for ketamine therapy. The first step will be to rule out other reasons why your depression is persistent, like

  • You skip doses or forget to take your medicine every day.
  • You have not yet tried different doses, types, or combinations of antidepressants.
  • You have a medical condition, like thyroid disease, that, when untreated, can lead to depression.
  • Your body doesn’t absorb antidepressants completely.

Your doctor will also assess your symptoms to see if they match with treatment-resistant depression. Symptoms include feeling little joy or pleasure, sleeping too much or too little, changes in your appetite, not feeling like your old self, and feeling overwhelmed and unsure how you will make it through the day, week, or life in general.

If you have been struggling with depression and have tried various treatments without success, reach out to a psychiatrist at the mental health center to discuss ketamine therapy and if you are a good candidate. It can offer rapid relief of symptoms. You deserve to feel happiness. Options like ketamine therapy, combined with adjunctive medication, and cognitive and behavioral therapies, you can start enjoying life again, and much sooner than you think.