6 Ways Ketamine for Mental Health is Therapeutic

Some people avoid going to mental health treatment because they have tried it in the past, but it did not help. They may have taken medicine, attended therapy, and followed through with all recommendations by the therapist, but their symptoms did not improve – also called treatment-resistant mental illness. However, the good news is that for this barrier, ketamine for mental health can be a solution.

Mental Health America reports that over 50 million American adults struggle with mental health disorders, with nearly 5% having a severe mental illness. The National Health Interview study found only 21% of adults with mental illness receive treatment, an increase from previous years.

Barriers to treatment can be psychological, physical, and even financial. Some may not go because they are in denial and do not believe they have a problem, despite experiencing consequences. Others may not think they can afford mental health services, lack transportation, time constraints, and stigma.

What is Ketamine Therapy?

Ketamine is an anesthetic medication that boosts chemicals in the brain associated with pleasure and feeling happier, such as dopamine and serotonin. You may have heard of ketamine as an illicit drug or street drug. What you heard is correct, except when used in a clinical setting and administered by a psychiatrist in a procedure called ketamine therapy.

Ketamine has been approved by the Federal Drug Administration as a nasal spray for treatment-resistant, especially for those having suicidal thoughts.

In treatment, you receive the lowest dose of ketamine, which only lasts about an hour. During that hour, the ketamine enters your body and travels to your brain to boost chemicals that make you feel better. While the process takes less than an hour, the effects can last for days or weeks.

There are at least six ways ketamine for mental health is therapeutic.

1. Ketamine Improves Brain Communication

As mentioned, ketamine changes how neurotransmitters communicate in the brain. Some reports suggest glutamate is the neurotransmitter associated with the improvements that ketamine provides.

In someone with a mental health disorder, the neurotransmitters are not communicating correctly or often enough. Some may not have any life in them. Think of neurotransmitters as firecrackers. When functioning correctly, it is lit, travels to another neurotransmitter, and lights it, sending the message to feel good. With mental illness, the neurotransmitter acts like a firecracker dud. Ketamine turns the duds into active mode.

One study found ketamine:

  • Improves neural responses to positive emotions
  • Reduces depressive symptoms within 24 hours after treatment
  • Improves cortical excitability
  • Increases release of glutamate and GABA

Ketamine has positively impacted brain neuroplasticity, or its ability to adapt and change structure and function. Just like trauma and mental illness can negatively influence the brain, therapies like ketamine for mental health can positively impact the brain.

2. Ketamine Works Right Away

During ketamine therapy, you will notice positive effects within minutes after your dose. Most report feeling calm, relaxed, and euphoric. You may also feel like you are floating or dissociating from yourself. This can be a good thing.

These positive effects don’t take long to continue once the ketamine wears off. Typically, after the third session, people begin to see significant improvements in mental health symptoms.

3. Ketamine is Safe and Non-Addictive

Ketamine, when taken illegally, can have damaging effects. The reason is that the amount people take when using it as a street drug is much higher than when administered in a clinic. In such large doses, ketamine floods the brain, overwhelming it, and causing it to stop functioning correctly.

This does not happen during ketamine therapy. You receive the lowest dose of ketamine through either an injection into your muscle, nasal spray, or intravenous drip. Receiving a low dose for an hour prevents any adverse effects, including addiction. Also, you will not receive a prescription or doses from taking home with you, giving you no access to ketamine outside the therapeutic environment.

4. Ketamine Curbs Suicidal Ideation

A recent study by Columbia University revealed after one therapy session, ketamine positively changes cognitive thinking and functioning, particularly in those with thoughts of suicide. People who received ketamine therapy reported thinking more clearly and rationally.

It was noted that even the participants who did not notice an improvement right away in their depressive symptoms did notice they no longer had suicidal thoughts.

5. Ketamine Improves More Than Depression

Studies show ketamine for mental health improves symptoms of more than just suicidal ideation, major depressive disorder, and treatment-resistant depression. According to the results:

  • Non-intravenous methods of ketamine therapy were safe and effective for bipolar disorder treatment
  • Ketamine led to a reduction in anxiety and fearfulness
  • Over half of participants with obsessive-compulsive disorder reported a reduction in symptoms by at least 35%
  • After six ketamine infusions, participants were either in remission or had significant reductions in symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Ketamine paired with behavioral therapies led the majority of participants with an alcohol use disorder to remain sober at the one-year follow-up
  • Ketamine is safe for aiding with alcohol withdrawal syndrome
  • After a 14-day study comparing ketamine to midazolam, 48% of participants given ketamine remained abstinent from cocaine compared to only 11% of the other group. Cravings were also less with ketamine participants
  • Ketamine aids in opioid withdrawal by reducing the number of other medicines needed to treat withdrawal symptoms

6. Ketamine Has No Long-Term Side Effects

Studies show ketamine has very few side effects. For two out of three ketamine patients, it has no side effects. Any side effects a person experiences are short-term and not harmful. Some participants report feeling a little bit of nausea. Your doctor can give you anti-nausea medicine to ease this symptom. Other symptoms reported were hallucinations, out-of-body experiences, and vivid dreams. While these are side effects, not everyone felt they were negative.

Try Ketamine for Mental Health

Numerous studies are proving the benefits of ketamine for mental health, depression, and more. If you have tried various treatments, but your mental health symptoms persist, reach out today to learn if ketamine therapy is right for you.

For more information about ketamine therapy or mental health, visit the Mental Health Center online.