What Ketamine Can Do For Your Brain

June 14, 2021 at 7:30 PM
by Dr. Hilda Wong
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The burden of depression for many sufferers is that it is a daily and lifelong struggle. It is not possible for one to “snap out” of a depression. Depression can be a severe mental health disorder that causes persistent mood imbalances, persistent depression, low self-esteem, and a decreased inability to enjoy and appreciate life.

There is no one size fits all kind of depression. Depression can be mild, severe, or virtually unmanageable in some patients. Some patients can suffer from a severe, long-lasting type of depression that makes them manically bipolar or suicidal.

It is also called clinical depression. And 10% of Americans will struggle with some depression within their lifetime.

Scientific research is still trying to determine what causes depression. Depression can be caused by genetic inheritance, but research suggests that it isn’t caused by one biological gene in your family tree, perhaps a mix of many.

Depression can also be caused by stress enabled by other social and environmental factors. Or external stressors could perhaps activate dormant, genetically inherited genes that worsen depression.

Depression can last weeks, months, years, or a lifetime.

Depression is traditionally treated by therapy, counseling, and medication. The results of such treatments vary from patient to patient and can take years to produce positive effects.

However, not all patients respond to depression treatments or medications.

And medical science is evolving depression treatment practices to help patients overcome severe and suicidal depressive episodes.

Ketamine Infusion Treatments

Ketamine infusion therapy is an experimental treatment for patients with severe forms of clinical depression. Ketamine infusion treatments are still being researched for their efficacy and have yet to become a widespread medical industry accepted treatment.

Ketamine, a highly addictive controlled substance, can cause hallucinogenic, reality-warping, and dissociative episodes. Abusing ketamine can cause you to fall into a trance-like state or feel like you have separated from your body like a spirit and view your own body from afar.

The controlled administration of strategic amounts of ketamine via IV infusion by mental health specialists has promisingly shown to be more effective than traditional antidepressant therapy to treat severe forms of clinical depression.

How? That is the thing about ketamine infusion therapy – science is still trying to understand ketamine’s effects on the brain as a depression treatment.

To better explain ketamine’s effect on the brain, we need to briefly explain depression, the efficacy of traditional antidepressant therapy, and finally, ketamine infusion therapy.

A significant step in alleviating depression is wanting to get help. There is no shame in being diagnosed with depression, only in doing nothing about it.

If you are interested in seeking ketamine infusion therapy, contact Interpersonal Psychiatry now.

Related: What Are the Signs of Opioid Addiction?

What is Depression?

Have you ever heard of the speed of light? Because of the incalculable distances in the vacuum of space, scientists discovered a speed limit where light travels in the vacuum of space at 186,000 miles per second.

Let’s now transition from open space to the interiors of the brain. Your brain is like a universe of neural pathways. Think of your brain’s neural pathways as a complex web of roads in your mind. Neurons are like road points separated by voids.

Electrical signals trigger the release of neurotransmitters, a kind of chemical, from neuron to neuron along the neural pathways of your brain. Neurotransmitters ferry chemicals from neuron to neuron that help your brain and body communicate.

Dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine are some of the most vital neurotransmitters in your brain.

These chemicals in your body also regulate your moods and emotions. So, instead of the speed of light, we must think about the speed of chemical reactions in the brain when discussing depression.

In the brain of a depressed person, there is usually a severe and long-lasting imbalance of the chemicals regulating mood. The neurons in the brain may be oversensitive or unable to receive or pass along neurotransmitters. Or perhaps not enough neurotransmitters may be produced in adequate amounts in the brain in the first place.

In this situation, most medical professionals would prescribe a patient an antidepressant.

Antidepressants

Antidepressants are medications chemically designed to increase and regulate the activity of neurotransmitters inside the brain.

This article may have sounded like an old college lecture, but the point is that science still does not know how or why antidepressants work in the brain. Antidepressants have about a 70% efficacy rate.

Some researchers believe antidepressants are only 60% effective. So, that means up to 30% to 40% of clinically depressed people feel no effect when prescribed antidepressants.

And this is where ketamine infusion therapy comes into the picture.

Ketamine Infusion Therapy

Over 17.3 million Americans deal with at least one episode of severe clinical depression every year. Over 20% of Americans with untreated clinical depression are more likely to attempt suicide.

As mentioned before, about 30% to 40% of Americans have no biological response to antidepressants. Antidepressants do not affect them.

So, doctors are now experimenting with ketamine infusion therapy.

Ketamine is a powerful and addictive anesthetic drug that was used to treat soldiers in the Vietnam War. Ketamine is also generally used on animals by veterinarians.

The United States government listed ketamine as a schedule III controlled substance in 1999.

Ketamine is highly addictive and can be abused as a narcotic. When used irresponsibly, ketamine can cause euphoria, delirium, hallucinations, and feelings of physical disassociation. In other words, some ketamine addicts feel like they are floating out of their bodies and staring at their own bodies.

Ketamine can also cause you to fall into a near-catatonic and trance-like state when abused. It was known as a date-rape drug called “Special-K” in the 1990s.

However, experimental scientific research has found that ketamine can help people suffering from severe clinical depression. Research has shown that ketamine infusion therapy significantly reduces suicidal tendencies in patients with severe depression.

Compared to traditional antidepressants, over 85% of people who tried ketamine infusion therapy got better. Recipients of ketamine infusion therapy also report faster relief from depression symptoms than compared to traditional treatments.

So, how does ketamine affect your brain? Like antidepressants, scientists aren’t sure. Like antidepressants, research has shown that ketamine increases the production of neurotransmitters, especially one called glutamate, that helps neurons communicate with each other better.

Ketamine is not broadly used in the medical community since it is still an experimental procedure. But more and more doctors are offering it as a treatment because of its proven ability to help patients struggling with severe and suicidal depression.

Learn More About Ketamine Infusion Therapy Today

If you want to understand ketamine infusion therapy better, schedule a visit to Interpersonal Psychiatry today.

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