Ketamine and Depression: How Are They Connected


Ketamine therapy has emerged as a pioneering therapeutic approach in the field of psychology, providing fresh hope to people suffering from mental diseases. This article dives into the many facets of ketamine treatment, including its effectiveness, mechanisms of action, and prospective applications in mental health.

Introduction to Ketamine Therapy

Ketamine, which was originally developed as an anaesthetic for animals in the 1960s, received FDA clearance for human anaesthesia in 1970. Over time, its amazing benefits on depression and suicidal thoughts have been revealed, transforming the landscape of psychiatric care. Its antidepressant qualities have led to speculation regarding its potential in treating depression and other mental health issues.

Medical experts began exploring ketamine as a potential depression therapy in the 2000s. According to Hans Eriksson, In 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the use of Spravato, an esketamine nasal spray, for treatment-resistant depression. Esketamine is a more powerful version of ketamine, allowing doctors to prescribe smaller dosages that have a comparable effect.

However, Antidepressants are not the only way to manage depressive symptoms. One can also look for other Treatment options including psychotherapy, hypnosis, meditation, and acupuncture. These techniques may not always alleviate severe depressive symptoms, for instance, suicidal ideation – which is where ketamine could help.

Read More: Acupressure for Anxiety: Top Pressure Points for Quick Relief

How It Treats Depression

According to Faisal Tai, a board-certified psychiatrist, It works by attaching to brain receptors that create a neurotransmitter known as glutamate. In other words, it helps to activate glutamate in your brain. While specialists have yet to pinpoint the precise function of glutamate in depressive symptoms, they do know that it plays an important part in mood regulation. Low glutamate levels in the brain may contribute to depressive symptoms.

It can also increase the synthesis of brain-derived neurotrophic factors. This protein contributes to neuroplasticity, which is your brain’s capacity to adapt to new experiences. By boosting neuroplasticity, it also may help modify negative thoughts that contribute to depression. It may also be useful in treating:

  1. Bipolar disorder.
  2. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  3. Anxiety with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Types of Ketamine

It occurs in a variety of forms, including:

  • Intravenous (IV): treatment is a steady, continuous IV infusion that delivers ketamine straight into your circulation.
  • Intramuscular (IM) injections: Ketamine may be administered directly into a big muscle, such as your shoulder or thigh.
  • Spravato: nasal spray can be used once or twice each week for up to four weeks. After four weeks, your care team will normally investigate your symptoms before prescribing additional therapy.
  • Lozenges: You may be given a prescription for oral ketamine pills that dissolve slowly beneath your tongue to swallow at home. These pills can be used in between IV or IM treatments, or on their own. It may take longer to detect an impact since your digestive system needs to detect ketamine first.

Safety and Side Effects

Ketamine treatment has relatively minor side effects. According to a 2021, the most prevalent adverse effects are:

  1. drowsiness
  2. Symptoms included nausea and dizziness.
  3. In rare circumstances, ketamine might produce unpleasant consequences.
  4. Vertigo, or the sense of spinning and losing your equilibrium while you are not moving.
  5. Possible symptoms include dysgeusia (abnormal taste) and psychosis (such as hallucinations or delusions).
  6. Symptoms may include headaches and dissociation when you feel separated from your body, thoughts, and emotions.
  7. Symptoms may include panic episodes, mania, ataxia, trouble sitting still, suicidal ideation, and autoscopy (out-of-body experiences).

As per evidence, ketamine may cause depression in certain people. Long-term ketamine usage has been associated with bladder problems and memory loss.

How Does It Work?

Researchers are looking at why this may occur. So far, they know that while a few sad people will not have the drug trip that ketamine is known to generate, they will nevertheless report alleviation from depression a few days after taking it.

When it is in your system, you’ll likely have dissociative effects, but that’s not the treatment as explained by researchers. That is simply part of the process of receiving therapy. This therapy is your brain’s response to it, or how it responds to ketamine exposure.

The brain can respond in a variety of ways, depending on its initial condition. For example, some patients with long-term depression lose key brain connections (known as synapses) that allow nerve cells to interact. We often think that the number of synapses is going down because depression is so stressful that you already lose some of the synaptic connections in the brain.

However, research indicates that within 24 hours following the first dosage of medically controlled ketamine, those lost connections begin to rebuild. The more synapses patients have, the more effective ketamine’s antidepressant effects are.

Read more: What is ketamine? Its uses, effects, and impact on medicine and mental health

Who shouldn’t take Ketamine Therapy?

People with hypertension should avoid using ketamine since it might raise blood pressure, According to Erikson. Keller warns against ketamine therapy if you or your family have a history of psychosis. It can create disassociation, which scientists believe is connected to hallucinations and other psychotic symptoms. You may also want to question your healthcare practitioner about the safety of using ketamine if you have:

  • Heart illness.
  • a history of substance use problems.
  • A history of elevated intracranial pressure.

Taking Ketamine

If you want to try ketamine for depression, speak with a mental health care professional or your primary care doctor. They can help you determine if ketamine is good for you and connect you to a practitioner who specializes in ketamine treatment. It is available from both standalone clinics and online providers, but be aware that many of them do not provide proper monitoring. This is harmful since it is necessary to be checked for adverse effects by a nurse or doctor during the therapy.

Again, oral ketamine pills are the only type of ketamine that may be used at home. Your prescribing doctor will most likely recommend having a friend, lover, or other trusted person there while you take them, in case you suffer any side effects or negative reactions as a result of it.

Finally, this therapy offers a paradigm change in the treatment of psychiatric diseases, providing a fresh method for dealing with treatment-resistant depression and other mental health issues. Clinicians who combine psychotherapy with this treatment may be able to improve therapeutic outcomes and provide comprehensive care to those suffering from mental disorders. As research into the complexity of ketamine’s therapeutic effects progresses, the future holds potential for novel treatment methods that prioritize patient well-being and mental health resilience.

Read More: What is ketamine, and how is it related to Matthew Perry’s death?

References +
  • Morgan, P. G., Mofeez, A., Brandner, B., Bromley, L., & Curran, H. V. (2003). Acute effects of ketamine on memory systems and psychotic symptoms in healthy volunteers. Neuropsychopharmacology, 29(1), 208–218.
  • Collins, S. (2023, December 29). Ketamine for depression: What to know. WebMD.
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