If you’re considering ketamine treatment for depression, make sure you review the risks with your doctor and mental health provider. More studies are needed to determine the true effectiveness of the treatment and whether ketamine works well enough to justify its adverse effects. This guide reviews ketamine use for treatment-resistant depression and what to know when discussing your treatment options with your doctor.

Young lady undergoing ketamine treatment for depression.

What Is Treatment-Resistant Depression?

Doctors and mental health providers may prescribe an oral antidepressant to treat major depressive disorder or severe depression. Antidepressants are also used to treat anxiety symptoms, and many patients respond well to medications and cognitive behavioral therapy. Some people have trouble overcoming their mental illness, however.

Treatment-resistant depression is a type of depression that doesn’t respond to traditional treatment strategies. A person may begin to feel better for a short period before depressive symptoms return, or the treatment might not produce results at all. Scientists don’t know exactly what causes treatment-resistant depression, but more doctors are turning to ketamine treatment for depression to cure the condition.

How Can Ketamine Therapy Help Depression and Other Mood Disorders?

Some healthcare providers are prescribing an FDA-approved ketamine nasal spray called Esketamine to treat some mental health conditions, such as depression. Interest in ketamine for mental health disorders has grown so much that clinics have appeared across the country, offering ketamine infusion treatments and clinical trials to learn more about how effective the drug is for treating anxiety, depression and some types of addiction.

The first medications doctors consider when treating a patient with major depression are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These drugs regulate the production of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a hormone that makes people feel content, happy or rewarded. Over time, doctors have used antidepressants to treat depression and other psychotic symptoms, but some patients don’t react well to them.

Even when patients do respond well to traditional medications, it can take weeks for the medicine to build up in their blood. When a patient is suffering from suicidal ideation, they may not be able to afford the time it takes to feel relief from their symptoms. Ketamine is a sedative that surgical teams use to make patients fall asleep and forget what happens during surgical procedures.

In small doses, it can elevate a person’s mood, but it also causes dissociation, tiredness and loss of feeling. The psychoactive side effects of ketamine are why patients can only take it under direct supervision of a medical professional. Some clinical trials have produced evidence that an intravenous ketamine infusion or Esketamine nasal spray may help patients feel better in hours rather than weeks.

Scientists are currently studying whether ketamine can treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and some addictions. Patients receiving ketamine for depression or other mental health disorders usually receive six infusions. Insurance companies are resistant to ketamine usage other than as an anesthetic, so the infusions can be expensive.

Happy and contented man after a successful ketamine treatment.

Why Ketamine Can Increase the Risk of Substance Abuse

While ketamine treatment for depression may have an antidepressant effect, there are adverse effects preventing more doctors from supporting it as a treatment. The rapid action of the medication also produces dissociative effects that can make conditions such as schizophrenia, anxiety or psychosis worse. Most research also concludes that the possible benefits require larger doses over time.

Repeated dosing may produce a significant improvement in the presence of suicidal thoughts while requiring a patient to take more of the medication each time to feel better. Patients may end up seeking the drug to satisfy their physical or psychological needs, which is why ketamine is already a controlled substance. Ketamine helps in the short term, but its long-term impact on the kidneys and liver makes it dangerous if patients develop a dependence on it.

How to Get Help When You’ve Lost Control

If you’re in the Phoenix area and feel you might have a drug problem, Camelback Recovery can help. We understand how difficult it can be to deal with addiction, and our compassionate team can give you the tools you need to retake control of your life.

Give us a call at 602-466-9880 to learn more about our Phoenix treatment center and how you can take the first steps on your path to recovery.