Ketamine Therapy & Mental Health
Depression, Crisis Intervention, OCD, PTSD, Anxiety, Eating Disorders
Ketamine therapy is a powerful, safe and evidence-based therapy for treating many of the mental health conditions that cause significant suffering in our society. Those who struggle with a chronic mental health condition have often tried many therapies – often with little to no success. Ketamine therapy offers new hope and an alternative approach to treating chronic and acute mental health conditions.
We are pleased to offer ketamine infusion therapy as a treatment option at our child and family psychiatry clinic Foundations for Change, where we have been offering comprehensive mental health services in Arizona for 15 years.
Ketamine Therapy as a Treatment for Mental Health Conditions
At our clinic, we use ketamine therapy to treat for the following mental health conditions, all of which have research to support its use for these conditions:
Most anti-depressant drugs work in the brain by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which moderates mood and helps preserve emotional balance. Ketamine also influences serotonin levels, but it does so in a uniquely different way.
Ketamine acts as a neural growth stimulator. It causes an increase in the connections between synapses and boosts the brain’s overall functional capacity. This results in serotonin production being ramped up quickly and in a natural, sustainable way. The way ketamine works explains why those who undergo ketamine infusion therapy for depression or anxiety experience positive effects that last long after the ketamine has been flushed from their system.
Ketamine infusion therapy is performed in our clinic. It does not require hospitalization. A typical session takes 40 minutes. During the ketamine infusion, many patients describe a feeling of floating and/or mild dissociation. After the session, some patients experience mild nausea, a headache or brief elevation in blood pressure. We have patients wait for 15-30 minutes after their session and these symptoms usually go away quickly within that timeframe. They are then able to safely return home.
Research shows that a six-treatment protocol over the course of two weeks provides optimal results. After the initial six infusions, a maintenance program is often needed and varies in frequency from person to person.
For many, relief is immediate. Others feel the positive effects in a few hours or days. Sometimes it takes a few sessions before effects are felt. Since ketamine impacts neurogenesis (the regrowth of neurons), the effects can continue to last for quite some time. Around 70 percent of those who have received ketamine therapy report an alleviation of their symptoms, often with the feeling of dread, hopelessness and suicidal thoughts being the first to dissipate.
Unlike antidepressants – which can cause sexual dysfunction and weight gain – there are no known long-term side effects from ketamine therapy infusion.
Ketamine does not interfere with most medications. Before your first ketamine infusion, we will conduct a thorough medical review of your history and the medications you take.
Research for Ketamine’s Safety and Effectiveness
- In a Columbia University study – one of the largest studies ever on ketamine’s effectiveness for depression – researchers found the drug was significantly more effective than a commonly used sedative in reducing suicidal thoughts in depressed patients.
- 47 studies on ketamine as a treatment for depression were analyzed in a medical review published in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry. The paper’s authors found that many patients given ketamine displayed measurable positive changes in brain activity in areas associated with the ability to process and control emotions.
- Preliminary data from several randomized controlled trials have demonstrated that ketamine may rapidly and effectively control treatment-resistant depression. (Lael, Reinstatler, et al. Drugs R D (2015) 15:37-43.)
- The small doses used to treat bipolar and unipolar depression have not resulted in negative effects in study participants so far. This promising treatment [ketamine], when used carefully and at low doses, has great potential as a rapidly acting antidepressant. (DeWilde, Kaitlin E., et al. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 1345 (2015) 47-58)
- Single ketamine infusions elicit a significant antidepressant effect from 5 hours to 7 days [post-treatment]. (Coyle, Caoimhe M., The use of ketamine as an antidepressant: a systemic review and meta-analysis. Hum. Psychopharmacol Clin Exp 2015; 30: 152-163)
- In a small study published online in theJournal of Psychopharmacology, patients with treatment-resistant anxiety who had weekly ketamine maintenance doses over 3 months tolerated it well and significantly improved social and work functioning. (Maintenance ketamine may offer alternative for patients with treatment-refractory anxiety disorders. Psychiatric News Alert. March 29, 2018.)
- Ketamine infusion was associated with significant and rapid reduction in PTSD symptom severity, compared with midazolam [a common drug to treat PTSD], when assessed 24 hours after infusion. Ketamine was also associated with a reduction in other depressive symptoms that often accompany PTSD, according to a randomized clinical trial whose findings were published by the American Medical Association. (Feder, Adriana, MD, et al. (2014). Efficacy of Intravenous Ketamine for Treatment of Chronic Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial. American Medical Association.)
- In a small study conducted by researchers at the University of Cambridge, nearly two-thirds of participants with anorexia nervosa that did not respond to standard medical therapy and who received multiple intravenous infusions of ketamine, in combination with an oral opioid-blocking medication, saw a complete elimination of their compulsive thought patterns. And more than half of those patients returned to healthier eating behaviors for a long period after their discharge from the hospital. (I.H. Mills, et al. Treatment of compulsive behavior in eating disorders with intermittent ketamine infusions, Q J Med 1998; 91:493–503)
Ketamine Therapy & Arizona State Board of Nursing
In addition to using ketamine therapy only where research shows it to be effective, we also follow the Arizona State Board of Nursing guidelines for safe and effective low-dose continuous IV ketamine administration. These guidelines should be practiced by any clinic offering ketamine therapy for physical pain or mental health treatment to ensure:
- The healthcare professional providing ketamine therapy is trained in how to use it safely
- The clinic maintains a written policy and procedure for ketamine therapy administration
- Ketamine therapy is administered in alignment with all Arizona State Board of Nursing guidelines for proper dosage and administration