Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that may occur after a traumatic or emotionally charged experience. Although it is most commonly associated with military service, people can develop it from other traumatic experiences. The depression and anxiety associated with this disorder can be especially complicated and severe, and traditional treatments are often ineffective. Ketamine is a new treatment that is giving hope to those affected by PTSD.
What is Ketamine Therapy?
Ketamine was used widely as an anesthetic during the Vietnam War, and has found a place in veterinary medicine due to its unique properties providing anesthesia and analgesia with minimal effect on the respiratory system. It has recently gained more attention for its ability to quickly treat symptoms of severe depression. In multiple studies, just a single treatment effectively relieved severe depression symptoms for several days. At Austin Ketamine Specialists we use it as an alternative therapy for patients who cannot find relief with other treatments.
When ketamine is used as a treatment for PTSD or depression it is usually dosed once per week, and can be delivered as a nasal mist or intravenously (IV). The IV route, however, has been shown to be the most effective route of administration for optimal results. Since the medication can mildly distort perceptions of sound and sight, it is only administered in a clinical setting by a medical professional. Many patients see noticeable improvement of symptoms in as little as a few hours after the treatment. For now, researchers are working on finding the balance between a dose that is small enough to reduce the potential side effects and large enough to effectively relieve severe depression symptoms.
In addition to severe depression symptoms, ketamine is used to treat severe anxiety. In some people, it has been shown to reduce symptoms within hours and the effects were lasting. In clinical studies, however, it was not effective for all people with severe anxiety. Like treatment for PTSD or severe depression, ketamine treatment for anxiety is most effective when administered through an IV.
How is Ketamine Different?
SSRIs, SNRIs, and other antidepressant medications must be taken regularly and for a long period of time before a person may notice any improvement (if at all). In many cases of PTSD, relief with the standard medications is insufficient and often ineffective. Since the effects of PTSD can be severe, people who struggle with it need quicker solutions for relief.
Current FDA-approved antidepressants work mostly by boosting serotonin or norepinephrine availability. Recent research shows that depleting both of these neurotransmitters from the body does not necessarily result in depression. Since this finding indicates that there may be more to the complexities of depression, researchers are looking more at ketamine for how it acts differently.
With severe stress, trauma, and anxiety cortisol is released. Continual cortisol release is associated with unipolar depression. Alternately, people with PTSD may not produce enough cortisol. Both inadequate and excessive cortisol production can be harmful and can lead to a loss of connection points between neurons. The brain does not remodel those connections that it loses on its own, and the loss of dendritic spines contributes to lower glutamate production.
Typical antidepressants may help restore some of these connections and boost glutamate production over the span of several months. With a single treatment of ketamine for PTSD or depression, however, glutamate is released rapidly which helps the needed regrowth of neuronal connections to take place much faster.
Ketamine: A New Medicine for PTSD
What is especially interesting about ketamine for PTSD, according to current research, is the most beneficial effects are after the ketamine has been metabolized out of a person’s system. The physical restoration of important brain functions is what makes researchers work hard to help this become one of the leading new depression and PTSD treatments.
If you would like to learn more about ketamine treatment for PTSD, please contact Austin Ketamine Specialists today.