TL;DR: The number of ketamine treatments needed for depression varies, but typically involves an initial series of 4-6 treatments over 2-3 weeks, followed by maintenance treatments as needed.
Are you looking for alternative ways to treat your depression? Depression is a mental health issue that’s classified as a mood disorder. Some symptoms of depression include feeling sad or empty, feeling hopeless and feeling irritated or frustrated. Some standard treatments for depression include medication and therapy. However, these treatments don’t work for everyone, and when these treatments fail to provide adequate relief, the individual is often diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression. The good news is that ketamine therapy may help individuals with severe depression that hasn’t responded to other treatments. Let’s take a look at ketamine therapy for depression.
Table of Contents
- 1 Understanding Depression
- 2 Typical Treatments for Depression
- 3 Ketamine: An Overview
- 4 Ketamine Treatments for Depression
- 5 Determining the Number of Treatments
- 6 Effectiveness and Results
- 7 Risks and Considerations
- 8 Ketamine for Treatment-Resistant Depression
- 9 Conclusion
Depression is a mental illness. It is characterized by feelings of hopelessness, despair, sadness and anxiety. People with depression may also have angry outbursts and suffer from insomnia, lack of energy and trouble thinking. While these symptoms can be brought on periodically by high levels of stress, financial problems, loneliness and substance abuse issues, some people feel these symptoms all the time.
Typical Treatments for Depression
Typical treatments for depression include medication and therapy. Medication treatment often starts with a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI). These medicines are often the first line of defense for individuals with depressive disorders because they have fewer side effects than other types of medications. If the SSRI does not provide enough relief, the physician or psychologist may prescribe a Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor (SNRI), like Cymbalta, Pristiq or Fetzima. There are also atypical antidepressants, including Wellbutrin and Remeron, as well as Tricyclic Antidepressants, like Vivactil and Pamelor.
In addition to medication, individuals with depression are encouraged to go to therapy and make lifestyle changes. Therapy often involves talking one-on-one with a counselor and attending group therapy. Lifestyle changes may also be prescribed. This can include making sure to get enough sleep, exercising, which can reduce stress and boost feelings of happiness and accomplishment, and eating a healthy diet.
When medication, therapy and lifestyle changes don’t produce the desired results, alternative therapies may be recommended. One of those treatments is ketamine therapy, and it has been shown to help individuals with treatment-resistant depression.
Ketamine: An Overview
Ketamine was first created in 1962. It was approved for use in the United States in 1970 as an anesthetic. At the time of its creation, scientists and doctors were looking for a better anesthetic that didn’t cause such severe reactions, like slowed breathing and prolonged hallucinations. Ketamine seemed to provide those benefits. Individuals who were given ketamine could breathe better, and the hallucinations didn’t last as long. Today, it’s primarily used in veterinary medicine and for procedures that are short in duration.
More recently, it’s been used to treat depression in individuals who don’t respond or respond limitedly to the standard treatments.
Ketamine is a good option for people with treatment-resistant depression because it’s been shown to reduce an individual’s desire for self-harm, and it does this almost immediately.
When to Get Ketamine Treatment
Ketamine treatment is typically discussed after an individual has failed to respond to two or more depressant medications. Once this occurs, the individual is considered to have treatment-resistant depression. It’s important to note that the individual’s doctor, therapist and psychologist should all communicate prior to the addition of ketamine therapy. This is to ensure that the individual is a good candidate for ketamine therapy.
How Ketamine Helps with Depression
Ketamine facilitates feelings of disassociation, unreality and distorted feelings about one’s surroundings and body. It’s also been known to produce visual and sensory distortions. Individuals may also have strange thoughts and feel a sense of euphoria. Once the ketamine has been administered, the effects last about two hours. While the details of how ketamine helps with depression are not known, it is theorized that ketamine helps people with depression by improving the communication between the brain cells by reactivating old cellular pathways and creating new ones.
Ketamine Treatments for Depression
Ketamine can be administered two ways. The first way is by IV infusion. The second way is via a nasal spray. It’s important to note that ketamine must be taken under the care of a doctor because it can cause high blood pressure and depressed breathing.
The IV infusion of ketamine is called Racemic Ketamine, and its approved use is as an anesthetic. However, it can also be prescribed off-label in order to treat depression. The IV treatment is less costly than the nasal spray.
The ketamine nasal spray is called esketamine. The brand name is Spravato. It was approved in 2019 specifically for treatment-resistant depression. It’s designed to be used alongside traditional anti-depressant medication.
Determining the Number of Treatments
While many people have some symptom relief after the first treatment, one ketamine treatment usually isn’t enough. Instead, it can take anywhere from three to six treatments over several weeks. Some treatment protocols recommend six infusions over two weeks with treatments occurring every day.
However, the length of your treatments, the timing and the number of doses will depend on the individual’s history of depression, severity of depression and their medical history. The treatments will also be dependent on the individual’s response to the ketamine therapy.
It’s also important to note that the first few treatments are considered the initial phase. After the initial treatments, many people will need less frequent future infusions. This is known as the maintenance phase, and it usually includes one or two ketamine treatments per month.
Effectiveness and Results
Several studies have been performed on the effectiveness of ketamine for depression. One study in 2019 found that ketamine was effective in reducing the symptoms of depression and anxiety after two weeks. In another study of 403 patients, it was found that ketamine treatments were effective for 55 percent of the participants.
Risks and Considerations
Ketamine has been shown to be effective in alleviating the symptoms of treatment-resistant depression. However, individuals with a history of high blood pressure, blood vessel diseases and bleeding in the brain should not take ketamine. It’s also important for individuals to tell their healthcare providers if they have high blood pressure, liver disease or previous strokes or heart attacks.
Ketamine is known to cause dissociation, sedation and respiratory distress. For these reasons, individuals must take the ketamine with a doctor present, and they must be monitored for at least two hours after the infusion.
Ketamine for Treatment-Resistant Depression
Ketamine therapy should not be used as a first-line treatment for depression. Instead, individuals should start treatment by taking a standard anti-depressant and participating in therapy. If two or more traditional anti-depressant medications do not work, the individual may then be screened to see if they are good candidates for a different treatment, like ketamine therapy.
Ketamine therapy may help reduce the symptoms of depression in individuals who have not responded well to other treatments. Ketamine may be prescribed as an IV infusion or nasal spray, and it can be used as part of a tailored approach to treating major depression. While it’s not known exactly why ketamine helps individuals with depression, studies have shown that it does reduce the symptoms. We anticipate that more studies will be done on the effectiveness of ketamine for depression and why it works.
If you’d like to learn more about ketamine therapy or get treatment for a mental health disorder and substance use disorder, contact our caring representatives at Allure Detox.
- Depression – https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007
- Ketamine – https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/Ketamine-2020.pdf
- Ketamine history – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketamine
- Ketamine for Depression – https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/ketamine-for-major-depression-new-tool-new-questions-2019052216673
- Ketamine Treatment – https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/ketamine-depression-treatment
- Ketamine and the Brain – https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/what-does-ketamine-do-your-brain
- Ketamine for Depression – https://www.uhhospitals.org/blog/articles/2023/03/the-benefits-of-ketamine-therapy-for-depression
- Spravato – https://www.spravato.com/
- Ketamine Doses – https://futurepsychsolutions.com/blog/how-often-are-ketamine-infusions-administered/
- Ketamine FAQs – https://www.comhs.org/-/media/Files/PDFs/Services/Ketamine-Therapy-FAQs.ashx
- Study – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6767816/
- Study – https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2023/05/ketamine-found-effective-in-treatment-resistant-depression/