Using Ketamine to Treat Depression

Using Ketamine to Treat Depression

Depression can be treated in a number of ways. The traditional SSRI treatment is effective for some, but not for everyone. Studies on ketamine have shown that it is very helpful with depression, especially when other treatments have not been able to help as much.

How Does Ketamine Help?

Scientists still have a lot to learn about the mechanisms of our brain and depression itself. Thus, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how ketamine helps a depressed patient, but theories are being researched. Here is a popular one:

Stress causes damage to neurons and ketamine helps to repair those neurons.

Scientists have found that when people are exposed to repeated stress, it wears away at their brain cells. These cells are in the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex of your brain. The hippocampus is associated with memory, and the prefrontal cortex is associated with personality and planning.

There are two ways ketamine may help alleviate depression by improving neuron health:

  • By boosting the body’s levels of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). BDNF is a protein in the brain that helps to make connections between the neurons.
  • By promoting the release of glutamate. Ketamine restores the health of neurons in the prefrontal cortex by promoting the release of glutamate. Ketamine can reverse synaptic dysfunction and help treatment-resistant individuals recover.

Is Ketamine the Best Option?

Ketamine seems promising as an alternative to current antidepressants. Most SSRIs can take weeks to kick in and may involve unpleasant side effects like agitation and weight gain. A study done in 2006 showed that ketamine can relieve symptoms of depression after only a few hours, with minimal, bothersome side effects. Relief from symptoms was also long lasting.

There are a number of options for treating depression but ketamine is becoming a common method that proves to be effective.

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