The most common mental illnesses in America are depression and anxiety, affecting 40 million people every year, more than 18% of the population. Of those people, only 36% receive any kind of treatment for their illness. Depression is serious, and can be debilitating, having a major effect on everyday life. The leading cause of disability in America is Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), affecting 16 million adults each year. Ketamine therapy is a relatively new tool in treating depressive disorders, but it is proving to be effective and versatile for both treating mental illness and pain management.
How Ketamine Works
Although ketamine has a reputation as a club drug, it was originally used for anesthesia in the 1960s, particularly during the Vietnam War. Carefully controlled doses of ketamine are now being used as a treatment for MDD and anxiety, for patients that have shown no improvement after taking more than two other depression medications. Ketamine has a direct effect on the NMDA receptor in the brain, which in turn antagonizes glutamate signalling. Patients living with long-term stress and depression often present with synapse function damage and synapse atrophy caused by toxic levels of glutamate. The science behind ketamine therapy involves the acceleration of synapse formation, helping to reverse neuron damage.
For Pain Relief
Although ketamine has predominantly been in the spotlight for its use in treating depression, it is also extremely effective for pain relief. Ketamine is a sedative that can help people who need painkillers for a longer period of time, such as following major surgery or while burns heal. Ketamine is less addictive than the opioid painkillers used, such as morphine, and may have less long-term side effects. Bexon Biomedical have even developed a ketamine wearable based on a medical device for administering insulin, for use by patients recovering from surgery. This carefully controls dosage so that there are no unwanted side-effects.
One of the biggest advantages of using ketamine as a surgical anesthetic is that it doesn’t lower the breathing rate or reduce blood pressure, unlike many forms of anesthetic used in hospitals. It doesn’t need to be used in conjunction with an oxygen supply, and it doesn’t need an electricity supply. For paramedics and those working in disaster areas, this can be invaluable. It is a quick anesthetic to administer, fast-acting, and effective when there is an emergency.
Ketamine has quickly become an invaluable tool in the treatment of anxiety and depression. The drug has several other uses, however, that can help to reduce pain and save lives.