How Ketamine Is Used in Mental Health Treatments

Jan 20, 2023
Ketamine, a drug introduced in the 1960s as an anesthetic, has garnered marked interest over the past two decades as an effective treatment for depression, especially in cases resistant to standard medical treatment.

According to the National Institute of Health, up to one third of those suffering from depression do not respond to prescription antidepressant medications. Top researchers at Yale and the National Institute of Mental Health, among others, have demonstrated how ketamine can work quickly and effectively, improving symptoms for more than 70% of patients whose depression is resistant to traditional treatment regimens. In stark contrast to the delayed effects observed with traditional antidepressants, which often require several weeks of therapy for a clinical response, the impacts of ketamine are felt immediately, often within hours of treatment.

A novel formulation of ketamine as a nasal spray called Spravato was developed by Janssen and approved by the FDA for treatment-resistant depression. The treatment is typically covered by insurance and has shown results comparable to ketamine infusions. The affordability of the treatment has allowed us to reach a broader number of patients.

Even more promising, however, is that in recent years, an expanding body of research has demonstrated ketamine’s potential for treating a whole host of psychiatric illnesses beyond depression. Like depression, many other mental illnesses are resistant to existing treatment options, and ketamine offers a ray of hope for many of these patients. For example, conventional treatments for bipolar depression (both bipolar I and II disorders) often fail to provide the balance and relief that patients deserve. By contrast, recent studies have shown that ketamine therapy is an alternative and effective treatment for bipolar depression, even for patients who have not been successfully treated with standard treatments such as SSRI medications and therapy.

Ketamine is also showing promise in treating post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD, which can be caused by a variety of traumatic events, is a condition that can haunt patients for years. Patients such a military vets, sexual abuse survivors, or patients that have endured any other type of childhood or adult trauma can have lifelong, daily struggles functioning due to the disabling and recurring memories. Recent research has demonstrated that ketamine can be highly effective in treating PTSD, with patients seeing improvements after a short treatment period, with long-lasting results.

Anxiety disorders also respond well to ketamine treatment. Generalized anxiety is often triggered by stress and trauma and can lead to feelings of panic, heart palpitations, nausea, loss of appetite or even a fear of dying. While anxiety can sometimes be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, lifestyle changes or medications, very often these interventions are insufficient.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is another mood disorder that has been shown to be effectively treated with ketamine therapy. OCD can be a distressing and disabling condition for many patients, and conventional therapies, even when effective, can come with debilitating side effects. In low doses, ketamine is becoming an extremely effective treatment option for OCD, and many patients see life-changing results after only a few treatments.

Inspired by the compelling evidence and desire to help patients struggling with mental illness regain their health, in particular after the COVID pandemic, we jointly founded and currently run KETA Medical Center (formerly MGM Ketamine Center) in Oradell, New Jersey (ketamc.com). And we are opening a new office in New Rochelle, New York, and the upper west side of Manhattan in New York City in the near future. We collaborate with patients’ psychiatrists and mental health providers to bring the benefits of ketamine to patients suffering from a wide range of mental illnesses. We are distinguished from other centers because we take a unique, patient-centered approach to each and every patient; we work in partnership with the patient and their mental health provider to develop a personalized ketamine treatment plan to deliver results.

Many patients have reported that our center’s unique combination of warmth, familiarity and utmost professionalism made the ketamine treatment maximally effective in combating their previously treatment-resistant conditions. They also appreciate the convenience of our evening and Sunday office hours.