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A Vaccine for Depression?

Ketamine’s remarkable effect bolsters a new theory of mental illness.

A Vaccine for Depression?

Ketamine’s remarkable effect bolsters a new theory of mental illness.

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One sunny day this fall, I caught a glimpse of the new psychiatry. At a mental hospital near Yale University, a depressed patient was being injected with ketamine. For 40 minutes, the drug flowed into her arm, bound for cells in her brain. If it acts as expected, ketamine will become the first drug to quickly stop suicidal drive, with the potential to save many lives. Other studies of ketamine are evaluating its effect as a vaccination against depression and post-traumatic stress. Between them, the goal is nothing less than to redefine our understanding of mental illness itself.

Depression is the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 30 percent of Americans at some point in their lives. But despite half a century of research, ubiquitous advertising, and blockbuster sales, antidepressant drugs just don’t work very well. They treat depression as if it were caused by a chemical imbalance: Pump in more of one key ingredient, or sop up another, and you will have fixed the problem.

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PREPARED: One day, soldiers heading into combat could be treated to reduce the chance of getting PTSD.Co Rentmeester/Getty Images

But the correspondence between these chemicals (like serotonin) and depression is relatively weak. An emerging competitive theory, inspired in part by ketamine’s effectiveness, has it that psychiatric disease is less about chemical imbalance than structural changes in the brain—and that a main cause of these changes is psychological stress. “I really do think stress is to mental illness as cigarettes are to heart disease,” says Gerard Sanacora, the psychiatry professor running the ketamine trial at Yale.

The theory describes stress grinding down individual neurons gradually, as storms do roof shingles. This, in turn, changes the nature of their connections to one another and the structure of the brain. Ketamine, along with some similar molecules, acts to strengthen the neuron against that damage, affecting not just the chemistry of the brain but also its structure.

Mental hospitals don’t usually see patients until they break: a brain shaped by vulnerable genes, wrecked by the stress of loss or trauma. This isn’t how it works with other sicknesses: heart disease, cancer, AIDS. Detected early, these conditions can often be managed. Crises averted.

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If Sanacora and like-minded researchers are right, we may be on the cusp of a sea change that allows for a similar approach to mental health. The new approaches may prevent mental illness before it hits, by delivering a vaccination for the mind.

The need for progress could hardly be more urgent: Of all illnesses, neuropsychiatric diseases are estimated to put the heaviest burden on society. Nearly half of Americans are affected by some sort of mental disorder at some point in life. Suicides, 90 percent of them among the mentally ill, take 40,000 Americans every year—more than murder or car crashes. Since 2005, the suicide rate among U.S. war veterans has nearly doubled; in the first half of 2012, more service members died by suicide than in combat. Few medical failures are more flagrant than psychiatry’s impotence to save these people.

At the same time, treatment can be woefully ineffective. Less than a third of depression patients respond to a drug within 14 weeks, according to the 2006 STAR*D trial, the largest clinical test of antidepressants. After six months and multiple drugs, only half of patients recovered. Thirty-three percent don’t respond to any drug at all. When the pills do work, they are slow—a deadly risk, given that people with mood disorders kill themselves more often than anyone else.

Our treatments work so poorly in part because we don’t really understand what they do. Serotonin, the most common target for current antidepressants, is a neurotransmitter, a chemical that carries messages in the brain. But it was first found, in 1935, in the gut. Serotonin’s name comes from blood serum, where Cleveland Clinic scientists discovered it in 1948, noting that the chemical helps with clotting.

When Betty Twarog, a 25-year-old Ph.D. student at Harvard, later found serotonin in neurons, she wasn’t taken seriously. At that time, brain signals were thought to be purely electrical impulses that leapt between cells. Twarog called this old idea “sheer intellectual idiocy,” as Gary Greenberg reports in his book Manufacturing Depression. Working at the Cleveland Clinic in 1953, she found serotonin in the brains of rats, dogs, and monkeys.

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K: One obstacle to the therapeutic use of ketamine is its reputation as a recreational drug.Wikipedia

Twarog didn’t know yet what serotonin was doing there, but a clue came soon from D.W. Woolley, a biochemist at Rockefeller University, in New York. In 1954 Woolley pointed out in a paper that lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, is chemically similar to serotonin and is processed similarly in the brain. Since LSD “calls forth in man mental disturbances resembling those of schizophrenia,” he wrote, another drug affecting serotonin might be used to treat schizophrenia. Twarog’s original paper would take years to percolate through the male-dominated field, but her work and Woolley’s would become accepted as evidence of how important chemicals like serotonin could be to brain signaling. The discovery was a breakthrough for neuroscience—but it also birthed a misleading, long-lived belief about mental illness. “The thesis of this paper,” Woolley wrote, “is that … serotonin has an important role to play in mental processes and that the suppression of its action results in a mental disorder. In other words, it is the lack of serotonin which is the cause of the disorder.”

Around the same time, other researchers stumbled on the first antidepressants, iproniazid and imipramine. Intended to treat tuberculosis and schizophrenia, respectively, these drugs also happened to make some patients “inappropriately happy.” Researchers found that the drugs elevated levels of serotonin, along with related neurotransmitters.1 This began a huge search to find chemically similar drugs that worked better as antidepressants.

Drug companies often say mood disorder is caused by a “chemical imbalance.” But the evidence for this story is slim.

Iproniazid was the first of a class of medicines that block an enzyme from breaking down serotonin, as well as dopamine and norepinephrine, two other neurotransmitters. The chief downside of these drugs, called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), is that they require a strict diet: no aged cheeses, wine, beer, or cured meats. Combined with these foods, the drugs can cause deadly spikes in blood pressure, a hassle that often inclines patients to ditch them. (The novelist David Foster Wallace took an MAOI for decades; in part to escape the food restrictions, he got off the drug months before his suicide.) On the other hand, tricyclic antidepressants, like imipramine, work by blocking the re-absorption of serotonin and norepinephrine. The cost is a host of side effects, from dry mouth to weight gain to erectile dysfunction and loss of libido.

The next generation of drugs focused on fine-tuning the same mechanisms, and had somewhat improved side effects. A new class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, arrived in the ’80s, bringing huge commercial successes like Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil. Since SSRIs are more specifically focused on serotonin, they were heralded as cleaner options; but they are not much more effective at lifting mood than the older drugs. We often take for granted the diabetes analogy for depression: If you are depressed, it is because you need serotonin, just as a diabetic person needs insulin. Drug companies often say that mood disorder is caused by a “chemical imbalance” in serotonin or a signal like it. One ad for Zoloft, the blockbuster antidepressant, featured a sad white circle crawling cutely beneath a gray cloud; the voice-over boasted that depression may be “related to an imbalance of natural chemicals in the brain. Zoloft works to correct this imbalance.”

But the evidence for this story is slim. Prozac raises serotonin levels within hours yet doesn’t change mood for weeks. When scientists deplete serotonin in healthy people, it does not make them sad. And when doctors measure serotonin levels in the cerebrospinal fluid of depressed people, they do not find a consistent deficiency; one 2008 study even found increased levels of serotonin in depressed people’s brains. The drug tianeptine, discovered in the late ‘80s, decreases serotonin levels yet relieves depression. And studies have shown that people falling in love show lower, not higher, levels of serotonin.

Serotonin is clearly not just a feel-good chemical. If a serotonin-based drug like Zoloft makes you happier, it works in some other, indirect way. As psychiatrist Ronald Pies, editor of Psychiatric Times, put it in 2011, “The ‘chemical imbalance’ notion was always a kind of urban legend—never a theory seriously propounded by well-informed psychiatrists.”

Meanwhile, as serotonin falls far short of explaining depression, a more likely candidate is emerging.

Stress in moderation is not harmful, but motivating. Cortisol, a stress hormone, cycles daily; synchronizing with sunlight, it helps arouse us for the day. In health, the hormone spikes when we need to pay attention: a test, a job interview, a date. Studies on rodents and humans confirm that brief, mild increases in stress are good for the brain, particularly for memory. During these spikes, neurons are born and expand in the hippocampus, the seahorse-shaped finger of tissue responsible for forming new memories and understanding three-dimensional space, and rodents learn better. The student who gets stressed while studying is more alert and remembers more than the one who feels no urgency—up to a point. The problem comes when stress is either too intense at one moment, as in a rape or violent attack, or too sustained, as in long-term poverty, neglect, or abuse.

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ACCENTUATING THE NEGATIVE …: Under prolonged stress, neurons in the amygdala, the brain’s fear center, expand like overgrown shrubbery and become hyperactive.Image from “Nature Reviews Neuroscience”*

Stress changes brain architecture differently, depending on how long it lasts. After chronic stress, like childhood trauma, the effect of hormones on brain cells inverts: Neurons in the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for mood and impulse control, start to shrink, while those in the amygdala, the almond-shaped seat of fear and anxiety, expand like overgrown shrubbery. But people are differently vulnerable, depending on genes and on prior life experience. “If you take two people and subject them to the same stressful event, for one of them it will be harmful and for the other, no,” says Maurizio Popoli, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Milan. “It is because they perceive the stress differently.”

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… AND ELIMINATING THE POSITIVE: In the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, regions responsible for memory, attention, and self-control, chronic stress shrinks the branches of neurons.Image from “Nature Reviews Neuroscience”*

Stress hormones’ most important effect is to flood parts of the brain with glutamate, the brain’s “go” signal. Used by 80 percent of neurons in the cortex, this key neurotransmitter drives mental processes from memory to mood. Glutamate triggers neurons to generate sudden bursts of electricity that release more glutamate, which can in turn trigger electrical bursts in nearby neurons.

This cellular signaling is called excitation and is fundamental to how information is processed in the brain. Like sexual excitability, it ebbs and flows; a “refractory period” follows each neural firing, or spike, during which the neuron cannot be excited. Other neurotransmitters, like serotonin, are called “modulatory,” because they change the sensitivity of neurons that secrete glutamate (among others). Less than 1 percent of neurons in the cortex signal with these modulators. As Popoli puts it, these modulators are “very important for fine-tuning the machine. But the machine itself is an excitatory machine,” driven by glutamate.

Glutamate moves like a ship between neurons. The sea it sails is called the synapse, the shore it departs from is the presynaptic neuron, and the destination, on the synapse’s far side, is the postsynaptic neuron. Another component, called a glial cell, works to remove glutamate ships from the synapse and recycle them. The glutamate system is affected at each of these points by stress hormones: They push the first neuron to send more ships, interfere with the glial cell’s recycling, and block the docks on the distant shore. All of these changes increase the number of glutamate ships left in the synapse, flooding the cell with aberrant signals. Indeed, depressed people’s brains, or at least animal models of depression, show all three of these problems, leading to long-lasting excesses of glutamate in key portions of the brain.

This superabundance of glutamate makes a neuron fire sooner than it should and triggers a cascade of signals inside the cell, damaging its structure. Glutamate binds to the neuron and allows in a flood of positively charged particles, including calcium, which are vital to making a neuron fire. But in excess, calcium activates enzymes that break down the neuron. Each neuron has tree-like branches, called dendrites, which are used to communicate with other neurons. When overdosed in glutamate, this canopy of branches shrinks, like a plant doused with herbicide. First the “twigs,” called spines, disappear. After prolonged stress, whole branches recede.

This harmful process, called excitotoxicity, is thought to be involved in bipolar disorder, depression, epilepsy, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s. In depressed brains, many areas are shrunken and underactive, including part of the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. The brain changes that cause mood disorders, Sanacora and his colleagues believe, come in part from chronic stress overexciting neurons with glutamate.

Ketamine works faster than any other drug, and for up to 65 percent of patients who don’t respond to existing treatments.

We usually think of our brains’ adaptability as a good thing. Just as neurons grow during development, the wiring in the adult brain can change. After strokes or other brain injuries, neural signals re-route themselves around damage, allowing even very old people to re-learn lost skills. Psychotherapy and meditation can change patterns of brain activity in ways that persist after treatment.2

But the neuroplasticity hypothesis of mental disorder highlights the drawback of such neural liberalism: The human brain’s flexibility allows regeneration, but also renders it vulnerable to being altered by stress. Subjected to the trauma of war, a bad breakup, or a bout of homelessness, a person with a genetic predisposition may find his mind stuck in a loop of chronic fear or depression.

The mood drugs in wide use now focus on modulatory neurotransmitters like serotonin. Ketamine, however, works directly on glutamate signaling. If ketamine is tapping into the root of the problem, this might explain why it works faster, better, and more often than more popular antidepressants.

Not everybody accepts the idea that glutamate and stress are central to depression. Some experts see the effects of stress as downstream effects, not the root cause of mood disorder. “The mechanism of action of a good treatment does not have to be the inverse of a disease mechanism,” says Eric Nestler, an expert on addiction and depression at Mt. Sinai Hospital. Serotonin drugs and ketamine may affect depression indirectly, without a serotonin or glutamate abnormality at the root of depression. Nestler also points out that depression probably includes a diversity of subtypes, without any single cause. He treats depression not as a unified disease, but a constellation of symptoms, each with discrete neural roots.

Even so, we do know that ketamine works faster than any other drug, and for up to 65 percent of patients who don’t respond to existing treatments.

If ketamine turns out to be a psychiatric savior, it will be one with a surprising history. Since 1962 it has been a go-to anesthetic for children in emergency rooms, because it kills pain, muffles consciousness, and rarely causes breathing or heart problems. Children given ketamine enter “a trance like state of sensory isolation” free of pain, memory, and awareness, as one review put it. Emergency room doctors rely on ketamine to make sure kids have no awareness or memory of, say, the trauma of having a shattered arm set back into place.

On the other hand, ketamine is a well-known recreational drug with potential for abuse. The dissociative trip caused by a moderate dose of ketamine has made it popular in clubs and raves since the 1970s, especially in Asian cities like Hong Kong. Its sedative effect made “special K” a date-rape drug. Doctors, patients, and the government agencies that fund research are often suspicious of a drug known to cause hallucinations, as they have been of psychedelics like psilocybin and ecstasy, despite their potential for treating depression or anxiety. Each tends to show fast results after a single dose, like ketamine.

In 1999, the same year ketamine was declared a controlled substance in the United States, Yale researchers happened upon its antidepressant power. A team co-led by Dennis Charney, now dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, in Manhattan, and John Krystal, now chair of the department of psychiatry at Yale, used ketamine to study glutamate: Since ketamine was known to block glutamate receptors, it might show what role the excitatory neurotransmitter plays in the depressed brain. To their surprise, they found that the drug made patients feel better, often within hours. A single dose, much smaller than what’s used for anesthesia, tended to last for weeks.

Since 1999, a dozen studies have replicated the results, often on patients who failed to respond to other drugs. Ketamine also works for bipolar people in depressive phases, without triggering mania, as classic antidepressants sometimes do. The majority of depressed people studied have responded to ketamine. For patients who are often suicidal, this fast response can be lifesaving. Some 50 doctors in the U.S. now offer ketamine infusions for depression.

The first evidence in humans that ketamine might work to prevent mood disorder came from the battlefield.

Many leaders in the field see the emergence of ketamine, and future fast antidepressants based on glutamate, as a great leap forward for the field. “In my mind,” Sanacora told NPR recently, “it is the most exciting development in mood-disorder treatment in the last 50 years.”

Ketamine and the old antidepressants both result in fuller neural “trees,” but by different routes, at different speeds. Prozac and other serotonin-based drugs take four to six weeks to kick in. A landmark 2003 Science study by Columbia University’s René Hen and Ronald Duman, now at Yale, found that serotonin-based antidepressants only work if they spur birth of new neurons in the hippocampus.3 These new neurons take four to six weeks to mature, roughly the same amount of time that conventional antidepressants take to lift a depressed person’s spirits. A 2010 paper argued that SSRIs like Prozac may work by dampening glutamate release in response to stress. So even old-school antidepressants, when they work, may act on the glutamate system.

Ketamine, on the other hand, seems to act directly on mature neurons, fertilizing them to grow branches more robustly, or protecting them against damage. Ketamine’s key effect is to block glutamate receptors of one type. This causes less calcium to flow into the neuron, reducing the risk of the neuron shrinking or self-destructing.

Today ketamine is offered by psychiatrists and anesthesiologists, at prices ranging from $300 to $1,000 per dose, for people who are morbidly depressed or have chronic pain. Insurance doesn’t usually cover the cost of an infusion, because even though it is FDA approved as an anesthetic, it has not been approved as an antidepressant. Each new use of a drug requires multiphase clinical trials for FDA approval, usually funded by pharmaceutical companies, which have little incentive to invest in a drug they can’t monetize. Ketamine got its original patent in 1966, and that expired long ago. So even if drug companies steered ketamine through the expensive approval process as an antidepressant, doctors could still prescribe the cheap, generic versions already available for anesthesia instead of pricier, patented versions intended for depression. This is an old story. Lithium carbonate, which also acts on glutamate receptors, is still one of the most reliable drugs for treating bipolar disorder. But lithium, which is an element, can’t be patented. So, despite their effectiveness, these generic pills do not attract many corporate dollars.

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One tough truth about mood disorder is that not all forms may ever be curable. Brain-imaging studies have shown structural differences between the white matter in healthy versus bipolar brains. Differences in personality and sleep patterns also persist in bipolar people, even between manic or depressed episodes. The structural changes likely have genetic roots, and once they arise, are difficult or impossible to reverse.

Nevertheless, if a drug prevents a mood disorder from manifesting, it might prevent harmful anatomical changes from ever taking place. Just as a vaccine triggers the body to arm itself against a particular virus, a drug like ketamine, given before the crisis that triggers a breakdown, might protect the brain against the effects of stress. Like a vaccine, the drug might only need to be given once for lasting resilience.

The first evidence in humans that ketamine might work to prevent mood disorder, not just treat it, came from the battlefield. U.S. soldiers injured in Iraq were treated with various anesthetics, including ketamine. Since ketamine can cause hallucinations, surgeons worried that it might make trauma worse: Scary combat-related hallucinations could put soldiers at higher risk of mental illness.

But they found the opposite. Out of 25,000 service members wounded in Iraq between 2002 and 2007, the data showed, veterans treated with ketamine for burns had lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. Among civilians and soldiers hospitalized for burns, as many as 45 percent end up with PTSD. But soldiers treated with ketamine on the battlefield got PTSD about half as often—even though they had more severe burns requiring more surgeries and longer hospital stays.

Mental hospitals don’t usually see patients until they break: This isn’t how it works with other sicknesses.

Rebecca Brachman, a neuroscientist and recent doctoral graduate from Columbia University, and her supervisor, Christine Denny, tried giving ketamine to mice and then exposing them to stressors.4 The researchers tested several types of stress, including one in which subject mice are “bullied” by more aggressive mice for two weeks. After this daily hazing, mice ordinarily develop the rodent equivalent of PTSD and depression: freezing in a new space, refusing to interact with other mice, and not moving in a forced swim test. But the mice “vaccinated” before the bullying fared far better: They didn’t act depressed afterward. Brachman and Denny found that the protection from a single dose lasted for weeks, even though ketamine only stays in the body for a few hours. Though they haven’t tested it yet, it is possible that, like a vaccine, this protection could last for much longer. Their rodent research suggests ketamine may work even better as a prophylactic than as an antidepressant.

Denny says that we may eventually routinely use ketamine to prevent PTSD in combat veterans, rape victims, or survivors of car crashes or mass shootings. Ketamine seems to be most strongly protective in mice when given before stressful events, Brachman says. Since we can’t predict most traumatic life events, this would limit the drug’s utility. But if injected after a trauma yet before the psychological damage sets in—as with the burned soldiers—ketamine may still be protective. Denny is investigating this possibility now.

And in some situations, violent shock is predictable. “You don’t know when an earthquake will happen,” Brachman says, “but we do know when we’re about to send U.N. workers into an area devastated by a disaster.” When people know they are going into an acutely traumatic situation, she imagines, a preventive drug given ahead of time might protect their brains from the long-lasting effects of stress. Think of earthquake aid workers, fire fighters, or rescue workers in Syria, dragging mangled people from rubble.

The idea that a single injection could prevent mood disorders is a radical departure from current psychiatric thinking. But there are some precedents: Talk therapy and mindfulness meditation have long focused on building resilience to stress. Bipolar patients take “neuroprotective” drugs like lithium not to treat current symptoms, but as a protection against future breakdowns, for instance.

Not everyone is confident that ketamine is a safe bet, to be sure. Ketamine’s long-term safety is not known, says Nestler. No lasting ill effects are seen in anesthesia patients, who take much larger doses, but they haven’t received routine treatments, the way it is administered as an antidepressant.

Plus, ketamine’s reputation as a street drug is tough to shake. Many doctors consider the hallucinogenic an unacceptable risk for patients, who they fear may develop a taste for the high. Yale’s Sanacora points out that patients in his trial, who are screened for drug or alcohol abuse, often find the trip feeling unpleasant or disturbing. The psychedelic experience is surreal, he points out, not the mellowing pleasure of a drug like alcohol, Xanax, or heroin. Extreme ketamine trips, referred to as falling in a “K-hole,” are often compared to near-death or unsettling out-of-body experiences; they hardly sound like fun to most people.

But since the antidepressant dose is far lower than the one taken to get high, many patients don’t even notice. Drug companies are also competing to develop a less trippy alternative. Johnson & Johnson is testing a nasal spray form of esketamine, a version of ketamine with less psychoactive impact. A company called Naurex has finished phase II trials of Rapastinel, an injected drug that partially blocks the same glutamate receptors as ketamine, but is not psychedelic.

The ketamine pioneers emphasize that their prevention research is the beginning of a new road, raising hopes, rather than offering an immediate cure. Brachman and Denny stress that ketamine may not be the drug that ultimately makes it into widespread use; like the anti-tubercular drugs in the 1950s that spawned the antidepressant era, it is the first to trail-blaze this new class of psychiatric prophylactics. “What this work shows us is that we can intervene beforehand and create some sort of self-reinforcing stress resilience,” Brachman says. “We didn’t know that before; that’s what’s important. Everything else—should we use it, how should we use it—that all comes later.”

Taylor Beck is a journalist based in Brooklyn. Before writing, he worked in brain imaging labs studying memory, aging, and dreams.

References

1. Maxwell, R.A. & Eckhardt, S.B. Drug Discovery Humana Press, New York, NY (1990).

2. Kennedy, S.H., et al. Differences in brain glucose metabolism between responders to CBT and venlafaxine in a 16-week randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Psychiatry 164, 778-788 (2007).

3. Vogel, G. Depression drugs’ powers may rest on new neurons. Science 301, 757 (2003).

4. Brachman, R.A., et al. Ketamine as a prophylactic against stress-induced depressive-like behavior.Biological Psychiatry (2015). Retrieved from DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.04.022

*Images reprinted from Popoli, M., Yan, Z., McEwen, B., & Sanacora, G. The stressed synapse: the impact of stress and glucocorticoids on glutamate transmission. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 13, 22-37 (2011).

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Is Ketamine Safe and Effective for Depression?

The anesthetic ketamine, used in both humans and animals, is perhaps best known as an illegal party drug due to its hallucinogenic effects. However, a growing body of research indicates that the drug may have a powerful new medical use: as a fast-acting antidepressant without the side effects seen in most prescription antidepressants.

As Nature reports, in many clinical trials to date people who have not responded to standard antidepressant treatment — such as SSRIs including Prozac — seem to respond to ketamine. And while it can take weeks to feel better after starting a prescription antidepressant, the therapeutic effects of ketamine are seen in a matter of hours.

Despite the seemingly “miracle drug” nature of ketamine, there are serious concerns about its use in depression. First, it is unclear how the drug works to alleviate depression. Second, there are no long-term studies on its long-term use. Studies that have already been done indicate the antidepressant effects of ketamine can last from between a few days to a few weeks.

And due to the addictive nature of ketamine itself, there are worries that sustained use of it may lead to dependence.

On May 4, Nature published the results of the latest trial involving ketamine, bolstering its potential as an antidepressant treatment. Researchers, examining the drug in mice, found that that the mood boosting effects may not be caused by ketamine itself, but instead by one of the metabolites ((2R,6R)-hydroxynorketamine) formed when the drug is broken down into smaller pieces.

Even more promising, the ketamine given to the rats did not increase side effects, even though the dose was much stronger than what would be given to humans for depression. The researchers say they want to take the metabolite into testing in humans, though that is likely years away.

The largest trial ever of ketamine in depression was done in 2013 with 73 participants. The drug lead to a decline in depression symptoms 24 hours after treatment in 64% of patients, all of whom had tried at least 3 other drugs without any results.  Antidepressant Efficacy of Ketamine in Treatment resistant depression

Despite the lack of clear-cut evidence of its benefits and unknowns about its long-term risk, many doctors are already offering ketamine as a depression treatments to patients, though this is an off-label use.

Side effects of ketamine can include confusion, lucid daydreaming, fuzzy vision, and a “high” feeling, though they tend to go away quickly, according to these doctors. Patients, who are usually given ketamine via infusion, are carefully monitored and must have pre-arranged transport home. They can’t drive or use heavy machinery for 24 hours.

Drug companies are even trying to cash in on the ketamine craze. Janssen Pharmaceutical is testing a form of ketamine it developed, called esketamine, in 5 clinical trials. It would be given via a nasal spray. Another is rapastinel, under development by Allergan. Both drugs had “breakthrough therapy designation” from the FDA, meaning they will go through the regulatory process at a much quicker rate.

NMDAR inhibition-independent antidepressant actions of ketamine metabolites

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K for OCD

The pros and cons of ketamine

By Tracie White
Illustration by Kotryna Zukauskaite

Geuris “Jerry” Rivas, a native of New York, was diagnosed with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder when he was 15. Obsessions with organizing and reorganizing the belongings in his bedroom — posters, comic books, videos — took over most of his life.

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volumehigh audio interview  < interview Link

Forced by germ obsessions to compulsively wash and rewash his hands, he started wearing gloves all day to both protect him from the germs and stop him from washing his hands raw. Now, at 36, OCD symptoms continue to cost him jobs and relationships. He’s managed to turn his organizational skills into a profession — he’s a home organizer and house cleaner — but still he struggles daily with his obsessions.

“It’s caused me a great deal of suffering,” Rivas says. “I’ve tried many, many medications. I’ve wasted so much of my life.”

In 2012, running out of answers, Rivas took part in the first clinical trial to test ketamine as a treatment for OCD. While ketamine is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as an anesthetic, it is also an illicit party drug known as “Special K,” with hallucinogenic effects and the potential for abuse. Over the past 10 years, dozens of small studies of ketamine’s ability to treat a variety of mood and anxiety disorders have reported remarkable results — including the sudden alleviation of treatment-resistant depression, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. And these effects lasted days, sometimes weeks, after the hallucinogenic effects of the drug wore off.

With a single infusion of the drug, Rivas experienced for two weeks what it was like to live without the compulsions and obsessions that had for years controlled his life.

“I felt like, for the first time, I was able to function like a regular person,” he says.

Illustration of a giant K being painted by a man in a white coat
Kotryna Zukauskaite

Pros and cons

Ketamine has brought hope to a psychiatric field desperate to find new treatments for severe OCD, a chronic condition marked by debilitating obsessions and repetitive behaviors. Current treatments, which include antidepressants such as Prozac, can take months to have any effect on the disease, if they work at all.

“Severe OCD takes such a toll on patients,” says Carolyn Rodriguez, MD, PhD, who as a researcher at Columbia University ran the OCD trial. Now an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford, she has continued to explore the pros and cons of using ketamine to treat OCD. “The constant, intrusive thoughts that something is contaminated, the checking and rechecking, the repetitive behaviors. It interferes with your life, your jobs, your relationships.”

Ketamine was developed in the 1960s and has been used for decades as an anesthetic during surgery. It remains a mystery just how the drug works in the brain, and there are safety concerns. There is evidence from people who take the drug routinely — in much higher doses — that chronic, high-frequency ketamine use may be associated with increased risk of bladder inflammation and cognitive impairment, Rodriguez says. And if taken regularly, it can lead to dependence.

But researchers like Rodriguez are intrigued about the drug’s potential to help them identify a whole new line of medicines for fast-acting treatment of mental health disorders.

“What most excites me about ketamine is that it works in a different way than traditional antidepressants,” Rodriguez says. “Using ketamine, we hope to understand the neurobiology that could lead to safe, fast-acting treatments. I feel that is part of my mission as a physician and researcher.”

‘Right out of a movie’

Rodriguez’s interest in ketamine as a treatment for OCD was sparked about a decade ago when she was starting out as a research scientist at Columbia. A small, placebo-controlled study published in 2006 by a mentor of hers, Carlos Zarate, MD, now chief of the section on neurobiology and treatment of mood disorders at the National Institute of Mental Health, had shown that ketamine induced dramatic improvement in treatment-resistant depression within two hours of infusion. It was a landmark study, drawing attention among the psychiatric community and launching a new field of research into the use of ketamine to treat various mood and anxiety disorders.”What most excites me about ketamine is that it works in a different way than traditional antidepressants.”

Rodriguez, intent on searching for better, faster treatments for her patients like Rivas with OCD, took note. There was an emerging theory that ketamine affects the levels of the neurotransmitter glutamate in the brain and increasing evidence that glutamate plays a role in OCD symptoms, she says. Perhaps ketamine could help regulate OCD symptoms as well as depression.

In 2013, Rodriguez and colleagues published their results from that first clinical trial of ketamine in OCD patients. The trial randomized 15 patients with OCD to ketamine or placebo.

In those patients who were given ketamine, the effect was immediate. Patients reported dramatic decreases in their obsessive-compulsive symptoms midway through the 40-minute infusion, according to the study. The diminished symptoms lasted throughout the following week in half of the patients. Most striking were comments by the patients quoted in the study: “I tried to have OCD thoughts, but I couldn’t,” said one. Another said, “I feel as if the weight of OCD has been lifted.” A third said, “I don’t have any intrusive thoughts. … This is amazing, unbelievable. This is right out of a movie.” And while nearly all initially had dissociative effects like feelings of unreality, distortions of time or hallucinations, they were gone within two hours after the start of the infusion.

“Carolyn’s study was quite exciting,” Zarate says, adding that there were a number of similar, small but rigorous studies following his 2006 study that found fast-acting results using ketamine to treat bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“We had no reason to believe that ketamine could wipe out any symptoms of these disorders within hours or days,” he says.

So how does it work?

Virtually all of the antidepressants used in the past 60 years work the same way: by raising levels of serotonin or one or two other neurotransmitters. Ketamine, however, doesn’t affect serotonin levels. Exactly what it does remains unclear.”There’s a recognition that people like me and others are using the drug to treat patients now. There’s an incredible need for something.”

Since coming to Stanford in 2015, Rodriguez has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health for a large clinical trial of ketamine’s effects on OCD. This five-year trial aims to follow 90 OCD patients for as long as six months after they’ve been given a dose of ketamine or an alternative drug. Rodriguez and her research team want to observe how ketamine changes participants’ brains, as well as test for side effects.

Ultimately, Rodriguez says, she hopes the study will lead to the discovery of other fast-acting drugs that work in the brain like ketamine but without its addictive potential.

Recent research in the field indicates that the glutamate hypothesis that triggered her pilot study might be further refined.

“Ketamine is a complicated drug that works on many different receptor sites,” she says. “Researchers have fixated on the NMDA receptor, one of the glutamate-type receptors, but it might not be the only receptor bringing benefit.”

In May 2016, researchers from NIMH and the University of Maryland — Zarate among them — published a study conducted in mice showing that a chemical byproduct, or metabolite, created as the body breaks down ketamine might hold the secret to its rapid antidepressant actions. This metabolite, hydroxynorketamine, reversed depressionlike symptoms in mice without triggering any of the anesthetic, dissociative or addictive side effects associated with ketamine, Zarate says.

“Ideally, we’d like to test hydroxynorketamine and possibly other drugs that act on glutamate pathways without ketamine-like side effects as possible alternatives to ketamine in OCD,” Rodriguez says.

Beyond the clubs

Meanwhile, dozens of commercial ketamine clinics have popped up across the country, making treatments available to patients who are searching for help to stop their suffering now. Medical insurance companies usually cover ketamine’s FDA-approved use as an anesthetic but won’t cover its use for other purposes, such as mental health disorders. So patients who have run out of treatment options are paying hundreds of dollars a dose for repeated ketamine infusions.

“The fact that these clinics exist is due to the desperation of patients,” says Rodriguez.

She and other researchers are calling for guidelines to protect patients and more research to learn how to use the drug safely.

“I think it’s a game changer, and it’s here to stay,” says David Feifel, MD, PhD, professor emeritus of psychiatry at UC-San Diego, who studies the effect of ketamine on clinical depression. Feifel began prescribing the drug for patients with treatment-resistant depression in 2010.

“I’ve found it to be very safe,” Feifel says, adding that the American Psychiatric Association this year issued safety guidelines on how to use ketamine clinically for treatment of depression.

“There’s a recognition that people like me and others are using the drug to treat patients now,” he says. “There’s an incredible need for something.”

The drug hasn’t worked for everyone he’s treated, Feifel says, but for many it’s been “life-changing.”

Rodriguez says she understands what motivates the clinicians to prescribe the drug now to patients in dire straits — those who are suicidal or who have tried every possible medication and therapeutic option and continue to suffer each day.

“I see it as a way to treat people whose OCD is very, very severe,” she says. “People who can’t come out of the house, who are suicidal, who have no other options.

“I just don’t like the idea of people being in pain,” Rodriguez adds. “I want to see science translated into treatments now.”

Meanwhile, researchers are learning more about the drug. Janssen Pharmaceutical is testing the efficacy of a version of ketamine, known as esketamine, as a therapy for treatment-resistant depression and for major depressive disorder with imminent risk for suicide. The FDA has fast-tracked both investigations. At Stanford, Alan Schatzberg, MD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, along with other faculty including Rodriguez, is studying the mechanism of action for ketamine in treating depression.

Rodriguez is also interested in using ketamine to kick-start a type of cognitive behavioral therapy called exposure and response prevention, an evidence-based psychological treatment designed to help patients overcome OCD. The therapy involves teaching patients with OCD to face anxieties by refraining from ritualizing behaviors, then progressing to more challenging anxieties as they experience success.

Relaxation and other techniques also help patients tolerate their anxiety — for example, postponing the compulsion to wash their hands for at least 30 minutes, then extending that time period.

“My goal isn’t to have people taking ketamine for long periods of time,” Rodriguez says. But perhaps a short-term course of ketamine could provide its own kind of exposure and response prevention by allowing patients to experience that it is possible not to be controlled by their OCD, she says.

Rivas well remembers that infusion of ketamine he received during Rodriguez’s first clinical trial to test the drug. The rush made him feel “like Superman.”

“I felt like my body was bigger, that I was more muscular, that I could tackle anything,” he says. But that feeling only lasted the duration of the 40-minute infusion. His OCD symptoms disappeared immediately and were still gone for two weeks after.

“I was amazed that something like that would work and work so fast,” he says. His OCD symptoms today are still intrusive, but he manages to keep them under control by taking antidepressants and seeing a therapist. Still, each day when he comes home from work, he has to put gloves on before he enters his apartment building, and as soon as he enters his apartment, he must wash his hands.

“It’s a ritual now,” he says. “There has never been a time that I haven’t done that, except those two weeks after the ketamine.”

When he heard that certain private ketamine clinics are now offering the drug as treatment for OCD, he said he understands why patients take the risks and pay the high prices. As more research has become available, he’s begun considering it himself.

“I’ve been suffering through my OCD for so long, I’ve gotten to the point where I’d try anything,” he says.

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VA uses ketamine to treat PTSD effectively

The San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center is administering ketamine to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Tobias Marton, the director of the ketamine infusion program at the center, said that since the program first launched two years ago, they have treated about 40 patients who had virtually exhausted all other options.

“They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do and they remain with very severe symptoms and with a poor or impaired quality of life,” he said. “Despite (past treatments), there remains a high risk of suicide (with some veterans).”

While it was not clear where the 40 patients are from, the option is something that is available to Humboldt County veterans who are suffering from PTSD or depression.

Marton said that in general, about a third of people diagnosed with depression don’t respond to first, second and third lines of treatment.

In contrast, ketamine infusion has yielded “impressive outcomes.”

Many people know of ketamine as a party drug, often referred to as Special K, but it is mainly used medically for anesthesia or pain treatment.

Miracle of medicine

“We know ketamine has rapid and powerful anti-suicide properties,” he said. “To have another tool, a potentially powerful tool to have an impact on suicide rates is really exciting.”

While Marton is proceeding with “cautious optimism,” Boris Nikolov, the CEO of Neurosciences Medical Clinic in Miami, Florida, which has a ketamine clinic, believes the application might be a medical breakthrough.

It’s one of the greatest discoveries in the field of depression,” he said. “This is one of the miracles in medicine.

Nikolov’s clinic has treated 120 patients with ketamine, including his wife who has PTSD as a result of severe child abuse.

“Ketamine really helped her,” he said. “That was a really big part of her recovery.”

Nikolov said most medicines that treat depression take from two to four weeks to start working. Ketamine begins working within hours after it is administered, a process which usually involves an IV infusion over the course of about an hour.

“What’s most important is the strong and fast effect of ketamine in patients who are very seriously depressed, or want to hurt themselves,” he said. “When they finish treatment, they’re totally different people. There is no other medication that does that.”

Brad Burge, the director of strategic communication at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS, said there has been “an explosion of treatment that’s outpaced research.”

“It means that people are going to have another option, an alternative to conventional medications,” he said.

According to Burge, MAPS believes the best form of ketamine infusion involves pairing with other forms of psychotherapy such as group or individual counseling.

Ketamine availability

While ketamine is an FDA-approved drug which has been used as an anesthetic as well as a pain reliever, it isn’t officially sanctioned by the FDA to be used for treating mental health disorders. However, Marton said that ketamine has been administered in this fashion for over 18 years now.

A company is currently in the process of trying to get an intranasal product approved by the FDA which would administer ketamine through the nasal passage, according to Marton. He expects the FDA’s decision to be announced sometime around March 2019.

If the product is approved, he said, VA clinics in rural communities like the one in Eureka would likely be able to start offering ketamine treatments as well.

For now, only the location in San Francisco is able to offer the treatment, but Marton said anyone within their service realm, which includes Humboldt County, is invited to consult with the VA about seeking treatment.

“We want to be as thoughtful as we can,” he said. “As we understand more about it … (we) might be able to start helping people who we haven’t been able to help despite throwing everything we have at them.”

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CBD become one of the most sought-after medicines on the market today. Not only is it able to treat a wide range of ailments ranging from cancer to arthritis, CBD is known to be effective without causing any obvious side effects. It can be used safely in the long-term without causing addiction and dependence.

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There are tons of ways to use CBD, and one of the most popular is to use CBD gummies. These products provide patients with a tasty and fun way to medicate themselves. In this article, we’re going to talk about the use of CBD gummies for helping to fight off anxiety and depression.

What is CBD?

CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is one of the main cannabinoids found in the cannabis and hemp plants. CBD is known to treat a number of illnesses, both mental and physical. Some of the things that CBD is most commonly used to treat include:

  • Arthritis and other inflammatory conditions
  • Anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems
  • Cancer
  • Various diseases of the intestinal tract like IBS and Crohn’s disease
  • Various forms of pain, both chronic and acute

These are just a few of the things that CBD can be useful for treating. CBD works by affecting the body’s endocannabinoid system, a system of neurotransmitters that affects a huge number of our bodily processes. We’ll touch on that later in the neurochemistry section.

CBD is attractive to a number of people because it presents a holistic alternative to a lot of pharmaceutical medications. Many people find that their pharmaceuticals may be effective for treating a problem on the surface, but the side effects often compete with the benefits and in the long-run the illness is rarely treated.

CBD gummies, on the other hand, can help people manage the symptoms of their illnesses without actually becoming dependent on a drug or overwhelmed by side effects. This provides a unique opportunity to actually heal the root of the problem.

CBD vs THC

Many people are hesitant to use CBD because they know that it comes from the same plant as THC. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is another cannabinoid. This one is largely responsible for many of the psychoactive effects that a person can experience when smoking marijuana.

Marijuana is quite a powerful drug and it’s understandable that some people would want to ensure that they’re not going to get high when using CBD. Rest assured, CBD and THC have vastly different effects, and CBD is not psychoactive at all.

This is interesting because structurally, CBD and THC are almost identical. Their molecules have the same number and same type of atoms; they are simply arranged differently. This contributes to the vast differences in experiences when using these two compounds.

CBD Effects

The interesting thing about CBD is that it will not have many effects if you are not treating an actual problem. That is to say, CBD works by helping to restore balance and function to the endocannabinoid system (ECS), as mentioned earlier. If your endocannabinoid system is in perfect health, then taking CBD won’t do much for you.

Unfortunately, the reality is that most of us have at least some imbalance in our ECS. These imbalances can come from a number of things that we’re exposed to on a daily basis: pollution, stress, unhealthy food, etc.

For these people, CBD is known for providing a number of positive benefits:

  • Reduced inflammation, improving pain and swelling for people with problems like arthritis
  • Increased relaxation and ability to fall asleep
  • Reduced anxiety and depression
  • Improved sociability
  • Improved concentration
  • Improved digestion

All of these benefits can work together to help ward off various illnesses and diseases.

Does CBD Get You High?

CBD does not get you high. As mentioned earlier, the CBD molecule is nearly identical to the THC molecule. However, because of the arrangement of these molecules, the two compounds act entirely different inside the body.

THC directly affects the body whereas CBD indirectly affects the body. This is why THC is much more apparent when ingested than CBD.

CBD Gummies

CBD Products

There are a huge number of different products containing CBD available. The variety in products allows for patients to choose from a number of ways of consuming CBD. The different methods of taking CBD will provide differences in the effects and duration of the substance.

  • CBD oil and tinctures are among the most popular CBD products. These oils and tinctures are so popular that we have dedicated a section to them below.
  • CBD capsules. Capsules are great for oral use but they can also be broken apart and taken sublingually or under-the-tongue. Capsules tend to come on slower than the other methods of using CBD but they also last for a bit longer.
  • Smokeables and vape products are useful for people who have acute problems like pain or panic attacks. These products can be inhaled and the effects felt almost immediately, though they tend to wear off much quicker.
  • Topical products. There are a number of products made with CBD that can be applied directly to the skin. These products are great because the active ingredient can be absorbed into the skin and there won’t be any effects on a person’s mental or physical site except where they apply it.

CBD Oil

CBD oil is one of the most popular forms of using CBD. This is because the oil provides you with a concentrated form of the active extract that can be consumed in a number of ways

The most effective way to use CBD oil is to take it sublingually. This involves holding the oil under your tongue for about 5 minutes so the CBD can be absorbed into the blood vessels there. This causes it to hit you faster and you’ll end up using less of it this way, thus saving money.

CBD oil is also used in the making of a number of other CBD products, like edibles.

CBD Edibles

CBD edibles are one of the most popular ways to consume CBD. People have had great success using CBD oil to make snacks and treats filled with CBD that people can eat. Ranging from CBD gummies to CBD peanut butter, edibles are a great way to medicate yourself.

One of the best things about edibles is that they are more slowly metabolized than the other forms of CBD. This means that the active effects may come on a bit slower but they will linger for much longer.

CBD and Anxiety

One of the most popular uses for CBD gummies and other forms of CBD is for helping people manage anxiety.

Many people were baffled by the implications of this, particularly because THC is well-known for causing anxiety in many people. Folks were wondering how a cannabinoid – especially one so similar to THC – could be used for fighting anxiety.

We’ll discuss the reasoning a bit more in the neurochemistry section below. For now, the simple fact of the matter is that CBD helps to manage anxiety by relaxing the mind and body, as well as balancing out the endocannabinoid system.

CBD has been shown to be useful for fighting all sorts of anxiety, ranging from generalized anxiety to panic disorder. Many have found success using a vape pen to help them manage acute panic attacks. CBD has even been shown to help fight anxiety associated with serious conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder.

CBD and Depression

CBD has proven to be a very exciting alternative for helping people manage depression.

Many traditional antidepressants are known for causing a huge number of side effects. These drugs often take a long time to work – many people have to use them for up to three weeks before these drugs work – and they often have drastic effects on a person’s physical and mental health.

CBD might not be as potent as some of these antidepressants, but it targets the problem in a much more holistic manner. Instead of blunting your emotions or inhibiting your ability to feel depressed by overloading your brain with neurotransmitters, CBD helps you overcome acute symptoms of depression so you’re actually able to identify and heal the root of the problem.

CBD gummies and other forms of CBD are a great tool for helping some people get the treatment that they need to actually eliminate their depression. After this, they can stop using CBD. This is in stark contrast to traditional antidepressants which many people find themselves using for the rest of their lives.

Neurochemistry and CBD

We have touched on the subject of CBD and neurochemistry in this article, but only briefly. In this section we will give a bit more information about the way CBD affects our brain and nervous system.

As mentioned, CBD affects the ECS. This massive system of neurotransmitters and receptors is responsible for governing many facets of our brains and bodies. It helps to regulate our immune system, manage our digestion, regulate our mental health, and generally help to ensure that we function properly.

Unfortunately, many of us have an imbalance in the ECS. CBD works by helping to restore balance to this vast system by indirectly influencing it.

This is one of the reasons that CBD has such vastly different effects than THC. THC directly binds to what are known as cannabinoid receptors. By binding to these receptors, THC can have a direct, immediate, and profound effect on this entire system.

CBD, on the other hand, works indirectly. Not only does it not bind to the receptors, but it actually makes it more difficult for substances like THC to bind to them. Instead, CBD works ‘behind the scenes’ to have a positive and regulatory effect on certain neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and our own naturally produced cannabinoids.

CBD Dosage

The dosage that one requires when they are using CBD depends on their condition and how serious it is. Dosages vary greatly between people and since CBD hasn’t been approved by federal organizations there is no standard dosage.

However, there are certainly some standards that one could expect to use.

  • People with anxiety may need anywhere from 10 to 50 mg of CBD. 10 mg doses of capsules or oils can be useful for helping to treat mild-to-moderate social anxiety and general anxiety. Higher doses can stave off a panic attack in its tracks.
  • People with pain or inflammation often require slightly higher doses. 20 mg can be effective for mild-to-moderate inflammation, but doses of anywhere from 50-100 mg are quite common.
  • People with depression often take higher doses, beginning at around 50 mg. However, people with melancholy or mild depression caused by situations or events can find some improvement using around 20 mg.

Keep in mind the way that you consume your CBD also has an impact on how much you need. Consuming CBD gummies or tinctures orally causes some of the drug to be destroyed by the liver before it’s absorbed into the bloodstream. Taking it sublingually helps to prevent this and reduces the amount required by about 40 percent.

CBD Side Effects

The vast majority of people won’t experience any side effects from CBD. Aside from the fact that higher doses might make you sleepy and unfit to drive a motor vehicle, CBD won’t cause any serious side effects unless you are allergic to cannabinoids.

That said, some people are extremely sensitive to the compound. These people may experience symptoms like dry mouth, diarrhea, and nausea. However, this may indicate that the medicine was not prepared properly or was produced in a facility with low safety and health standards.

One thing to be noted is that people using THC for recreational purposes might find the effects diminished if they use CBD. However, people who are using THC for medicinal purposes often find that the benefits are enhanced when they are using CBD in addition to THC.

Hopefully, this article has helped you to better understand CBD and the powerful benefits that it can provide for you and those that you love. Good luck healing yourself with this fantastic medicine.

What is Depression?

Depression is a mental health disorder associated with significant morbidity and mortality, being a major risk factor for suicide, substance abuse, poor outcomes of medical conditions, and impaired functionality. It is characterized by flattening of mood, loss of emotional expression, and retardation of thought and movements. Individuals who have depression usually have a depressed mood, loss of interest in activities they were usually interested in, sleep disturbance, loss of energy, and reduced ability to thick or focus.

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) categorizes depressive disorders into major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, and depressive disorder due to a medical condition. However, all these classes of depression are characterized by the presence of a sad or irritable mood with associated difficulty in thinking, concentrating, and carrying out normal physical tasks, impairing the individual’s daily functioning.

Stats about Depression

Between 2009 and 2012, approximately 7.6% of Americans aged 12 and above were diagnosed with depression and it was more common among females and persons aged 40 and 59. In 2015, about 16.1 million adults aged 18 and over had a minimum of one depressive episode in the previous year.

Depression has been found to occur in children at an incidence rate of 0.9% in preschool-aged children, 1.9% in school-aged children, and approximately 4.7% in adolescents. In prepubertal children, depression occurs in boys and girls at an equal rate. Generally, depression in men and women has the highest rates in those aged between 25 to 44 years and the incidence of severe depression increases with age.

What are the Traditional Treatments for Depression?

There is a wide range of treatments for depression which have proven effective in improving symptoms. A combination of medications and psychotherapy is effective in reducing the symptoms of depression, and therapy with either form alone is often ineffective. Combination therapy has been found to increase quality of life and improve treatment compliance in patients with depression.

Advanced treatment techniques used for the treatment of depression include electroconvulsive therapy which uses high-energy electric stimulation, and bright-light therapy involving exposure of an individual with depression to bright light at an intensity of 10,000 lux for a period of one hour in the morning.

Therapy for Depression

Psychotherapy is often combined with medications in the treatment of depression. There are different types of therapy for depression and these can be grouped based on their efficacies. A therapy is considered “efficacious and specific” if studies in at least two settings (hospital, home therapy, rehab center etc.) have proven it more effective than medications. A therapy is considered “efficacious” if it has been proven from at least two settings that it is superior to no treatment at all, and it is “possibly efficacious” if it has been proven effective in at least one study in a single setting.

Examples of efficacious and specific therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy, problem-solving therapy, and interpersonal therapy which help the individual modify their behaviors and interpersonal relationships. An example of an efficacious therapy includes mindfulness-based cognitive therapy to prevent a recurrence or relapse, and an example of possibly efficacious therapy is continuation cognitive therapy to prevent recurrence by helping the individual develop positive thinking and behavioral patterns.

Medications for Depression

Medications used for treating depression are of different classes, each with a different mechanism of action, characteristics, and side effects. Some of these drugs include Fluoxetine (Prozac), Citalopram, Amitriptyline, Imipramine, and Nortriptyline. These drugs generally increase the concentration of stimulant substances in the brain to improve the depressive symptoms.

Home Remedies for Depression

Patients with depression could benefit from a number of home remedies which could help to improve their symptoms, in addition to antidepressants and therapy:

  • St. John’s wort – This plant, although not approved for treatment of depression by the FDA, has been linked with increased amounts of serotonin in the body correlating to improvement of depressive symptoms.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – Omega-3 fatty acids are commonly found in fish such as salmon, sardines, and trout, and this substance has been linked to improvement in depressive symptoms.
  • SAM-e – S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e) is artificially designed to function like chemicals in the brain which elevate mood. It is considered a supplement useful in improving symptoms of depression.
  • Folate – Folic acid which is found in a number of foods such as beans, lentils, dark leafy greens, and fortified cereals have been found to improve the effectiveness of medications used in treating the disorder.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring chemical compound found in the hemp plant. It is one of the numerous unique compounds called cannabinoids which naturally occur in hemp. Generally, cannabinoids can be produced in the body (these are known as endocannabinoids) or found in the hemp plant as phytocannabinoids. CBD is industrially extracted from the cannabis plant and separated from the other cannabinoids, representing about 40% of cannabis extracts.

CBD is a phytocannabinoid which helps to stimulate the regulation of the central nervous system. CBD, therefore, helps supplement the effects of endocannabinoids in regulating appetite, mood, functions of the immune system, sensation, and keeping our bodies working normally. CBD oil is made from hemp plants and can be purchased legally in the United States. CBD is available in different forms such as tinctures, concentrates, capsules, sprays, tapes, and topicals.

CBD vs. THC

Most times, people interchange CBD for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another cannabinoid found in the hemp plant. Both of them represent the commonest compounds found in the plant. However, they have numerous differences.

THC, unlike CBD, is intoxicating causing a high and euphoria. It is responsible for the “high” felt by marijuana users. CBD, on the other hand, is not a psychoactive substance as it does not act via the same biological pathways in the body as THC.

CBD Oil Effects

Although, CBD oil has not been approved by the FDA for the treatment of any condition, there have been several studies demonstrating some of its health benefits:

  • CBD has been shown to have anti-oxidant properties which means that it is capable of mopping up toxic substances obtained from food or generated in the body. These substances are often at the center of inflammatory conditions such as myocardial infarction, inflammatory bowel disease, and stroke.
  • Oxidative stress caused by the release of these toxic substances causes age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease and CBD has been found to protect against these degenerative diseases of the brain and reduce their clinical progression in patients suffering from them. CBD may also help in the clinical improvement of some autoimmune disease such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Clinical trials have shown that CBD oils are effective in the treatment of epilepsy and other seizure disorders.
  • Studies have shown that CBD may have therapeutic benefits for brain disorders such as psychosis, depression, and multiple sclerosis.
  • Other benefits of CBD are currently being investigated, including its effects on anxiety and depression, as well as on social anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Does CBD Get You High?

CBD is a non-psychoactive form of cannabinoid which has been found not to interfere with the cognitive functions of the brain. It does not get you “high,” in contrast to THC, which alters the cognitive functions of the brain.

Is CBD Addictive?

According to a recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO), CBD is not addictive and it has no potential for abuse or dependence. This is mainly because CBD does not contain any addictive substances, in contrast to THC and some cannabinoids which contain such and are, therefore, capable of being addictive.

Is CBD Safe?

There have been extensive reviews on the toxic potentials of CBD and reports have revealed that CBD has a relatively low toxicity. It has been found to be safe with little potential for adverse effects. CBD was found to have no effect on fetal development and other bodily functions. Generally, CBD does not produce the adverse effects seen with THC and other psychoactive cannabinoids. However, reports demonstrate that some reactions may occur as a result of its interactions with other drugs co-administered with it.

How Could CBD Help with Depression?

CBD has been found to be effective in the treatment of depression. While CBD does not cure the condition, it has been linked to improvement of the symptoms.

The cannabinoids produced in our bodies (endocannabinoids) help to regulate several functions of the body such as mood, pain sensation, sleep, and appetite. These substances exert their actions by binding to specific points of brain cells called the receptors through which they potentiate the actions of a substance called serotonin which acts to improve mood and reduce stress levels. Serotonin also acts by binding to its receptors in brain cells. When these chemical substances bind to their respective receptors, they trigger a series of events within each brain cell stimulating processes that improve mood and stress control.

CBD has been found to help improve depressive symptoms by modulating the actions of the endocannabinoids and also potentiating the effects of serotonin by enhancing the activity of the receptors unto which serotonin binds.

CBD oil helps to significantly improve depressive symptoms and the individual’s quality of life.

CBD Oil Dosage

CBD oil is available in several forms including tinctures, capsules, concentrates, and topical forms. However, it is most commonly administered orally. It is important to note that CBD is most effective when used regularly in maintenance doses, though it may be used for treating acute flare-ups.

In the management of depression, CBD oil may be taken in the tincture and capsule forms. Individuals with depression can begin with a dose of 5 to 10mg daily until the desired results are achieved. Gel capsules of CBD are available as 25mg per pill and it is safe to begin at this dosage as CBD has a good safety profile. The effects of CBD lasts several hours after a dose is ingested and most persons report feeling better for up to 24 hours. However, you will only begin to notice these improvements after 90 minutes of ingestion of CBD oil.

For managing acute flare-ups, it is best to vaporize CBD isolate for fast relief of symptoms. However, the maintenance dose should not be discontinued. Although you may also use the ingestible forms of CBD in treating acute flare-ups, these, generally, have a relatively longer onset of action.

Generally, it is recommended that you consult with your physician before starting CBD oils to prevent drug interactions and exacerbations of any medical conditions you may have. Do not, also, discontinue or start any drug while using CBD without consulting your physician.

For information on where to obtain CBD Oil, go here.

CBD Oil Side Effects

CBD oil is generally safe to use with minimal risk of adverse effects. Side effects may be seen when high doses are taken. Some studies have revealed that if taken at high doses, it may cause a weakening of your immune system. However, the main concern with the use of CBD is the risk of drug interactions, therefore, it is recommended that you consult your physician before using CBD oil.

Bottom Line: Can CBD Help You?

CBD is one of the naturally occurring chemical substances found in the cannabis plant and though the stigma associated with the psychoactive counterpart, THC, has rubbed off on it, it has been shown to have immense health benefits in treating conditions such as anxiety, depression, mood disorders, and inflammatory diseases. CBD oil helps to significantly improve depressive symptoms and the individual’s quality of life. However, it should be noted that CBD does not provide a cure for the disorder, but leads to a better quality of life for the patient.

Resources

https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/286759-overview#a4

https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/natural-treatments#1

https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/herbs-supplements

https://ministryofhemp.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/The-Complete-CBD-Resource.pdf

https://www.royalqueenseeds.com/blog-new-who-report-shows-cbd-is-not-addictive-nor-dangerous-n771

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3648779/

https://keytocannabis.com/blogs/cannabis/cbd-for-depression

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24923339

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22729452

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20002102

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Learn How Ketamine Can Treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ICD 10

NOVA Heath Recovery Ketamine Treatment Center | Call 703–844-0184 for a Ketamine Treatment | Alexandria, Va 22306 | 7 days a week and evening appointments as well! We also evaluate depression, ADHD, PTSD. Intranasal Ketamine available.   The email is EMAIL@novahealthrecovery.com

Learn How Ketamine Can Treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

For decades, ketamine has been used as a medicinal intervention for treating depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While most ketamine advocates recognize its therapeutic potential for treating depression, the many benefits available to those suffering from PTSD are less understood.

Do you or a loved one suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder? If so, ketamine infusion therapy may be able to help alleviate your symptoms and provide the relief you need. However, public knowledge about medicinal ketamine is lacking. In this article, we go over everything there is to know about ketamine for treating PTSD.

PTSD 101: What You Need to Know

Post-traumatic stress disorder has a medical diagnostic code of ICD-10, which is the code used for reimbursing treatment through your insurance provider. PTSD, unlike other mental illnesses, is characterized by its triggering from a single or series of traumatic events. This explains why PTSD is common among military veterans and first responders.

According to a summary article from Mayo Clinic, PTSD is a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying experience. The sufferer subsequently experiences flashbacks, night terrors, and anxiety attacks that they cannot control as a result of the event. It takes a significant amount of time, therapy, and self-care to overcome the trauma of PTSD.

There is no known cure for PTSD. However, many experimental medicinal interventions are breaking ground when it comes to finding a cure. For example, the psychoactive drugs MDMA and ketamine have both been studied for their potential to alleviate the negative effects of PTSD.

Ketamine Infusion Therapy

Since the early 2000s, ketamine has gained popularity among medical providers for its application in infusion therapies. In recent years, clinics all around the world have embraced the healing power of ketamine by offering ketamine infusion therapy. This unique therapy involves one or more intravenous injections of ketamine under the supervision of an anesthesiologist.

What Is Ketamine?

Although ketamine has garnered a reputation as a party drug, its primary value is in its ability to provide fast-acting and potent relief for those with chronic pain issues. Ketamine was first synthesized in the 1960s and was later adopted as an anesthetic in veterinary medicine by the end of the decade. However, use in humans was initially sparse.

Ketamine is both an analgesic and anesthetic drug, which means its primary quality is to reduce or prevent pain. This makes ketamine highly effective for treating major depressive disorder, chronic back pain, and PTSD.

Ketamine and PTSD

Ketamine-infusion-clinics-across-mi

Ketamine infusion clinics across the United States are now offering specialty treatments for those suffering from PTSD. For example, the renowned Ketamine Clinics of Los Angeles has treated hundreds of PTSD patients over the years. Led by Dr. Steven Mandel, M.D., the team at Ketamine Clinics of LA has a proven track record of helping relieve the pain of PTSD.

An increasing amount of scientific research has proven that ketamine is effective in treating PTSD. Most notably, a breakthrough 2014 study in JAMA Psychiatry discovered that a single intravenous subanesthetic dose of ketamine resulted in “significant and rapid reduction in PTSD symptom severity.”

Over the past few years, many articles and news reports have heralded ketamine as a potential wonder drug for treating PTSD. A recent article published by Medscape discussed how a team of researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City used ketamine to fight depressive symptoms in patients with PTSD and severe depression.

Is Ketamine Safe for PTSD?

There is no doubt that ketamine is a novel treatment for many PTSD sufferers. Since it is a relatively new medicinal intervention, there is some skepticism within the medical community regarding whether it is safe for human use. However, many of these doubts have been quelled over the years thanks to numerous studies and experiences that have proven its safety.

The most compelling evidence suggesting that ketamine infusion is safe in humans comes from a 2014 clinical study. This study managed to safely administer low doses of ketamine to treat neuropathic pain states in adults. Over the two-week monitoring period, the patients exhibited numerous benefits while experiencing only marginal or negligible side effects.

It should be noted that ketamine is not safe if taken recreationally. Since its inception, ketamine has gained a reputation as a party drug for its ability to induce dissociative states and euphoria. However, ketamine is not safe to use unless administered by a licensed physician. It is possible to overdose on ketamine, and the side effects of using high doses of ketamine can be fatal.

Ketamine: A PTSD Prevention Tool?

Interestingly, ketamine has found success as a tool for preventing the onset of PTSD. In one case, a research team gave a family of mice a low dose of ketamine before exposing them to electric shocks. Usually, mice exhibit symptoms of PTSD after being exposed to such a severe stressor. However, the mice that were given ketamine did not exhibit these symptoms at all.

Typically, traumatized mice freeze up when they are placed back in the cage in which they were shocked. In this case, the mice who were sedated with ketamine did not freeze when placed in the cage or froze for a significantly reduced duration. This led the research team to believe that ketamine may have value in both preventing and treating PTSD in humans.

Is Ketamine Right for You?

Ketamine may be an appropriate treatment option for you if you have treatment-resistant PTSD. In other words, you must first be diagnosed with PTSD and have sought the traditional frontline treatments for the condition before considering ketamine infusion therapy. We recommend speaking with your doctor about your PTSD symptoms and the appropriate therapies available to you. Usually, SSRIs or benzodiazepine pharmaceutical drugs, in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the first method of treatment. However, if you do not respond well to this treatment option you should consider seeking ketamine therapy.

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NOVA Heath Recovery Ketamine Treatment Center | Call 703–844-0184 for a Ketamine Treatment | Alexandria, Va 22306 | 7 days a week and evening appointments as well! We also evaluate depression, ADHD, PTSD. Intranasal Ketamine available.   The email is EMAIL@novahealthrecovery.com

Ketamine for Depression: Does it work?

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine, also known as Ketalar, Ketaset, and Ketanest, is a medication that’s currently FDA approved only as an anesthetic but it’s showing great potential as a treatment for severe depression. In fact, numerous Ketamine Clinics have begun to appear throughout the United States to solve this problem. Depressed patients with stubborn symptoms get relief within hours rather than weeks with conventional anti-depressants. Doctors can only prescribe ketamine for depression off-label because studies are relatively new, but experts are saying that ketamine is one of the biggest breakthroughs in severe depression treatment to come along in decades [1].

Ketamine is a powerful pain reliever and a relaxant, but at higher doses it can also induce unconsciousness and disturbances in how a person experiences sight and sound. In high doses, it can produce hallucinations and delusions and its ability to create strong dissociative experiences have made it popular in the club scene where it’s known as “Special K”. An overdose of ketamine can be fatal and it can be addictive if patients don’t follow their doctor’s prescription guidelines. Currently, ketamine is scheduled as a class III drug and it’s created a lot of controversy among experts who disagree about whether it’s safe for doctors to prescribe it as a treatment for chronic depression. Despite the intrigue and the need for additional research to establish its safety and efficacy, ketamine clinics are now offering infusion treatments to patients all over the United States [1][2][8][9].

Effects of Ketamine

As a street drug, ketamine creates a sense of dissociation and can change a person’s sense of hearing and sight, but for patients with severe depression, ketamine relieves mood problems within hours or sometimes moments for about 85% of those treated. While conventional anti-depressants can take several weeks to take effect, studies have shown that ketamine often improves depression symptoms almost immediately. Patients typically feel better within hours [1][2].

Doctors, dentists, and psychiatrists prescribe ketamine to help their patients achieve a variety of different health goals. Doctors often use ketamine in FDA approved situations such as procedures involving cardiac catheterization, orthopedics, skin grafting, or diagnostics involving the eye, ear, nose, and throat. Surgical dentists may also use ketamine as an anesthesia during tooth extractions. After other treatment options have been attempted and failed, doctors may use ketamine to treat certain types of seizures in patients with status epilepticus [2].

Researchers demonstrated in 2014 that ketamine reduced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in 41 patients and there are other exciting possibilities on the horizon in terms of PTSD treatment. Treatment-resistant depression and substance use disorders could both be treated with this drug, though many medical professionals view ketamine treatment for these mental health issues as controversial [2].

Ketamine for Pain Management (CRPS)

Central Sensitization is a process the central nervous system goes through which causes Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS/RSD) and other types of chronic pain. In central sensitization the number of NMDA receptors increases which amplifies a patients’ experience of pain. Ketamine interferes with NMDA receptors which puts a damper on pain signaling, providing pain relief and a desensitization to pain for patients affected by CRPS [8].

At low doses, ketamine can relieve chronic pain and potentiate the effects of sedatives. Researchers believe that ketamine could provide an alternative to more addictive painkillers like morphine if the FDA approves it for this use [1][8].

Ketamine for Anesthesia

In the 1960’s doctors used ketamine as an anesthetic on the battlefields in Vietnam because administration lends itself well to use in disaster zones; doctors don’t need electricity, an oxygen supply, or even highly trained staff to give patients ketamine. Since that time, the FDA has only approved ketamine for use as an anesthetic in hospitals and medical settings. As an anesthetic, ketamine doesn’t lower the patient’s breathing rate or blood pressure, which makes it safer than other anesthesia options. It’s for this reason that veterinarians use ketamine more than any other type of anesthetic for surgery on animals [1][2].

Ketamine for Depression

Depression is a major issue in the United States and though there are many anti-depressants on the market, about one-third of patients don’t experience any relief from their symptoms using the drugs that are currently available. Ketamine acts on depression by rebalancing a different set of neurotransmitters and receptors (the NMDA/glutamate receptors and GABA receptors) than the old-school Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (which function by blocking reabsorption of serotonin). By blocking glutamate receptors in the brain, the majority of patients with ‘Treatment Resistant Depression’ are able to experience relief from their symptoms using ketamine [1].

Even though ketamine has yet to be approved by the FDA for use in treating depression, patients are flocking to ketamine clinics to receive the treatment off-label. It provides fast relief, which is vitally important in cases where patients feel suicidal and for depressed patients who have tried all of the other anti-depressants available with no luck, ketamine offers new hope. Infusion treatments take about 1 hour at a clinic, but the results are long-lasting with most patients returning only once every one to two weeks over a specified period of time. The treatment is expensive, but the results are promising enough that patients are willing to pay out-of-pocket for it [5][8][9].

The FDA hasn’t yet approved ketamine for use as an anti-depressant, but both Esketamine and Rapastinel (developed by Johnson & Johnson and Allergan respectively) have been fast-tracked as breakthrough drugs. The demand for these two medications is projected to grow rapidly in the coming years.  Still, doctors can only prescribe ketamine for depression off-label since ketamine has been FDA approved for use as an anesthetic, not as an anti-depressant. Researchers have cautioned doctors to avoid over-prescribing this drug because the long-term health and well-being of patients could be at risk. Ketamine has a high potential for abuse, after all and experts claim that the evidence does not exist to prove that this drug is safe [1][2][6].

Ketamine as Drugs of Abuse

Ketamine is abused as a recreational drug and it has effects that are similar to Phenylcyclidine (PCP), LSD, dextromethorphan (DXM) and nitrous oxide (laughing gas). Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that can alter one’s sense of sight and sound and also produce profound relaxation, hallucinations, and delusions for about an hour. The effects of the drug come on almost immediately. It has been used as a rape drug that can render women unable to speak or to move [1][2].

People who abuse ketamine have developed serious bladder and kidney problems such as ulcerative cystitis, stomach issues, and memory loss. In fact, street users even risk developing depression as a result of addiction and dependence on the drug [2].

How is Ketamine used for depression?

Doctors may prescribe ketamine by itself or in tandem with other anti-depressants [3]. Many experts on depression recommend that ketamine only be used as a short-term depression treatment option while other anti-depressants are taking effect. Though there are convenient ketamine nasal sprays in research and development by Johnson & Johnson, the high-potential for abuse of this drug has made many doctors and psychiatrists wary of using this drug to treat depression long-term. Further, some medical organizations are concerned that the long-term effects of chronic ketamine use is not well-understood. According to these organizations, more research is needed to establish the safety of this drug [1][2][6].

Promising Remedy for ‘Treatment Resistant Depressions’

Thomas Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health says, “Recent data suggest that ketamine, given intravenously might be the most important breakthrough anti-depressant in decades.” Conventional anti-depressants aren’t able to help about one-third of patients with major depression, but new ketamine drugs such as esketamine (in development by Johnson and Johnson) may offer new hope. Infusion therapies available through ketamine clinics across the United States report a high success rate of 60% to 70% treating Treatment Resistant Depression as well as Major Depression with risk of suicide [1][3][5][6].

Fast-Tracked by FDA

Two drugs, Johnson & Johnson’s Esketamine and Allergan’s Rapastinel, were both upgraded to ‘fast-track’ status by the FDA in 2016 due to their importance and promise in treating treatment resistant depression.

Depression is the leading cause of disability in the world and currently, 12% of Americans (about 29 million people) are taking anti-depressant medications. The suicide rate is higher now than it has been in over 30 years. And about one-third of depressed Americans don’t experience relief taking conventional anti-depressants. In the interest of capitalizing on the market value of depression, which is projected to almost double by the year 2024, the FDA will review the use of these new ketamine-based depression drugs in 2018 and 2019, allowing Johnson & Johnson and Allergan to go through an abbreviated version of the normally lengthy FDA approval process for new drug therapies [5][6].

Experimental Trials

Drug trials have shown that 60% to 70% of patients with Treatment-Resistant Depression have been responsive to ketamine. Esketamine, a nasal spray developed by Johnson & Johnson, is in Phase III clinical trials right now. They are expected to receive FDA approval later in 2018, and once that happens, it will open doors for administering ketamine outside a clinic setting.

Rapastinel, which was developed by Allergan, is out of Phase III and awaiting FDA approval. The drug can be administered within 30 seconds intravenously and Allergan is working to develop an oral version of the drug as well [2][3][5].

How Ketamine Therapy Works

Ketamine therapy is usually performed at a ketamine clinic. Patients receive an intravenous infusion of the drug with relief from depression symptoms that can last for several weeks.

Ketamine Infusion or Intravenous Therapy (Infusion Process)

Ketamine can be injected directly into muscle tissue or it can be given intravenously. Researchers for Johnson & Johnson have also recently developed new treatment protocol called Esketamine that’s awaiting FDA approval. Using Esketamine, patients will be able to self-administer the drug as a nasal mist [2][3].

Patients must receive a referral from a doctor to go to a ketamine clinic. There, patients can receive an intravenous infusion of ketamine. On the first visit, a doctor will assess the patient before hooking the patient up to a ketamine IV. Patients then experience a variety of sensations during the infusion and for up to 2 hours following the infusion. Many patients report feeling a sense of deep relaxation and the ability to reflect on past traumas and anxieties calmly [7][9].

How does it work?

Researchers have demonstrated that a deficiency in certain vital connections between certain neurons in the brain may cause depression. Ketamine works as an NMDA receptor antagonist (NMDA is a glutamate receptor also known as N-methyl-d-aspartate) and an AMPA receptor stimulator. As such, ketamine stimulates the development of new receptors and synapses in the brain which helps patients regulate their mood, sleep better, and experience better focus [2][8].

Ketamine works by interfering with and rebalancing the glutamatergic system (glutamate and GABA) to stimulate new synaptic connections, better memory, and brain plasticity [8]. During ketamine infusions, patients may feel capable of exploring traumatic memories more calmly to reframe the past or they may feel a pleasant sensation of relaxation or floating [7]. Effects from an infusion can last for up to a week or two.

Intranasal ketamine formulas work by binding to a receptor called N-methyl-d-aspartate. In the brain, ketamine blocks the neurotransmitter glutamate which causes communication between the conscious mind and other parts of the mind (such as mood centers) to be blocked. In low doses, it relieves depression, but in higher doses, it can cause patients to feel an uncomfortable sense of dissociation from the body similar to a near death experience [2][3][4].

While most anti-depressant medications must build up in the body over the course of several weeks in order to have an effect, ketamine’s mood-altering benefits happen as the drug leaves the body. Researchers don’t know why this is the case, or even exactly how the drug achieves its strong anti-depressant effects but the fact is, ketamine works quickly to relieve depression symptoms in 85% of patients who are resistant to other forms of therapy [1]. Standard anti-depressants target the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, but ketamine is different. Ketamine blocks glutamate and stimulates synaptic plasticity or the ability of the brain to change and grow [5].

Doctors don’t fully understand how ketamine works or the potential effects that patients may experience from taking tiny doses of this drug over and over again. What is known is that recreational users can suffer ulcerative cystitis or cognitive issues as a result of prolonged use [5].

Ketamine Infusion Dose/Dosage

Researchers are working to find the perfect ketamine dose for depression patients. The risk of overdosing on this drug is high for the recreational user because there is only a slight difference between a dosage that leads to desirable effects and one that can cause a lethal overdose. The goal for researchers is to find an exact dosage that’s high enough to get rid of symptoms of depression but low enough to prevent patients from experiencing hearing and sight disturbances as well as the other negative effects from the drug [1][2][9]. Ketamine produces only temporary effects on severe depression. Patients must continue to return to the clinic for infusions every few weeks to keep their depression symptoms in check [5].

Ketamine therapy cost? Is ketamine therapy covered by insurance?

Ketamine therapy is rarely covered by insurance and it’s pricey. Patients typically pay between $400 and $800 per infusion in many centers.

Ketamine Infusion Side-Effects

Ketamine use can cause a variety of side effects including:

  • Extreme fatigue or exhaustion
  • Nervousness or restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Amnesia
  • Puffy or swollen eyelids, lips, or tongue
  • Hives, itching, or rash
  • Delusions
  • Difficulty thinking or learning
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Fast heartbeat, slow heartbeat, irregular heartbeat
  • Dizziness, fainting
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Blurry vision
  • Inability to control eye movement
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty urinating, frequent urination, cloudy or bloody urine
  • Paleness, bluish lips, skin, or fingernails
  • Increased pressure in the brain and the eyes [1][2]

Where can you get ketamine therapy? | NOVA Health Recovery Ketamine Treatment Center | Alexandria, Va 22306 | 703-844-0184

Off-label ketamine infusion therapy is an unregulated business that has gotten the attention of both clinicians and medical organizations. There are currently ketamine clinics in a number of cities throughout the United States [10].

s ketamine therapy addictive?

Patients who use ketamine long-term may develop a tolerance and addiction to the drug over time. In medical settings, ketamine is safe to use because the dosage is carefully calibrated and monitored, but there is a high potential for abuse when patients use ketamine recreationally as  a street drug. If patients don’t follow their doctor’s prescription for ketamine it can have extremely negative mental and physical effects particularly on the brain and bladder [2].

Ketamine-Based Drugs in Late Stage Trials

Both Rapastinel and Esketamine are ketamine-based drugs that have been ‘fast-tracked’ by the FDA because the FDA has identified them as “breakthrough drugs” [5].

Rapastinel

Allergan developed Rapastinel, a ketamine drug that can be administered in 30 seconds intravenously. It works on the same receptors as ketamine, but it doesn’t produce hallucinations. An oral version of Rapastinel is also in development. The FDA considers Rapastinel to be a “breakthrough drug” which means that Allergan can speed through the lengthy drug approval process and get the drug to market by 2019 [5].

Esketamine

The FDA has designated Esketamine a “breakthrough therapy”, which means that the drug developers, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, can speed through the lengthy drug approval process to get the drug on the market more quickly. Esketamine can be administered like a nasal decongestant, which would make it more convenient than intravenous therapy for depression patients. Experts feel that Esketemine would be most appropriately used as an adjunct therapy in combination with other anti-depressant medications, not as a standalone treatment for depression [5][6].

According to one recent study, when administered in combination with other oral antidepressants, Esketamine reduced patients’ depression symptoms more than oral anti-depressants alone. The anti-depressant effects of using a conventional anti-depressant in conjunction with Esketamine occurred within only about 1 week. When used alone, Esketamine effects seem to last 1 to 7 days in most patients. Esketamine is in Phase 3 testing with the FDA for use as a drug for ‘Treatment Resistant Depression’ and Major Depression with risk of suicide. Johnson & Johnson will file for FDA approval for this drug as a depression treatment in 2018 [3][6].

Risks of Ketamine Abuse

Ketamine abuse is a serious problem. It is possible to become addicted to ketamine. Patients may begin to need higher doses of the drug in order to experience the positive effects. An overdose of ketamine can be deadly. The effects of using ketamine chronically over a long period of time have not been established, but recreational drug users who have used ketamine long-term have developed ulcerative cystitis as well as cognitive issues [1][2].

The Ketamine Controversy

While ketamine can literally save lives by relieving the symptoms of major, Treatment Resistant Depression, including the risk of suicide, research still has not established the safety of ketamine for long-term use. The lethal dose of ketamine is only slightly higher than the therapeutic dose and its addictive properties mean that it could cause depressed patients more problems than it solves. Ketamine clinics have popped up all over the country to cash in on the high demand for a depression treatment that really works, but the research hasn’t demonstrated that this drug is safe for chronic use. So this is an instance where the buyer needs to beware. The FDA has fast-tracked these drugs because it’s constituents see market potential, but important research still needs to be done on this drug to demonstrate it’s safety and long-term efficacy.

Resources:

[1] Collins, S. (2005-2018). What you need to know about ketamine’s effects. Retrieved April 3, 2018 from https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/what-does-ketamine-do-your-brain#1

[2] Davis, K. (2017). What are the uses of ketamine? Retrieved April 3, 2018 from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/302663.php

[3] Pagliarulo, N. (2018). J& J builds case for ketamine-based depression drug. Retrieved April 3, 2018 from https://www.biopharmadive.com/news/jj-builds-case-for-ketamine-based-depression-drug/513866/

[4] No Author (2007-2018). Special K and X. Retrieved April 3, 2018 from http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/special-k-and-x

[5] Oaklander, M. (2017). New Hope for Depression. Retrieved April 3, 2018 from http://time.com/4876098/new-hope-for-depression/

[6] Oberhaus, D. (2017). Ketamine Nasal Spray Will Totally Change the Market for Antidepressant Drugs. Retrieved April 3, 2018 from https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/wjxd9b/ketamine-nasal-spray-will-totally-change-the-market-for-antidepressant-drugs

[7] Ketamine Advocacy Network (2015). The Infusion Experience. Retrieved April 3, 2018 from http://www.ketamineadvocacynetwork.org/the-infusion-experience/

[8] Ketamine Clinics of Los Angeles (2018). How does ketamine infusion therapy work? Retrieved April 3, 2018 from https://www.ketamineclinics.com/about-ketamine/how-it-works/

[10] Ault, A. (2017). US Ketamine Clinics Continue to Mushroom With No Regulation. Retrieved April 3, 2018 from https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/886750

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Psychedelic Medicine 101: The curious case of ketamine



Psychedelic Medicine 101: The curious case of ketamine

Vials of Ketamine
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The urban myth of ketamine as a horse tranquilizer became prominent as the drug moved into...

Ketamine is known for generating a profoundly dissociative out-of-body experience
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John Lilly and his infamous isolation tank

John Lilly and his infamous isolation tank

A psychedelic renaissance is underway in medical research as certain taboo drugs return to the hands of doctors and researchers after decades in the wilderness. Once considered illicit, with no medical value, these psychedelic compounds are now being legitimately evaluated by scientists and revolutionizing how we practice medicine.

Psychedelic medicine 101 is a series that will investigate the past, present and future medical uses of these formerly taboo substances. Our first feature examined the story of psilocybin and magic mushrooms, while this new episode documents the curious story of ketamine, initially developed to be an anesthetic before researchers and psychonauts discovered its unique and unusual effects on the brain.

The curious case of ketamine

In 1956, a chemist at pharmaceutical company Parke Davis in Detroit, Michigan was experimenting with synthesizing new compounds in an attempt to find a better anesthetic. A compound called phencyclidine was initially created, and in early animal studies it demonstrated defiantly unusual effects. Some animals exhibited a drunk-like state when administered with it, while others entered states of delirium.

Human tests quickly ruled out the compound as clinically useful with some patients exhibiting major delirious and dissociative states for prolonged periods of time. This was despite the fact the it did seem to function remarkably well as an anesthetic. In later years, phencyclidine hit the streets as a recreational drug, becoming infamous due it its violent side effects. Its street name was PCP, or angel dust.

In the early 1960s, Parke Davis researchers began searching for a phencyclidine derivative that could limit the compounds unmanageable side effects. It was here that ketamine was born and after successful animal tests it was administered to the first human subject in 1964, demonstrating remarkable anesthetic effects.

Initially approved for veterinary uses, ketamine quickly found a place as an effective short-acting anesthetic, officially passed by the FDA in 1970 for human uses. One of its first major human uses was as a battlefield anesthetic in Vietnam. It has been suggested that this initial use in the early 1970s was what led to it moving into recreational circles as veterans returned to the United States and continued using the drug.

Non-medical uses continued throughout the 1970s, culminating in several high profile publications “outing” the drug. Perhaps the most infamous of these accounts came in scientist and psychonaut John C. Lilly’s 1978 autobiography The Scientist: A Novel Autobiography.

John Lilly and his infamous isolation tank

Ketamine, sensory deprivation and alien communication

John C. Lilly is perhaps best known for his work blending LSD, isolation tanks and human-animal communications. After developing the first isolation tank in 1954, Lilly began experimenting with LSD in the tanks in the early 1960s. His extreme work sat at the boundary of conventional science, and the extraordinary 1980 psychedelic film Altered States was significantly inspired by his experiences.

It was the early 1970s, however, when Lilly first crossed paths with ketamine. Lilly had long suffered extreme migraines, almost daily, for much of his life. During an attack, a physician friend suggested ketamine may be helpful. So Lilly jumped into an isolation tank, was injected with a small dose of ketamine, and his migraine disappeared … for 20 minutes. When it roared back his physician friend gave him another injection, this time double the dose. For about half an hour the migraine disappeared, but then it stormed back, so finally the physician again doubled the dose and sent Lilly back into the tank.

After an hour Lilly got out of the tank and his migraine had gone. A month later, with his migraine still yet to return, Lilly became convinced ketamine had somehow reprogrammed his brain in ways that his earlier massive LSD experiences couldn’t. For the next few years Lilly’s personal ketamine experiments became more and more extreme.

Lilly became convinced he could communicate with a network of extraterrestrial entities he dubbed ECCO, or the Earth Coincidence Control Office. ECCO guided Lilly’s research but as he began to consume more and more ketamine he came across another, more malevolent entity called SSI, Solid State Intelligence.

SSI was a massive cosmic supercomputer, with evil intent. At one point, in the midst of an epic nearly month-long physical experiment with ketamine, consisting of injections nearly every hour, Lilly tried to contact President Gerald Ford to warn the world of a potential doomsday scenario. One of the president’s aides intervened before Lilly could reach Ford.

These stories, and others, recounted in the late 1970s, slowly added to the infamy surrounding ketamine, but they also started to pique the attention of the authorities. The peripheral clinical uses of the substance were still pervasive enough for it to not be completely regulated until the United States government moved to make it a Schedule III controlled drug in 1999. This added a degree of regulatory oversight as to how the drug was dispensed but still allowed it to be utilized for clinical purposes.

William Hurt in Altered States, a film loosely based on the experiences of John Lilly

The Russian research

In 1985, two Russian researchers hypothesized that ketamine could be a good drug to utilize in a psychotherapeutic context. It was short-acting, controllable, relatively accessible and known to induce psychedelic experiences. For the next decade, Evgeny Krupitsky and his team at the Leningrad Regional Center for Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Therapy pioneered what they called Ketamine Psychedelic Therapy.

Over the next decade, ketamine was used to treat more than 1,000 patients for an assortment of drug dependencies, primarily alcoholism. In a systemic study of the work, published in 1997, the researchers reported that the KPT process they developed resulted in zero major side effects, such as protracted psy­choses, flashbacks, agitation, or ketamine abuse. It also proved to be extremely effective in helping patients, with total abstinence rates for more than one year in KPT-treated alcoholic patients hitting around 65 percent compared to conventional treatment which was only successful in 24 percent of patients after one year.

For an extended period of time across the 1980s and early 1990s, this Russian team were extraordinarily the only researchers in the world investigating the therapeutic outcomes of ketamine. Krupitsky suggested this could be because Russia was not suffering from a culture of recreational psychedelic usage, which helped allow his work to continue for so long with no authoritative challenge.

“It seems to be an especially powerful tool in Russia, where there was no psychedelic revolution in the 1960’s and almost nobody knows what “psychedelic” means or can even imagine that this drug can be used for recre­ation,” the researchers concluded in their ten-year report.

Ketamine is known for generating a profoundly dissociative out-of-body experience

The 21st century resurgence

In the early 2000s, ketamine began to reemerge in Western research circles as a potential therapeutic agent, initially for depression. A very small studypublished in 2000 highlighted the drug’s impressive antidepressant qualities, but it was a 2006 study that really turned the tide.

The study, from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), highlighted the remarkably rapid anti-depressant effects of ketamine. It was a small but strong piece of research involving a cohort of patients diagnosed with major, treatment-resistant depression. Two small doses of ketamine were administered, one week apart, and by the end of the first day 71 percent of subjects in the ketamine group reported a nearly 50 percent decline in their symptoms. Even more remarkable, after a week nearly a third of the ketamine group reported complete remission of their depressive symptoms.

This kind of rapid and immense effect was unheard of and the study hit the mainstream media, propelling ketamine into the news for something other than an illicit street use for the first time in years.

The rapid anti-depressant effect of ketamine has been a fundamental and exciting area of research in recent years with scientists slowly homing in on the extraordinarily unique qualities of how the drug operates on the brain. A 2017 study from Columbia University Medical Center revealed impressive results when examining patients suffering from acute suicidal thoughts.

The study, composed of 80 patients with clinically significant suicidal thoughts, displayed a major reduction in reducing such thoughts within 24 hours of a single low-dose infusion. A six-week follow up also found the effects impressively held for an extended duration, especially when compared to a control-group that were administered a sedative called midazolam.

A model of the ketamine molecule

But how does it work?

How the drug actually works to achieve its rapid anti-depressant effects is a hot area of research. While it has been known for several decades that ketamine blocks a protein receptor in the brain called N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA), it hasn’t been understood exactly where in the brain this mechanism could be operating.

A recent study from Zhejiang University in China excitingly revealed that this mechanism could be concentrated in the lateral habenula, an area of the brain often referred to as our “anti-reward center.” Overactivity in the lateral habenula has been strongly related to depression and the new study revealed that ketamine directly reduces neuronal activity in that region.

Ketamine’s broad use as a pain- and depression-relieving agent is finding burgeoning uses in treating other conditions peripherally connected to those symptoms. A growing body of anecdotal patient-driven evidence is suggesting the drug could be effective in treating fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, two chronic conditions that are somewhat linked by widespread feelings of pain and fatigue.

In regards to fibromyalgia, some small studies have found ketamine to be incredibly effective in reducing acute pain related to the condition. The effects were frustratingly short-lived, unfortunately, but some patients have reported single infusions dulling pain for up to three weeks.

The use of ketamine to treat chronic fatigue syndrome is still in the nascent research stages, but a 2016 study revealed a fascinating insight into the drug as an anti-fatigue compound. While fatigue and depression are profoundly interlinked, the broader NMDA-blocking effects of ketamine are convincingly hypothesized to potentially improve the symptoms of patients suffering from chronic fatigue.

The 2016 study was small, and limited to patients being treated with ketamine for bipolar disorder during an episode of acute depression. It found that ketamine significantly improved symptoms of fatigue when compared to patients in the placebo group, with the anti-fatigue effects most prominent 48 hours after the initial infusion event. The study concludes by suggesting ketamine’s NMDA receptor inhibition could be a novel target for anti-fatigue interventions in a variety of conditions, including chronic fatigue syndrome.

The urban myth of ketamine as a horse tranquilizer became prominent as the drug moved into...

The rise of the ketamine clinic

Unlike other more restricted drugs, ketamine is still available for medical uses. This has led to the recent upsurge of ketamine clinics in the United States. Ketamine is legally approved for use as an anesthetic, but its off-label use for other conditions is not illegal.

Since around 2015, it is estimated that well over 100 ketamine clinics have opened up in the US. These clinics target patients looking for an alternate way to treat their depression. For up to US$1,000 a dose, patients can receive an infusion of ketamine either weekly or monthly. Different clinics have different treatment processes, from specific 10-week programs to more casual dose-by-dose appointments.

It’s the wild west of medical treatments out there, with no clear science on how long these treatments last, or how safe long-term ketamine use like this actually is. The CEO of Actify Neurotherapies, a chain of 10 treatment centers, said recently “It scares the hell out of me that this is still unregulated.”

Actify Neurotherapies is actively resisting the term “ketamine clinic,” recently rebranding itself as a mental health clinic that happens to also provide off-label ketamine treatments. While Actify is positioning itself at the more credible end of the off-label ketamine provider spectrum, it is still part of a troubling, unregulated industry with the science yet to offer real clarity on the best way this drug should be delivered.

Well over 100 ketamine clinics are operating in the United States

A little less psychedelic?

The giant hurdle facing most ketamine research is trying to find a way to overcome the often unpleasant dissociative psychedelic effects of the drug. While NMDA-receptor antagonism is looking like an exciting new pathway to treat a whole host of conditions, the side effects of ketamine are proving tricky to manage when implemented into broader clinical applications.

A recent Australian trial into a ketamine nasal spray for treating depression had to be aborted after several participants started to experience psychotic-like side effects. One of the researchers suggested the dose problems stemmed from inconsistencies in the nasal-delivery method.

“We saw a range of tolerance levels and we think it’s because one person’s blood vessels in the nose can be so different to the next person’s, and when you spray, it crosses the thin lining, gets taken into the blood and straight to the brain. Some people got huge hits.”

Several researchers are now racing to develop compounds chemically similar to ketamine that still act on NMDA receptors but can reduce the psychoactive side effects. One of the most promising new alternatives is called esketamine, and it is currently at the tail end of Phase III clinical trials.

Esketamine is an isomer of ketamine, and reportedly has slightly less dissociative characteristics compared to its sibling. It is thought to be twice as potent as ketamine, which means it is suggested that lower doses could have similar NMDA-inhibiting effects to ketamine without the equivalent hallucinogenic result.

Despite the FDA offering esketamine a breakthrough designation in 2016, suggesting the compound is highly effective and will be rapidly pushed through the trial process, results have been decidedly mixed over the past few years. Most recently, some of the early Phase III results suggest the compound is only mildly effective, and in some cases barely better than the placebo control.

Ketamine + therapy = success?

Of course, some researchers are finding ways to work with the compound’s extremely hallucinogenic properties. An exciting new trial currently underway at the University of Exeter and University College London is directly inspired by Evgeny Krupitsky’s 1980s research in Russia. The trial is called KARE – Ketamine for reduction of Alcoholic Relapse, and it is setting out to examine how well ketamine, in conjunction with psychotherapy, can reduce alcohol dependence and promote abstinence.

The rigorous study, which is double blind and placebo-controlled, involves subjects being administered one dose of ketamine a week for a period of three weeks, alongside seven sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy. The study has a six-month follow-up phase to better understand the long-term effects of this kind of ketamine-assisted psychotherapeutic treatment.

Unlike the attempts to create a less psychoactive compound, this research suggests the holistic effect of ketamine could be vital to its absolute efficacy. The often unwanted hallucinogenic effects may very well be important. And unlike some of the ketamine clinics popping up around the US, this trial offers ketamine within the context of a controlled series of psychotherapy sessions helping patients integrate their experiences into positive outcomes.

The story of ketamine is a curious one, defiantly unlike other psychedelic substances being co-opted for medical uses. Ketamine is essentially legal, prescribable, yet still wholly experimental. It works on the brain in a completely novel way and we are only just understanding its broad potential uses.

With the rise of ketamine clinics, a strange kind of clinical practice has jumped ahead of research, giving rise to a wild west of drug providers administering the compound as a magic bullet for anything and everything in an unregulated landscape. More research undeniably needs to be done before we understand this deeply mysterious and unique drug, but it is looking like it will certainly become a fundamentally important compound in a bright future of psychedelic medicine.



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Dual studies highlight ketamine’s potential to treat anxiety and addiction

New evidence suggests ketamine can reduce anxiety related to major depression, and substance abuse depression
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Two new studies suggest the psychiatric benefits of ketamine treatment may extend beyond just the targeting of depression. The research demonstrates ketamine may be helpful in targeting both anxiety- and substance abuse-related depression.

Although ketamine is a relatively old drug, originally developed in the 1950s as an anesthetic, over the last decade a growing body of research has affirmed its unique, and rapid, antidepressant effects. The anecdotal effects of the drug on depression have raced ahead of scientific research so quickly that ketamine clinics have popped up all across the United States, where the drug can be administered for up to US$1,000 a dose.

Much is still unknown about how efficacious ketamine actually is for depression. We don’t know ideal dosages, how long the treatments last, or how safe long-term usage is. Two newly published studies are adding to our knowledge about ketamine’s psychiatric uses, adding weight to the drug’s burgeoning new potential.

The first study, led by a team from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, set out to study how effective ketamine is at treating patients with anxiety-based treatment-resistant depression. This is an important question to resolve, as many traditional antidepressants do not consistently improve anxiety-based symptoms in cases of major depression.

The study took 99 subjects with treatment-resistant depression, half of whom suffered from high anxiety and half of whom displayed no anxious symptoms. The study randomly administered subjects either one of four different intravenous ketamine doses, or midazolam, a general sedative that could serve as a control.

As well as demonstrating ketamine’s novel antidepressant qualities, the study revealed the drug worked equally well in both anxious and non-anxious subjects. This suggests that ketamine’s antidepressant effects are uniquely effective across different types of treatment-resistant depression, something that cannot be said for many major antidepressant drugs.

“In contrast to reports from monoaminergic antidepressants, our data suggest that patients with anxious depression respond equally as well to ketamine compared to those with non-anxious depression,” write the researchers in the published study.

The second new study comes from a team at Yale University School of Medicine. This research investigated whether ketamine could be effective in treating addiction-related depression when administered in tandem with naltrexone.

A study in 2018 offered a small but significant finding, revealing that ketamine was ineffective in treating depression when administered alongside naltrexone. These results were important because they suggested that part of ketamine’s antidepressant effects may be related to the activation of opioid receptors, which would mean long-term ketamine use may potentially result in problems with addiction, something that many researchers have long argued against.

Naltrexone, an opioid receptor blocker, is often administered effectively to combat serious substance abuse problems, so if it rendered ketamine ineffective then that would cast doubt on much research into how ketamine actually works to reduce symptoms of depression. The new Yale research was small, with a sample of only five patients, but its results strongly suggest ketamine and naltrexone do not cancel each other out.

All five subjects suffering from alcohol use disorder and depression displayed significant depressive relief from ketamine dosages despite long-term naltrexone consumption. Senior author on the study, John Krystal, says although larger studies still need to be completed the research does suggest ketamine and naltrexone may be a complimentary combination that helps treat substance abuse and its related depression.

“[The results] raise the possibility that for people who have depression complicated by substance abuse disorders, the combination of ketamine and naltrexone may be a strategy to explore in the effort to optimally treat both conditions,” says Krystal.

Although this new study only consisted of five subjects, the prior research linking ketamine to the opioid system was generated from just 12 subjects. So we are still in uncharted territory regarding ketamine’s mechanistic effects of the brain. But the Yale research should assuage some fears that ketamine may be, “merely another opioid in a novel form.”

The ketamine anxiety study was published in the journal Depress Anxiety.

The ketamine naltrexone study was published in the journalJAMA Psychiatry.

Source: Yale News

Efficacy of intravenous ketamine treatment in anxious versus nonanxious unipolar treatment‐resistant depression

Abstract

Objective

To examine the effect of high baseline anxiety on response to ketamine versus midazolam (active placebo) in treatment‐resistant depression (TRD).

Methods

In a multisite, double‐blind, placebo‐controlled trial, 99 subjects with TRD were randomized to one of five arms: a single dose of intravenous ketamine 0.1, 0.2, 0.5, 1.0 mg/kg, or midazolam 0.045 mg/kg. The primary outcome measure was change in the six‐item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAMD6). A linear mixed effects model was used to examine the effect of anxious depression baseline status (defined by a Hamilton Depression Rating Scale Anxiety‐Somatization score ≥7) on response to ketamine versus midazolam at 1 and 3 days postinfusion.

Results

N = 45 subjects had anxious TRD, compared to N = 54 subjects without high anxiety at baseline. No statistically significant interaction effect was found between treatment group assignment (combined ketamine treatment groups versus midazolam) and anxious/nonanxious status on HAMD6 score at either days 1 or 3 postinfusion (Day 1: F(1, 84) = 0.02, P = 0.88; Day 3: F(1, 82) = 0.12, P = 0.73).

Conclusion

In contrast with what is observed with traditional antidepressants, response to ketamine may be similar in both anxious and nonanxious TRD subjects. These pilot results suggest the potential utility of ketamine in the treatment of anxious TRD.

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New Drug Combo Shows Promise for Treatment of Depression and Addiction

Drug Combo Shows Promise for Depression and Addiction
Ketamine Treatment for alcoholism | Call 703-844-0184 | Alexandria, Va 22306 | NOVA Health Recovery

The combination of naltrexone and ketamine can help treat both symptoms of addiction and depression, a preliminary study by Yale University researchers suggests.

Substance abuse and depression are common in many patients, and efforts to treat both conditions simultaneously have had limited success. One recent study suggested that the antidepressant effects of ketamine might blunted by administration of naltrexone, used to limit cravings of those addicted to opioid drugs and alcohol.

A preliminary study of five patients suffering from both depression and substance abuse disorders suggest that isn’t the case. The study was published Jan. 9 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

The results “raise the possibility that for people who have depression complicated by substance abuse disorders, the combination of ketamine and naltrexone may be a strategy to explore in the effort to optimally treat both conditions,” said senior author John Krystal, Yale’s Robert L. McNeil Jr. Professor of Translational Research; professor of psychiatry, neuroscience, and psychology; and chair of the Department of Psychiatry.

Krystal and lead author Gihyun Yoon, assistant professor of psychiatry, treated the five patients suffering from depression and alcohol use disorder with a long-lasting form of naltrexone and then administered ketamine. Four of the five responded to the first ketamine dose and all five found relief from depression after multiple doses.

The study also challenges the idea that ketamine might produce antidepressant effects by stimulating opiate receptors.

Krystal cautioned that larger studies are needed to confirm beneficial effects of the combination treatment.

Krystal and Yoon have provisional patents on the use of ketamine and naltrexone to treat comorbid depression and substance abuse.

The study was primarily funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Publication: Gihyun Yoon, et al., “Association of Combined Naltrexone and Ketamine With Depressive Symptoms in a Case series of Patients With Depression and Alcohol Use Disorder,” JAMA Psychiatry, 2019; doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.3990

At NOVA Health Recovery, we do use Ketamine and other combinations to treat Alcoholism and Opioid and Pain pill addiction using Ketamine Treatment. Dr. Sendi is Board Certified in Addiction Medicine. Call 703-844-0184 Today. Fairfax, Va 22304.



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