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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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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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Learn How Ketamine Can Treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ICD 10

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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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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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New Drug Combo Shows Promise for Treatment of Depression and Addiction

Drug Combo Shows Promise for Depression and Addiction
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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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The pros and cons of ketamine

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.

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

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.

USING KETAMINE TO TREAT SEVERE MENTAL ILLNESS conversation with Stanford psychiatrist Carolyn Rodriguez, MD, PhD, about how she got interested in the use of ketamine to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder and how she is determined to find out why, in studies, the drug has provided relief from symptoms.

VA Using Ketamine for PTSD and Depression | IV Ketamine for Depression | 703-844-0184 | Alexandria, Va | 22306 | Ketamine therapy | IV Ketamine center | Ketamine doctor | Springfield, Va | Fairfax, Va 22314 22304

VA Using Ketamine for PTSD and Depression | IV Ketamine for Depression | 703-844-0184

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CAll 703-844-0184 for an immediate appointment to evaluate you for a Ketamine infusion:

Ketaminealexandria.com    703-844-0184 Call for an infusion to treat your depression. PTSD, Anxiety, CRPS, or other pain disorder today.

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Ketamine Virginia = Ketamine IV Drip Doctors

The IV Medical Center - IV Vitamin Drips for wellness and recovery

The VA Recognizes Ketamine As An Emergency Treatment For PTSD And Depression Patients At High Suicide Risk

CLEARWATER, Fla., Sept. 27, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Long used as an safe and effective sedative for surgery, Ketamine has found new life as a treatment for severe depression, PTSD and suicidal ideation. Praised by some mental health experts, the drug so far has achieved very good results in clinical trials. The military now recognizes its’ potential, and last fall Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio became part of study on its effects. BAMC will treat active-duty troops with Ketamine, while a VA hospital near Yale will treat veterans. Another study is currently underway at a Veterans Affairs medical center in Cleveland, Ohio. The VA is trying to stem the tide of rising suicide rates among veterans, which average 22 per day – that’s one suicide every 65 minutes.

A staff psychiatrist at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center in Ohio, Dr. Punit Vaidya stated “30% of individuals with major depression don’t respond to traditional medications, so people can become desperate for things that work, because they can have a huge impact on their quality of life, and their overall functioning. The effects of the ketamine infusion can often be seen within a day, if not hours,” Vaidya explained. “If you look at their depression ratings and suicidal ratings given right before treatment and even four hours later you can see a significant reduction and I think that’s really quite remarkable,” Vaidya said.

Dr. Ashraf Hanna, a board certified physician and director of pain management at the Florida Spine Institute in Clearwater, Florida discusses PTSD and Treatment-Resistant Depression: “There are many forms of depression that can be treated by a psychiatrist with various modalities, anti-depressants and psychotherapy. IV Ketamine therapy is only reserved for those patients that have Treatment-Resistant Depression that have failed conventional therapy. IV Ketamine infusion therapyhas offered a new hope to patients that had no hope.”

When asked what prompted his use of IV Ketamine for PTSD and Depression and if any universities were involved in its development, Dr. Hanna went on to say: “There have been multiple universities involved in the research such as Harvard, Yale and Stanford that have proven the success rate of IV Ketamine for treatment-resistant depression. Since I was already successfully using IV Ketamine for CRPS/RSD,FibromyalgiaNeuropathy, and Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome, with over 10,000 infusions to date, I wanted to expand the treatment for PTSD, Depression, bipolar and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders. Since I am not a psychiatrist, I do not treat depression, but I work with qualified psychiatrists, and if he or she feels the patient has failed other treatment modalities, I then administer IV Ketamine for treatment-resistant depression.”

Dr. Bal Nandra and Ketamine patient Jason LaHood on how Ketamine is redefining the way patients are treated for depression

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Links for Ketamine Articles

  1. NYMag.com – What It’s Like to Have Your Severe Depression Treated With a Hallucinogenic Drug
    http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/03/what-its-like-to-treat-severe-depression-with-a-hallucinogenic-drug.html
  2. Huffington Post – How Ketamine May Help Treat Severe Depression
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/04/05/how-ketamine-may-help-treat-severe-depression_a_22027886/
  3. Murrough, Iosifescu, Chang et al. Antidepressant Efficacy in Treatment-Resistant Major Depression: A Two-Site Randomized Controlled Trial  Am J Psychiatry. 2013 Oct 1, 170(10): 1134-1142
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3992936/
  4. Murrough, Perez, Pillemer, et al.. Rapid and Longer0Term Antidepressant Effects of Repeated Ketamine Infusions in Treatment-Resistant Major Depression Biol Psychiatry 2013 Aug 15; 74(4): 250-256
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3725185/
  5. Murrough, Burdick, Levitch et al. Neurocognitive Effects of Ketamine and Association with Antidepressant Response in Individuals with Treatment-Resistant Depression: A Randomized Controlled Trial Neuropsychopharmacology 2015 Apr; 40(5): 1084-1090
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4367458/
  6. Feder, Parides, et al. Efficacy of Intravenous Ketamine for Treatment of Chronic Posttraumatic Stress Disorder A Randomized Clinical Trial Jama Psychiatry 2014 June;71(6): 681-8
    http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/1860851
  7. Schwartz, Murrough, Iosifescu Ketamine for treatment-resistant depression: recent developments and clinical applications Evid Based Ment Health 2016 May; 19(2):35-8
    http://ebmh.bmj.com/content/ebmental/19/2/35.full.pdf
  8. Rodriguez, Kegeles, et al Randomized Controlled Crossover Trial of Ketamine in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Proof-of-Concept Neuropsychopharmacology 2013 Nov; 38(12): 2475-2483
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3799067/pdf/npp2013150a.pdf
  9. Singh, Fedgchin, Daly et al. A Double-Blind, Randomized, Pacebo-Controlled, Dose-Frequency Study of Intravenous Ketamine in Patients With Treatment-Resistant Depression American Journal of Psychiatry 2016 August; 173(8): 816-826
    http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/pdf/10.1176/appi.ajp.2016.16010037
  10. Taylor,  Landeros-Weisenberger, Coughlin et al. Ketamine for Social Anxiety Disorder: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Crossover Trial  Neuropsychopharmacology 2017 August;
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28849779

_____________________________________________________________

WHAT CAN I EXPECT AT AN INFUSION VISIT?

We will ask you to fast for 8 hours before your infusion. Once you have checked in, you will complete a questionnaire to assess your current status. The IV will be started in your hand or your arm using a small catheter. This may feel like a sting from a small bug bite. The Ketamine will be administered through your IV over a period of 40 minutes. We will take your vital signs before, during, and after the infusion. After resting for an additional 15-20 minutes after the infusion, you will be discharged home with your driver.

  1. What is Ketamine? 
    Ketamine is an anesthetic drug that has been available since the 1960’s. In high doses, it can cause a ‘dissociative anesthesia” which induces hypnosis like states as well as unconsciousness. Around 2000, scientists started looking at Ketamine IV infusions carefully when its clinical usefulness was expanded to include a role in the management of mood disorders as well as chronic pain.
  2. Why can I not drive the day of the infusion?
    Ketamine is a potent anesthetic. As with any anesthetic, we advise our patients to NOT operate any heavy machinery for the remainder of the day due to potential residual effects.
  3. What are the side effects?
    Less than 2% of people will experience side effects. Some of the common side effects are: drowsiness, nausea, dizziness, poor coordination, blurred vision, and feeling strange or unreal. Most of these symptoms dissipate after the first hour of receiving the infusion.
  4. Are there certain conditions that are contra-indications for Ketamine treatment?
    Yes. If you have a history of cardiovascular disease, uncontrolled hypertension, history of psychosis, history of failed Ketamine infusion treatment, history of substance abuse or dependence within the year (patients will undergo a screening process) you will not qualify for Ketamine infusion treatments.
  5. How will I know if I need a booster infusion and how frequently will I require them?
    The duration of antidepressant efficacy after the initial treatment is different for everyone. The studies show that the variance can be 15 days to indefinitely. This is quite a range and unfortunately, there are no predictors for the duration.
  6. Is there a guarantee that this will work for me?
    Unfortunately, we cannot give guarantees.  Studies have shown that 70% of people will obtain efficacy.  After the first 2 infusions, we will be able to ascertain whether the infusions will work for you. We will not advise you to continue your treatment after the first 2 infusions if we do not see a certain amount of improvement.
  7. Isn’t Ketamine addictive? 
    Ketamine has the potential to be addictive. Studies have shown that at these doses and frequency, Ketamine is not addictive.
  8. Do I have to continue my current treatments for depression? 
    Yes. We advise that you alert your current health care provider that you are undergoing these treatments and that you maintain your current regimen.  It can be dangerous to stop taking your medications without the care of a physician. Our patients have a brighter outlook and a positive drive after their treatment that has allowed them to have higher success rates with psychotherapy. We will be happy to work with your current health care provider to provide the optimal outcome.

_____________________________________

VA Using Ketamine for PTSD and Depression

Ketamine Therapy | Ketamine Doctors | 703-844-0184 | Fairfax, Virginia | Ketamine and Psychedelic drugs – for depression and neuroplasticity | NOVA Health Recovery, Alexandria, Va 22306

NOVA Health Recovery  <<< Ketamine Treatment Center Fairfax, Virginia

CAll 703-844-0184 for an immediate appointment to evaluate you for a Ketamine infusion:

Ketaminealexandria.com    703-844-0184 Call for an infusion to treat your depression. PTSD, Anxiety, CRPS, or other pain disorder today.

email@novahealthrecovery.com  << Email for questions to the doctor

Ketamine center in Fairfax, Virginia    << Ketamine infusions

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_______________________________________________________________________________________________


Ketamine and Psychedelic Drugs Change Structure of Neurons

ummary: A new study reveals psychedelics increase dendrites, dendritic spines and synapses, while ketamine may promote neuroplasticity. The findings could help develop new treatments for anxiety, depression and other related disorders.

Source: UC Davis.

A team of scientists at the University of California, Davis is exploring how hallucinogenic drugs impact the structure and function of neurons — research that could lead to new treatments for depression, anxiety, and related disorders. In a paper published on June 12 in the journal Cell Reports, they demonstrate that a wide range of psychedelic drugs, including well-known compounds such as LSD and MDMA, increase the number of neuronal branches (dendrites), the density of small protrusions on these branches (dendritic spines), and the number of connections between neurons (synapses). These structural changes suggest that psychedelics are capable of repairing the circuits that are malfunctioning in mood and anxiety disorders.

“People have long assumed that psychedelics are capable of altering neuronal structure, but this is the first study that clearly and unambiguously supports that hypothesis. What is really exciting is that psychedelics seem to mirror the effects produced by ketamine,” said David Olson, assistant professor in the Departments of Chemistry and of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, who leads the research team.

Ketamine, an anesthetic, has been receiving a lot of attention lately because it produces rapid antidepressant effects in treatment-resistant populations, leading the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to fast-track clinical trials of two antidepressant drugs based on ketamine. The antidepressant properties of ketamine may stem from its tendency to promote neural plasticity — the ability of neurons to rewire their connections.

“The rapid effects of ketamine on mood and plasticity are truly astounding. The big question we were trying to answer was whether or not other compounds are capable of doing what ketamine does,” Olson said.

Psychedelics show similar effects to ketamine

Olson’s group has demonstrated that psychedelics mimic the effects of ketamine on neurons grown in a dish, and that these results extend to structural and electrical properties of neurons in animals. Rats treated with a single dose of DMT — a psychedelic compound found in the Amazonian herbal tea known as ayahuasca — showed an increase in the number of dendritic spines, similar to that seen with ketamine treatment. DMT itself is very short-lived in the rat: Most of the drug is eliminated within an hour. But the “rewiring” effects on the brain could be seen 24 hours later, demonstrating that these effects last for some time.

Fairfax | NOVA Ketamine IV Ketamine for depression | Fairfax, Va 22306 | 703-844-0184
Fairfax | NOVA Ketamine IV Ketamine for depression | Fairfax, Va 22306 | 703-844-0184

Ketamine and Psychedelic Drugs Change Structure of Neurons

Summary: A new study reveals psychedelics increase dendrites, dendritic spines and synapses, while ketamine may promote neuroplasticity. The findings could help develop new treatments for anxiety, depression and other related disorders.

Source: UC Davis.

A team of scientists at the University of California, Davis is exploring how hallucinogenic drugs impact the structure and function of neurons — research that could lead to new treatments for depression, anxiety, and related disorders. In a paper published on June 12 in the journal Cell Reports, they demonstrate that a wide range of psychedelic drugs, including well-known compounds such as LSD and MDMA, increase the number of neuronal branches (dendrites), the density of small protrusions on these branches (dendritic spines), and the number of connections between neurons (synapses). These structural changes suggest that psychedelics are capable of repairing the circuits that are malfunctioning in mood and anxiety disorders.

“People have long assumed that psychedelics are capable of altering neuronal structure, but this is the first study that clearly and unambiguously supports that hypothesis. What is really exciting is that psychedelics seem to mirror the effects produced by ketamine,” said David Olson, assistant professor in the Departments of Chemistry and of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, who leads the research team.

Ketamine, an anesthetic, has been receiving a lot of attention lately because it produces rapid antidepressant effects in treatment-resistant populations, leading the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to fast-track clinical trials of two antidepressant drugs based on ketamine. The antidepressant properties of ketamine may stem from its tendency to promote neural plasticity — the ability of neurons to rewire their connections.

“The rapid effects of ketamine on mood and plasticity are truly astounding. The big question we were trying to answer was whether or not other compounds are capable of doing what ketamine does,” Olson said.

Psychedelics show similar effects to ketamine

Olson’s group has demonstrated that psychedelics mimic the effects of ketamine on neurons grown in a dish, and that these results extend to structural and electrical properties of neurons in animals. Rats treated with a single dose of DMT — a psychedelic compound found in the Amazonian herbal tea known as ayahuasca — showed an increase in the number of dendritic spines, similar to that seen with ketamine treatment. DMT itself is very short-lived in the rat: Most of the drug is eliminated within an hour. But the “rewiring” effects on the brain could be seen 24 hours later, demonstrating that these effects last for some time.

image shows neurons under psychedelics and ketamine

Psychedelic drugs such as LSD and ayahuasca change the structure of nerve cells, causing them to sprout more branches and spines, UC Davis researchers have found. This could help in “rewiring” the brain to treat depression and other disorders. In this false-colored image, the rainbow-colored cell was treated with LSD compared to a control cell in blue. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Calvin and Joanne Ly.

Behavioral studies also hint at the similarities between psychedelics and ketamine. In another recent paper published in ACS Chemical Neuroscience, Olson’s group showed that DMT treatment enabled rats to overcome a “fear response” to the memory of a mild electric shock. This test is considered to be a model of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and interestingly, ketamine produces the same effect. Recent clinical trials have shown that like ketamine, DMT-containing ayahuasca might have fast-acting effects in people with recurrent depression, Olson said.

These discoveries potentially open doors for the development of novel drugs to treat mood and anxiety disorders, Olson said. His team has proposed the term “psychoplastogen” to describe this new class of “plasticity-promoting” compounds.

“Ketamine is no longer our only option. Our work demonstrates that there are a number of distinct chemical scaffolds capable of promoting plasticity like ketamine, providing additional opportunities for medicinal chemists to develop safer and more effective alternatives,” Olson said.

 

Psychedelic drugs, ketamine change structure of neurons

Psychedelic drugs, ketamine change structure of neurons

Psychedelics as Possible Treatments for Depression and PTSD

A team of scientists at the University of California, Davis, is exploring how hallucinogenic drugs impact the structure and function of neurons — research that could lead to new treatments for depression, anxiety and related disorders.

In a paper published on June 12 in the journal Cell Reports, they demonstrate that a wide range of psychedelic drugs, including well-known compounds such as LSD and MDMA, increase the number of neuronal branches (dendrites), the density of small protrusions on these branches (dendritic spines) and the number of connections between neurons (synapses). These structural changes could suggest that psychedelics are capable of repairing the circuits that are malfunctioning in mood and anxiety disorders.

“People have long assumed that psychedelics are capable of altering neuronal structure, but this is the first study that clearly and unambiguously supports that hypothesis. What is really exciting is that psychedelics seem to mirror the effects produced by ketamine,” said David Olson, assistant professor in the departments of Chemistry and of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, who leads the research team.

Ketamine, an anesthetic, has been receiving a lot of attention lately because it produces rapid antidepressant effects in treatment-resistant populations, leading the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to fast-track clinical trials of two antidepressant drugs based on ketamine. The antidepressant properties of ketamine may stem from its tendency to promote neural plasticity — the ability of neurons to rewire their connections.

“The rapid effects of ketamine on mood and plasticity are truly astounding. The big question we were trying to answer was whether or not other compounds are capable of doing what ketamine does,” Olson said.

Psychedelics show similar effects to ketamine

Olson’s group has demonstrated that psychedelics mimic the effects of ketamine on neurons grown in a dish, and that these results extend to structural and electrical properties of neurons in animals. Rats treated with a single dose of DMT — a psychedelic compound found in the Amazonian herbal tea known as ayahuasca — showed an increase in the number of dendritic spines, similar to that seen with ketamine treatment. DMT itself is very short-lived in the rat: Most of the drug is eliminated within an hour. But the “rewiring” effects on the brain could be seen 24 hours later, demonstrating that these effects last for some time.

Behavioral studies also hint at the similarities between psychedelics and ketamine. In another recent paper published in ACS Chemical Neuroscience, Olson’s group showed that DMT treatment enabled rats to overcome a “fear response” to the memory of a mild electric shock. This test is considered to be a model of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and interestingly, ketamine produces the same effect. Recent clinical trials have shown that like ketamine, DMT-containing ayahuasca might have fast-acting effects in people with recurrent depression, Olson said.

These discoveries potentially open doors for the development of novel drugs to treat mood and anxiety disorders, Olson said. His team has proposed the term “psychoplastogen” to describe this new class of “plasticity-promoting” compounds.

“Ketamine is no longer our only option. Our work demonstrates that there are a number of distinct chemical scaffolds capable of promoting plasticity like ketamine, providing additional opportunities for medicinal chemists to develop safer and more effective alternatives,” Olson said.

Additional co-authors on the Cell Reports “Psychedelics Promote Structural and Functional Neural Plasticity.” study are Calvin Ly, Alexandra Greb, Sina Soltanzadeh Zarandi, Lindsay Cameron, Jonathon Wong, Eden Barragan, Paige Wilson, Michael Paddy, Kassandra Ori-McKinney, Kyle Burbach, Megan Dennis, Alexander Sood, Whitney Duim, Kimberley McAllister and John Gray.

Olson and Cameron were co-authors on the ACS Chemical Neuroscience paper along with Charlie Benson and Lee Dunlap.

The work was partly supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Psychedelics Promote Structural and Functional
Neural Plasticity

Below is the Intro and Discussion for the article:

Psychedelics Promote Structural and Functional neural Plasticity

Authors:

Calvin Ly, Alexandra C. Greb,
Lindsay P. Cameron, …,
Kassandra M. Ori-McKenney,
John A. Gray, David E. Olson
Correspondence
deolson@ucdavis.edu

In Brief
Ly et al. demonstrate that psychedelic
compounds such as LSD, DMT, and DOI
increase dendritic arbor complexity,
promote dendritic spine growth, and
stimulate synapse formation. These
cellular effects are similar to those
produced by the fast-acting
antidepressant ketamine and highlight
the potential of psychedelics for treating
depression and related disorders.

  • Highlights
     Serotonergic psychedelics increase neuritogenesis,
    spinogenesis, and synaptogenesis
  •  Psychedelics promote plasticity via an evolutionarily
    conserved mechanism
  •  TrkB, mTOR, and 5-HT2A signaling underlie psychedelicinduced
    plasticity
  •  Noribogaine, but not ibogaine, is capable of promoting
    structural neural plasticity

SUMMARY
Atrophy of neurons in the prefrontal cortex (PFC)
plays a key role in the pathophysiology of depression
and related disorders. The ability to promote
both structural and functional plasticity in the PFC
has been hypothesized to underlie the fast-acting
antidepressant properties of the dissociative anesthetic
ketamine. Here, we report that, like ketamine,
serotonergic psychedelics are capable of robustly
increasing neuritogenesis and/or spinogenesis both
in vitro and in vivo. These changes in neuronal structure
are accompanied by increased synapse number
and function, as measured by fluorescence microscopy
and electrophysiology. The structural changes
induced by psychedelics appear to result from stimulation
of the TrkB, mTOR, and 5-HT2A signaling
pathways and could possibly explain the clinical
effectiveness of these compounds. Our results underscore
the therapeutic potential of psychedelics
and, importantly, identify several lead scaffolds for
medicinal chemistry efforts focused on developing
plasticity-promoting compounds as safe, effective,
and fast-acting treatments for depression and
related disorders.

INTRODUCTION
Neuropsychiatric diseases, including mood and anxiety disorders,
are some of the leading causes of disability worldwide
and place an enormous economic burden on society (Gustavsson
et al., 2011; Whiteford et al., 2013). Approximately
one-third of patients will not respond to current antidepressant
drugs, and those who do will usually require at least 2–4 weeks
of treatment before they experience any beneficial effects
(Rush et al., 2006). Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD), and addiction share common neural circuitry (Arnsten,
2009; Russo et al., 2009; Peters et al., 2010; Russo and
Nestler, 2013) and have high comorbidity (Kelly and Daley,
2013). A preponderance of evidence from a combination of
human imaging, postmortem studies, and animal models suggests
that atrophy of neurons in the prefrontal cortex (PFC)
plays a key role in the pathophysiology of depression and
related disorders and is precipitated and/or exacerbated by
stress (Arnsten, 2009; Autry and Monteggia, 2012; Christoffel
et al., 2011; Duman and Aghajanian, 2012; Duman et al.,
2016; Izquierdo et al., 2006; Pittenger and Duman, 2008;
Qiao et al., 2016; Russo and Nestler, 2013). These structural
changes, such as the retraction of neurites, loss of dendritic
spines, and elimination of synapses, can potentially be counteracted
by compounds capable of promoting structural and
functional neural plasticity in the PFC (Castre´ n and Antila,
2017; Cramer et al., 2011; Duman, 2002; Hayley and Litteljohn,
2013; Kolb and Muhammad, 2014; Krystal et al., 2009;
Mathew et al., 2008), providing a general solution to treating
all of these related diseases. However, only a relatively small
number of compounds capable of promoting plasticity in the
PFC have been identified so far, each with significant drawbacks
(Castre´ n and Antila, 2017). Of these, the dissociative
anesthetic ketamine has shown the most promise, revitalizing
the field of molecular psychiatry in recent years.
Ketamine has demonstrated remarkable clinical potential as a
fast-acting antidepressant (Berman et al., 2000; Ionescu et al.,
2016; Zarate et al., 2012), even exhibiting efficacy in treatmentresistant
populations (DiazGranados et al., 2010; Murrough
et al., 2013; Zarate et al., 2006). Additionally, it has shown promise
for treating PTSD (Feder et al., 2014) and heroin addiction
(Krupitsky et al., 2002). Animal models suggest that its therapeutic
effects stem from its ability to promote the growth of dendritic
spines, increase the synthesis of synaptic proteins, and
strengthen synaptic responses (Autry et al., 2011; Browne and
Lucki, 2013; Li et al., 2010).

Like ketamine, serotonergic psychedelics and entactogens
have demonstrated rapid and long-lasting antidepressant and
anxiolytic effects in the clinic after a single dose (Bouso et al.,
2008; Carhart-Harris and Goodwin, 2017; Grob et al., 2011;
Mithoefer et al., 2013, 2016; Nichols et al., 2017; Sanches
et al., 2016; Oso´ rio et al., 2015), including in treatment-resistant
populations (Carhart-Harris et al., 2016, 2017; Mithoefer et al.,
2011; Oehen et al., 2013; Rucker et al., 2016). In fact, there
have been numerous clinical trials in the past 30 years examining
the therapeutic effects of these drugs (Dos Santos et al., 2016),
with 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) recently
receiving the ‘‘breakthrough therapy’’ designation by the Food
and Drug Administration for treating PTSD. Furthermore, classical
psychedelics and entactogens produce antidepressant
and anxiolytic responses in rodent behavioral tests, such as
the forced swim test (Cameron et al., 2018) and fear extinction
learning (Cameron et al., 2018; Catlow et al., 2013; Young
et al., 2015), paradigms for which ketamine has also been shown
to be effective (Autry et al., 2011; Girgenti et al., 2017; Li et al.,
2010). Despite the promising antidepressant, anxiolytic, and
anti-addictive properties of serotonergic psychedelics, their
therapeutic mechanism of action remains poorly understood,
and concerns about safety have severely limited their clinical
usefulness.
Because of the similarities between classical serotonergic
psychedelics and ketamine in both preclinical models and clinical
studies, we reasoned that their therapeutic effects might
result from a shared ability to promote structural and functional
neural plasticity in cortical neurons. Here, we report that serotonergic
psychedelics and entactogens from a variety of chemical
classes (e.g., amphetamine, tryptamine, and ergoline) display
plasticity-promoting properties comparable to or greater than
ketamine. Like ketamine, these compounds stimulate structural
plasticity by activating the mammalian target of rapamycin
(mTOR). To classify the growing number of compounds capable
of rapidly promoting induced plasticity (Castre´ n and Antila,
2017), we introduce the term ‘‘psychoplastogen,’’ from the
Greek roots psych- (mind), -plast (molded), and -gen (producing).
Our work strengthens the growing body of literature indicating
that psychoplastogens capable of promoting plasticity
in the PFC might have value as fast-acting antidepressants
and anxiolytics with efficacy in treatment-resistant populations
and suggests that it may be possible to use classical psychedelics
as lead structures for identifying safer alternatives.

DISCUSSION
Classical serotonergic psychedelics are known to cause
changes in mood (Griffiths et al., 2006, 2008, 2011) and brain
function (Carhart-Harris et al., 2017) that persist long after the
acute effects of the drugs have subsided. Moreover, several
psychedelics elevate glutamate levels in the cortex (Nichols,
2004, 2016) and increase gene expression in vivo of the neurotrophin
BDNF as well as immediate-early genes associated with
plasticity (Martin et al., 2014; Nichols and Sanders-Bush, 2002;
Vaidya et al., 1997). This indirect evidence has led to the
reasonable hypothesis that psychedelics promote structural
and functional neural plasticity, although this assumption had
never been rigorously tested (Bogenschutz and Pommy,
2012; Vollenweider and Kometer, 2010). The data presented
here provide direct evidence for this hypothesis, demonstrating
that psychedelics cause both structural and functional changes
in cortical neurons.

Prior to this study, two reports suggested
that psychedelics might be able
to produce changes in neuronal structure.
Jones et al. (2009) demonstrated that DOI
was capable of transiently increasing the
size of dendritic spines on cortical neurons,
but no change in spine density was
observed. The second study showed
that DOI promoted neurite extension in a
cell line of neuronal lineage (Marinova
et al., 2017). Both of these reports utilized
DOI, a psychedelic of the amphetamine
class. Here we demonstrate that the ability
to change neuronal structure is not a
unique property of amphetamines like
DOI because psychedelics from the ergoline,
tryptamine, and iboga classes of compounds also promote
structural plasticity. Additionally, D-amphetamine does not increase
the complexity of cortical dendritic arbors in culture,
and therefore, these morphological changes cannot be simply
attributed to an increase in monoamine neurotransmission.
The identification of psychoplastogens belonging to distinct
chemical families is an important aspect of this work because
it suggests that ketamine is not unique in its ability to promote
structural and functional plasticity. In addition to ketamine, the
prototypical psychoplastogen, only a relatively small number of
plasticity-promoting small molecules have been identified previously.
Such compounds include the N-methyl-D-aspartate
(NMDA) receptor ligand GLYX-13 (i.e., rapastinel), the mGlu2/3
antagonist LY341495, the TrkB agonist 7,8-DHF, and the muscarinic
receptor antagonist scopolamine (Lepack et al., 2016; Castello
et al., 2014; Zeng et al., 2012; Voleti et al., 2013). We
observe that hallucinogens from four distinct structural classes
(i.e., tryptamine, amphetamine, ergoline, and iboga) are also
potent psychoplastogens, providing additional lead scaffolds
for medicinal chemistry efforts aimed at identifying neurotherapeutics.
Furthermore, our cellular assays revealed that several
of these compounds were more efficacious (e.g., MDMA) or more potent (e.g., LSD) than ketamine. In fact, the plasticity-promoting
properties of psychedelics and entactogens rivaled that
of BDNF (Figures 3A–3C and S3). The extreme potency of LSD
in particular might be due to slow off kinetics, as recently proposed
following the disclosure of the LSD-bound 5-HT2B crystal
structure (Wacker et al., 2017).
Importantly, the psychoplastogenic effects of psychedelics in
cortical cultures were also observed in vivo using both vertebrate
and invertebrate models, demonstrating that they act through an
evolutionarily conserved mechanism. Furthermore, the concentrations
of psychedelics utilized in our in vitro cell culture assays
were consistent with those reached in the brain following systemic
administration of therapeutic doses in rodents (Yang
et al., 2018; Cohen and Vogel, 1972). This suggests that neuritogenesis,
spinogenesis, and/or synaptogenesis assays performed
using cortical cultures might have value for identifying
psychoplastogens and fast-acting antidepressants. It should
be noted that our structural plasticity studies performed in vitro
utilized neurons exposed to psychedelics for extended periods
of time. Because brain exposure to these compounds is often
of short duration due to rapid metabolism, it will be interesting
to assess the kinetics of psychedelic-induced plasticity.
A key question in the field of psychedelic medicine has been
whether or not psychedelics promote changes in the density of
dendritic spines (Kyzar et al., 2017). Using super-resolution
SIM, we clearly demonstrate that psychedelics do, in fact, increase
the density of dendritic spines on cortical neurons, an effect
that is not restricted to a particular structural class of compounds.
Using DMT, we verified that cortical neuron spine
density increases in vivo and that these changes in structural
plasticity are accompanied by functional effects such as
increased amplitude and frequency of spontaneous EPSCs.

We specifically designed these experiments
to mimic previous studies of ketamine
(Li et al., 2010) so that we might
directly compare these two compounds,
and, to a first approximation, they appear
to be remarkably similar. Not only do they
both increase spine density and neuronal
excitability in the cortex, they seem to
have similar behavioral effects. We have
shown previously that, like ketamine,
DMT promotes fear extinction learning
and has antidepressant effects in the
forced swim test (Cameron et al., 2018). These results, coupled
with the fact that ayahuasca, a DMT-containing concoction, has
potent antidepressant effects in humans (Oso´ rio et al., 2015;
Sanches et al., 2016; Santos et al., 2007), suggests that classical
psychedelics and ketamine might share a related therapeutic
mechanism.
Although the molecular targets of ketamine and psychedelics
are different (NMDA and 5-HT2A receptors, respectively), they
appear to cause similar downstream effects on structural plasticity
by activating mTOR. This finding is significant because ketamine is
known to be addictive whereas many classical psychedelics are
not (Nutt et al., 2007, 2010). The exact mechanisms by which these
compounds stimulate mTOR is still not entirely understood, but
our data suggest that, at least for classical psychedelics, TrkB
and 5-HT2A receptors are involved. Although most classical psychedelics
are not considered to be addictive, there are still significant
safety concerns with their use in medicine because they
cause profound perceptual disturbances and still have the potential
to be abused. Therefore, the identification of non-hallucinogenic
analogs capable of promoting plasticity in the PFC could
facilitate a paradigm shift in our approach to treating neuropsychiatric
diseases. Moreover, such compounds could be critical to
resolving the long-standing debate in the field concerning whether
the subjective effects of psychedelics are necessary for their therapeutic
effects (Majic et al., 2015  ). Although our group is actively
investigating the psychoplastogenic properties of non-hallucinogenic
analogs of psychedelics, others have reported the therapeutic
potential of safer structural and functional analogs of ketamine
(Moskal et al., 2017; Yang et al., 2015; Zanos et al., 2016).
Our data demonstrate that classical psychedelics from several
distinct chemical classes are capable of robustly promoting the
growth of both neurites and dendritic spines in vitro, in vivo, and across species. Importantly, our studies highlight the similarities
between the effects of ketamine and those of classical serotonergic
psychedelics, supporting the hypothesis that the clinical
antidepressant and anxiolytic effects of these molecules might
result from their ability to promote structural and functional plasticity
in prefrontal cortical neurons. We have demonstrated that
the plasticity-promoting properties of psychedelics require
TrkB, mTOR, and 5-HT2A signaling, suggesting that these key
signaling hubs may serve as potential targets for the development
of psychoplastogens, fast-acting antidepressants, and anxiolytics.
Taken together, our results suggest that psychedelics
may be used as lead structures to identify next-generation neurotherapeutics
with improved efficacy and safety profiles.

Also below is a great article on DMT and neuroplasticity:

 

Dark Classics in Chemical Neuroscience N,N-Dimethyltryptamine DMT

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Old Club Drug Is Repurposed Into Depression Treatment

A North Texas woman said a popular club drug and animal tranquilizer saved her from a life of depression and suicidal thoughts.

You may have heard of the drug before, as Special K on the street. it was designed as a horse tranquilizer, but Ketamine is gaining popularity as a treatment for depression.

Some doctors believe the controversial drug will become a game-changer in slowing the nation’s suicide epidemic.

Tiffany McCombie, a 40-year-old mother of one, knows what depression feels like in its darkest moments.

“I definitely was feeling what I would consider suicidal, not really wanting to live, not really wanting to die, just numb. That’s not a healthy place for me,” McCombie said.

She said she has lived with depression and Bipolar disorder for 30 years, has tried dozens of medications and supplements to combat it, but nothing, she said, has worked as well as the Ketamine infusions she gets at Rise Wellness Center.

She’s had six of them in ten months.”I had the right attitude and wanted to be healed and believing that it was going to happen for me and my brain. It happened. It cut down the mood stabilizers and antidepressants I had been on for years. I don’t take them at all,” she said.

More studies,like this one, are finding that Ketamine may be more effective and work faster than traditional antidepressants.

A local team of anesthesiologists had used the drug before, as an anaesthetic inside the operating room, but after seeing its potential to treat depression, they opened Rise Wellness Center, which specializes in Ketamine infusions.

“We get people that are so far down and so dark that we need this to get them out, to get them up, to get them moving. No drug does that like Ketamine,” said Dr.  Renaud Rodrigue, a pain management physician at Rise Wellness Center.

Experts say Ketamine can be dangerous, even deadly, if abused or taken in large doses.

Even though it’s not FDA-approved to treat depression, Dr. Rodrigue said, when given in small doses and in a clinical setting, 90 percent of his patients with severe depression reported long-term benefits.

Researchers at the University of Illinois published this study about how Ketamine may trigger a depression-fighting protein in the brain.

“This protein changed the game for us. We know now there’s something that is created just by the drug itself, which is staying in the central nervous system and is exerting this affect way beyond the duration of the drug,” said Dr. Rodrigue.

McCombie said Ketamine saved her life.

Could Ketamine conquer Treatment resistant depression?

A notorious drug that can cause dangerous hallucinations and even death when abused may be the key to treating severely depressed patients when used under proper physician care. UT Southwestern’s Dr. Lisa Monteggia has uncovered how the drug Ketamine works so rapidly and why patients are seeing success when other treatments have failed.

Transcript

{Video opens with music and pictures of UTSW patient Megan Joyce along with her mother and with her husband.}

Megan Joyce: Everything in my life seems great.

Narrator: Megan Joyce’s life may look picture perfect.

Megan: I graduated college. I got married. He’s an amazing person. He is incredibly supportive.

Narrator: But what these happy photos hide is a relentless inner struggle.

Megan: This is not something that I love to admit, but I fight for my life every single day.

Narrator: The 27-year-old has spent more than a decade battling severe depression. It triggers for no obvious reason.

Megan: They have defined my bipolar illness as treatment resistant.

Narrator: She says she tried every medication in the books … as well as checking into inpatient and outpatient treatment centers. Nothing worked. Until doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center tried something bold. Ketamine infusion therapy.

Megan: I don’t know if I would be here without the Ketamine treatment. I drive from Austin every 10 days, and I come for treatment, and I’m in the hospital for about 5 hours, and then I go home the same day.

Narrator: Several studies show ketamine can quickly stabilize severely depressed patients. But it does come with risks.

Dr. Madhukar Trivedi: There is a risk for addiction so that if people start taking Ketamine on their own on the black market, then that can be very dangerous. There are toxic effects in the brain if you overdose. On the other hand, for patients who do well on this and are getting the right dose under the guidance of a physician, it can be life saving.

Megan: When I have the IV in, it’s for 40 minutes, and then I stay for 2 hours after because it is an anesthetic so they want to make sure you don’t have adverse side effects.

Narrator: Dr. Madukhar Trivedi is closely monitoring Joyce … as well as the work his colleagues are doing at the bench.

Dr. Trivedi: At UT Southwestern, we have the whole breadth of work being done. There are people working like Dr. Monteggia in basic research. Understanding the exact mechanism of how Ketamine changes molecularly and changes the mechanism of action.

Dr. Lisa Monteggia: We got involved with how Ketamine triggers an anti-depressant effect because of the real need. Some of the recent clinical data has really shown that about a third of all patients don’t respond to anti-depressants. So, what do you do for treatment for those individuals?

Narrator: UT Southwestern’s Dr. Lisa Monteggia is a neuroscientist whose lab pinpointed a key protein that helps tigger Ketamine’s rapid antidepressent effects in the brain. Whereas traditional antidepressents can take up to 8 weeks to work, the effects of ketamine are seen within 60 to 90 minutes.

Dr. Monteggia: The idea of trying to understand how you generate a rapid anti-depressant response in patients … it’s really the first time we’ve been able to study it.

Narrator: Her study, published in the prestigious journal Nature, shows that ketamine blocks a protein responsible for a range of normal brain functions.

Dr. Monteggia: How we think Ketamine triggers an anti-depressant effect, this blocking the NMDA receptor, we think may also be causing the side effects associated with Ketamine. One of the things we’re working on is to try and see if we can identify compounds, slight derivatives perhaps, that may have the beneficial effects of Ketamine, in terms of triggering anti-depressant effects, without the side effects.

Narrator: In the meantime, Joyce remains optimistic for her future and the millions of others trying to defeat depression.

Megan: That’s why I really sought out Ketamine is I really wanted to give back and just have a chance at a semi-normal life.

Depression Patients Turning to Local Doctor’s Ketamine Therapy

The deaths of designer Kate Spade on Tuesday and TV Chef Anthony Bourdain Friday morning are bringing new attention to depression and suicide.

A new Center for Disease Control and Prevention report reveals suicide rates have risen 30 percent across much of the country since 1999.

But right here in San Diego, there is hope for a category of patients some doctors call “the untreatable.”

This patient, we’ll call Lisa, is composing a letter to the editor about her 20-year fight to stay alive.

“I know how tall the bridge is. I know how many seconds it takes to land,” Lisa said.

Lisa is an attorney with severe depression. Conventional medicines could not suppress her suicidal thoughts.

“It’s awful,” she said. “The day starts with waking up thinking ‘Can I even get out of bed?’ You just fight it to exhaustion every single day.”

She was referred to Dr. David Feifel who NBC 7 first also spoke to three years ago. Patients travel from as far away as Canada to undergo his Ketamine therapy.

“Sort of a psychedelic experience. It’s also been termed dissociative experience because it is sort of an out-of-body feeling,” Dr. Feifel said of his therapy.

Dr. Feifel says low doses of Ketamine have an almost immediate effect on his patients, unlike conventional anti-depressants that can take weeks to build up a therapeutic level.

While Ketamine doesn’t stay in the body more than a day, its effects can last for months.

“It seems to be able to vaporize people’s sense of wanting to take their life.” Dr. Feifel said.

Lisa has received some 35 treatments over the last four months.

“I walk in here crappy, I’ll leave happy. It is a remarkable, remarkable experience that in 20 years nothing has ever come close” Lisa said.

Her goal is to need fewer treatments and experience longer-lasting effects.

Lisa’s hope for the so-called “untreatable community” of depressed people is they find help.

Ketamine-Associated Brain Changes – A Review of the Neuroimaging Literature

KEY POINTS:

                  Ketamine-Associated Brain Changes: A Review of the Neuroimaging Literature

Subanesthetic doses of ketamine have rapid (within hours), robust (across a variety of symptoms), and relatively sustained (typically up to one week) antidepressant effects—even in patients with TRD (treatment resistant depression). Clinical studies show that about 50% of patients with TRD have a significant decrease in symptoms within 24 hours of a single intravenous subanesthetic ketamine dose.

Animal models show that ketamine’s antidepressant effects are likely mediated by its antagonism of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors through increased α-amino-3-hydroxy-5- methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA)–mediated glutamatergic signaling. This triggers activation of intracellular synaptogenic pathways, most notably in the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR)–signaling pathway, which also has implications in many other psychiatric disorders.

With regard to MDD patients, decreased glutamate has been noted in various prefrontal regions, including the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), dorsomedial PFC (dmPFC), and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), when compared to controls.8–10 This shortage of glutamate makes ketamine an ideal treatment for MDD; by creating a surge in glutamate levels in regions of the brain that suffer from a glutamate deficit, ketamine may provide some normalization of glutamate levels in patients with MDD. This “glutamate surge” hypothesis has dominated as the primary theory of ketamine’s antidepressant mechanism.

Ketamine may work through additional receptors, as it is known to have effects on several opioid receptors, adrenergic receptors, and several serotonin and norepinephrine transporters.17–19 It is also possible that acute dissociative side effects of ketamine may be mediating antidepressant response.

One salient biological metric that may provide insight into ketamine’s mechanism of action is related to dissociation. Dissociative side effects begin from infusion, reach a peak typically within an hour of infusion, and are completely diminished 230 minutes after infusion.20 The same study has shown that increased dissociation and psychotomimetic symptoms immediately following infusion may predict antidepressant response. (Luckenbaugh DA, Niciu MJ, Ionescu DF, et al. Do the dissociative side effects of ketamine mediate its antidepressant effects? J Affect Disord 2014;159:56–61Do the dissociative side effects of ketamine mediate its antidepressant effects.)

Certain themes have emerged with Ketamine. First are our findings of convergent brain regions implicated in MDD and how ketamine modulates those areas. Specifically, the subgenual ACC has been a region of interest in many previous studies. In relation to emotion and cognition, ketamine appears to reduce brain activation in regions associated with self-monitoring, to increase neural regions associated with emotional blunting, and to increase neural activity in reward processing.

Overall, ketamine’s effects were most notably found in the subgenual ACC, PCC, PFC, and hippocampus. Abnormalities in overlapping regions (specifically, the dorsal and subgenual ACC, amygdala, hippocampus, and ventral striatum) have been implicated, via a growing body of neuroimaging literature, in the pathophysiology of depression.  The subgenual ACC, in particular, has been a frequently studied area of interest concerning ketamine and MDD.

FMRI found significant reductions in subgenual ACC coupling with hippocampus, retrosplenial cortex, and thalamus. Immediate reductions in subgenual ACC blood flow and focal reductions in OFC blood flow strongly predicted dissociation.

NIMH studies using PET 120 minutes postinfusion found that increased metabolism in the subgenual ACC was positively correlated with improvements in depression scores post-ketamine. (Neural correlates of rapid antidepressant response to ketamine in bipolar disorder..)

Analysis of resting-state scans in healthy volunteers further suggests that dissociation may be responsible for ketamine’s antidepressant effects because it may disconnect the “excessive effects of an aversive visceromotor state on cognition and the self”—a hallmark of depression.40(p 163) Related, one study found that ketamine may dampen brain regions involved in rumination (the repetitive focusing of attention on negative feelings and thoughts in response to negative mood) by reducing the functional connectivity between the pregenual ACC and the dorsal PCC, and decreasing connectivity between the left and right executive-control networks.  (. Lehmann M, Seifritz E, Henning A, et al. Differential effects of rumination and distraction on ketamine induced modulation of resting state functional connectivity and reactivity of regions within the default-mode network. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci 2016;11:1227–35 .Differential effects of rumination and distraction on ketamine induced modulation of resting state functional connectivity and reactivity of regions within the default-mode network.)

Taken together, these studies suggest that ketamine may cause a “disconnect” in several circuits related to affective processing, perhaps by shifting focus of attention away from the internal states of anxiety, depression, and somatization, and more toward the perceptual changes (e.g., hallucinations, visual distortions, derealization) induced by ketamine. Similarly, during an emotion task, ketamine attenuated responses to negative pictures, suggesting that the processing of negative information is specifically altered in response to ketamine. (Scheidegger M, Henning A, Walter M, et al. Ketamine administration reduces amygdalo-hippocampal reactivity to emotional stimulation. Hum Brain Mapp 2016;37:1941–52.Ketamine administration reduces amygdalo‐hippocampal reactivity to emotional stimulation)

By taking the focus off “oneself” and placing it on other stimuli, it is possible that ketamine decreases awareness of negative experiences and consequently improves mood.

Perhaps most interesting are ketamine’s effects on brain connectivity as it relates to self-monitoring behaviors. Reduced connectivity between the pregenual ACC and dorsal PCC was associated with increased dissociation during infusion, and reduced activation in the left superior temporalcortex was associated with impaired self-monitoring56,65—which is disruptive to patients with psychotic illness—especially those with chronic symptoms of psychosis. By contrast, the transient dissociation experienced by depressed patients during a ketamine infusion may have the effect of dampening what the hyperactive self-monitoring associated with depressive illness (Lehmann M, Seifritz E, Henning A, et al. Differential effects of rumination and distraction on ketamine induced modulation of resting state functional connectivity and reactivity of regions within the default-mode network. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci 2016;11:1227–35Differential effects of rumination and distraction on ketamine induced modulation of resting state functional connectivity and reactivity of regions within the default-mode network. b)

During ketamine administration, subjects experience emotional blunting, which may be associated with reduced limbic responses to emotional stimuli.54,55 It is possible that by decreasing the activity of deep limbic structures (thought to be involved in the pathophysiology of depression, such as the amygdala), ketamine acutely disables the emotional resources required to perpetuate the symptoms of depression. (Abel KM, Allin MP, Kucharska-Pietura K, et al. Ketamine and fMRI BOLD signal: distinguishing between effects mediated by change in blood flow versus change in cognitive state. Hum Brain Mapp 2003;18:135–45. Ketamine and fMRI BOLD signal Distinguishing between effects mediated by change in blood flow versus change in cognitive state|||| Abel KM, Allin MP, Kucharska-Pietura K, et al. Ketamine alters neural processing of facial emotion recognition in healthy men: an fMRI study. Neuroreport 2003;14:387–91 Ketamine alters neural processing of facial emotion recognition in healthy men an fMRI study.)

Ketamine may play a role in reactivating reward areas of the brain in patients with MDD. This reactivation may be especially important, as reward areas in MDD have been characterized by decreased subcortical and limbic activity and by an increased cortical response to reward paradigms. (Zhang WN, Chang SH, Guo LY, Zhang KL, Wang J. The neural correlates of reward-related processing in major depressive disorder: a meta-analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging studies. J Affect Disord 2013;151:531–9.)

In resting-state scans, BOLD activation in the cingulate gyrus, hippocampus, insula, thalamus, and midbrain increased after ketamine.( Stone J, Kotoula V, Dietrich C, De Simoni S, Krystal JH, Mehta MA. Perceptual distortions and delusional thinking following ketamine administration are related to increased pharmacological MRI signal changes in the parietal lobe. J Psychopharmacol 2015;29:1025–8.Perceptual distortions and delusional thinking following ketamine administration are related to increased pharmacological MRI signal changes in the parietal lobe)

In addition, ketamine increases neural activation in the bilateral MCC, ACC, and insula, as well as the right thalamus.  Activation of these areas is consistent with activation of reward-processing areas, suggesting that ketamine may play a role in activating reward neurocircuitry. (Hoflich A, Hahn A, Kublbock M, et al. Ketamine-dependent neuronal activation in healthy volunteers. Brain Struct Funct 2017;222:1533–42.)

Though no single brain area has been singled out as the locus of depression, ketamine affects different areas of the brain in various ways, which may contribute to overall mood improvements. For example, at baseline, patients with MDD, compared to healthy volunteers, had reduced global connectivity in the PFC and increased connectivity in the posterior cingulate, precuneus, lingual gyrus, and cerebellum; postketamine, responders had increased connectivity in the lateral PFC, caudate, and insula. (Abdallah CG, Averill LA, Collins KA, et al. Ketamine treatment and global brain connectivity in major depression. Neuropsychopharmacology 2017;42:1210–9.Ketamine Treatment and Global Brain Connectivity in Major Depression.)

These findings may reflect ketamine’s ability to reclaim frontal control over deeper limbic structures, thus strengthening the cognitive control of emotions and decreasing depressive symptoms. Similarly, TRD patients, compared to healthy volunteers, had reduced insula and caudate responses to positive emotions at baseline, which normalized in the caudate post-ketamine. (Murrough JW, Collins KA, Fields J, et al. Regulation of neural responses to emotion perception by ketamine in individuals with treatment-resistant major depressive disorder. Transl Psychiatry 2015;5:e509 Regulation of neural responses to emotion perception by ketamine in individuals with treatment-resistant major depressive disorder.)

Improvements are correlated with increased metabolism in the hippocampus, dorsal ACC, and decreased metabolism in the OFC. (Lally N, Nugent AC, Luckenbaugh DA, Niciu MJ, Roiser JP, Zarate CA Jr. Neural correlates of change in major depressive disorder anhedonia following open-label ketamine. J Psychopharmacol 2015;29:596–607 Neural correlates of change in major depressive disorder anhedonia following open-label ketamine.)

Specifically, based on this review, future studies should likely focus on ketamine’s action in the subgenual ACC, PCC, PFC, and hippocampus. Another promising direction for research builds on the view that depression is the product of underactive prefrontal and limbic mood-regulation networks and overreactive subcortical limbic networks, which are involved in emotional and visceral responses. (Drevets WC, Price JL, Furey ML. Brain structural and functional abnormalities in mood disorders: implications for neurocircuitry models of depression. Brain Struct Funct 2008; 213:93–118 Brain structural and functional abnormalities in mood disorders.)

Ketamine’s potential use in both research and treatment is promising indeed.

 

Neural correlates of exercise training in individuals with schizophrenia and in healthy individuals A systematic review.

Mechanisms of Ketamine Action as an Antidepressant

Ketamine and Ketamine Metabolite Pharmacology Insights into Therapeutic Mechanisms.

Ketamine and other N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonists in the treatment of depression a perspective review

THE NEUROBIOLOGY OF ketamine and addiction

Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy – A Paradigm Shift in Psychiatric Research and Development

KETAMINE FOR TREATMENT-RESISTANT UNIPOLAR AND BIPOLAR MAJOR DEPRESSION – CRITICAL REVIEW AND IMPLICATIONS FOR CLINICAL PRACTICE.

Ketamine for the treatment of addiction Evidence and potential mechanisms  <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

REVIEW OF KETAMINE ABUSE AND DIVERSION

Cognitive behavior therapy may sustain antidepressant effects of intravenous ketamine in treatment-resistant depression

The Effect of a Single Dose of Intravenous Ketamine on suicidal ideation – systemic review and meta-analysis

Rapid-Acting Antidepressants Mechanistic Insights and Future Directions.

Ketamine and rapid-acting antidepressants a new era in the battle against depression and suicide.

Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Rapid-Acting Antidepressants Ketamine and Scopolamine

A Circadian Genomic Signature Common to Ketamine and Sleep Deprivation in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex

New Targets for Rapid Antidepressant Action

Role of copper in depression. Relationship with ketamine treatment

Ketamine normalizes brain activity during emotionally valenced attentional processing in depression.

Glutamate and Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid Systems in the Pathophysiology of Major Depression and Antidepressant Response to Ketamine.

Recognizing Depression from the Microbiota⁻Gut⁻Brain Axis. b

Psychobiotics and the gut–brain axis in the pursuit of happines

Symptomatology and predictors of antidepressant efficacy in extended responders to a single ketamine infusion

Default Mode Connectivity in Major Depressive diosrder measured up to 10 days after Ketamine administration

S-Adenosyl Methionine and Transmethylation Pathways in Neuropsychiatric Diseases Throughout Life

S-Adenosyl Methionine in the Therapy of Depression and Other Psychiatric Disorders.

Ketamine for Depression, 2 Diagnostic and Contextual Indications.

Ketamine’s antidepressant efficacy is extended for at least four weeks in subjects with a family history of an alcohol use disorder

Predictors of Response to Ketamine in Treatment Resistant Major Depressive Disorder and Bipolar Disorder

The role of adipokines in the rapid antidepressant effects of ketamine.

response to ketamine and prediction of treatment outcome

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Medical comorbidity in bipolar disorder The link with metabolic-inflammatory systems.

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Role of neuro-immunological factors in the pathophysiology of mood disorders.

Anti-inflammatory agents in the treatment of bipolar depression a systematic review and meta-analysis

The role of tryptophan metabolism and food craving in the relation between obesity and bipolar disorder

Immune-based strategies for mood disorders facts and challenges

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Genetic Studies on the Tripartite Glutamate Synapse in the Pathophysiology and Therapeutics of Mood Disorders

The Impact of a Single Nucleotide Polymorphism in SIGMAR1 on Depressive Symptoms in Major Depressive Disorder and Bipolar Disorder.

Case–control association study of 14 variants of CREB1, CREBBP and CREM on MDD and bipolar

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Synaptic Loss and the Pathophysiology of PTSD Implications for Ketamine as a Prototype Novel Therapeutic

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Ketamine for Depression: A Q&A with Psychiatrist Alexander Papp, MD  << Article link

 

Ketamine for Depression: A Q&A with Psychiatrist Alexander Papp, MD

By Gabrielle Johnston, MPH   |   December 21, 2017

Every year, 15 to 20 million persons are diagnosed and treated for depression, making it the most common type of mental illness in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. For roughly 30 percent of these patients, however, standard treatment options, such as antidepressants and talk therapy, are not effective. But for some, there may be a new option: ketamine, a medication originally developed as an anesthetic drug, but now being used to address treatment-resistant depression. Alexander Papp, MD, psychiatrist at UC San Diego Health, discusses the potential of ketamine as a remedy for depression when other treatments fail.

Alexander Papp

Question: How does ketamine work to reduce depression?

Answer: Ketamine works by quickly increasing the activity of the neurotransmitter glutamate in the frontal cortex of the brain, while also allowing new synapses to form in the same area. The speediness of ketamine in producing an antidepressant effect occurs because this drug bypasses the traditional serotonin route and goes directly to activating glutamate. This is very different from traditional antidepressants, which first increase the activity of serotonin in multiple different areas of the brain, and then ultimately affect glutamate. This process usually takes two to four weeks to take effect, while ketamine yields an almost immediate effect.

Q: What is treatment-resistant depression?

A: Treatment-refractory depression, better known as treatment-resistant depression, is a term used to describe cases of major depressive disorder that do not adequately respond to appropriate courses of at least two antidepressants. In this situation, “responding” to an antidepressant means not only improvement in mood, but experiencing a full disappearance of the majority of the depressive symptoms and a return to normal functioning.

Q: What is ketamine and how is it traditionally used in medicine?

A: Ketamine was originally developed as an anesthetic and an analgesic or pain reliever. Currently, ketamine is approved and labeled by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for both of these uses in the United States.

Q: Are there any adverse effects of ketamine as a treatment? Is this why some consider it to be an “experiential” treatment for depression?

A: As a treatment for depression, ketamine has a few mild adverse effects. These can include a dream-like feeling, blurred or double vision, dizziness, nausea or vomiting and short anxiety reactions after receiving a dose. This treatment is not experimental because this is an FDA-approved drug that is being used for “off-label” or a less common use.  An “off-label” use means that it is administered as a treatment that the FDA did not originally approve. The FDA approves medications only for a certain number of uses, but most medications eventually develop off-label uses due to the clinical experience that develops over time. As an example, the drug Prazosin was approved for the treatment of high blood pressure in 1976 but it is now mostly used for the treatment of nightmares in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, a use that was not originally approved.

Q: When should a patient ask their doctor about trying ketamine as a treatment for depression?

depression

A: You should speak to your doctor when you have tried several antidepressant medications or combinations of medications, taken at the highest dose levels for at least two months, without a return to normal functioning. In these cases, it is also important to have other medical reasons for depression, such as a hormonal imbalance, ruled out as well.

Q: Apart from ketamine, are there any other treatments for this treatment-resistant depression on the horizon?

A: New studies have been published about administering Botox injections into the frown muscles on the forehead to treat depression. Botox is an FDA-approved drug to treat a variety of conditions, ranging from excessive sweating to muscle spasms to cosmetic uses, but its use to treat depression is another example of off-label use.

There are also a variety of other treatments available for this type of depression. Two of the more common options are repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation and deep brain stimulation. Both of these are FDA-approved and are covered by some insurance plans.

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