Why fighting depression with ketamine is a new hope

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In recent years, depression rates have been growing.

A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that in 2020, almost 1 out of 10 adults and 1 out of 5 teens reported having depression.

This is a rise from 6.6% of Americans in 2005. As depression becomes more widespread, the search for effective treatments has become increasingly important.

The Game Changer: Fluoxetine

In the 1980s, fluoxetine, also known as Prozac, was the first selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

This was a big step in depression treatment. But, one major problem was that it took weeks to months to work effectively. That’s when ketamine therapy started to get attention.

The Newcomer: Ketamine Therapy

The FDA approved ketamine in 1970, initially as an anesthetic during surgery. However, later, it was found to quickly reduce depression and anxiety symptoms. So, doctors began exploring it as a treatment for depression.

Unlike traditional SSRI antidepressants, ketamine interacts with different types of neurotransmitters in the brain.

This means that patients who didn’t respond well to standard antidepressants might find ketamine therapy more helpful.

The Columbia Approach: Personalized Ketamine Treatment

At Columbia University Irving Medical Center, doctors use ketamine to treat a range of psychiatric conditions. They work closely with each patient to tailor the treatment to their needs.

“We specialize in treatment-resistant depression, which is depression that hasn’t improved with traditional medications or psychotherapy,” says Jacques Ambrose, MD, MPH, senior medical director at ColumbiaDoctors Psychiatry.

Columbia also plays a leading role in studying treatment-resistant depression and has a long history of clinical care for this condition.

Depression patients might benefit from treatment-resistant options, like ketamine, if they:

  1. Haven’t responded well to traditional antidepressant medications or psychotherapy.
  2. Don’t have other medical conditions, such as seizures, substance abuse, or liver or kidney problems.
  3. Aren’t currently taking any medications that could interact with ketamine.

Ketamine treatment can be administered in two ways:

  • Intravenous (IV) Infusion: Here, ketamine is put directly into the bloodstream through a small needle in your arm. This usually takes around 40 minutes to an hour, and doctors monitor you throughout the procedure.
  • Intranasal Spray: In this method, ketamine is delivered through a nasal spray in a closely watched and structured clinical setting. This might be a better choice for those who are scared of needles or have hard-to-reach veins for an IV infusion.

However, ketamine can cause side effects like a feeling of being disconnected from reality or temporary increases in blood pressure during or shortly after the treatment, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness.

Ketamine for depression typically involves a series of carefully monitored treatment sessions over a few weeks in a ColumbiaDoctors outpatient office setting.

If you care about depression, please read studies about how dairy foods may influence depression risk, and B vitamins could help prevent depression and anxiety.

For more information about mental health, please see recent studies that ultra-processed foods may make you feel depressed, and extra-virgin olive oil could reduce depression symptoms.

The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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