Ketamine therapy is another cutting-edge treatment option for individuals suffering from treatment-resistant depression. The therapy involves a brief medical procedure during which a low dose of ketamine is administered through an IV infusion or a nasal inhaler. Ketamine therapy often works when other established forms of depression treatment have not been effective, and for some patients, the benefits from ketamine therapy are rapid.
Exactly how ketamine therapy achieves such rapid effects in the brain is not fully understood, but it likely involves complex interactions with the brain’s neurotransmitter systems. Researchers in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine are leading this exciting field of discovery.
Although ketamine is approved by the FDA for use as a general anesthetic, it is not approved for the treatment of psychiatric conditions. However, substantial research suggests that it is safe and effective in treating depression. It may also help relieve symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder and some forms of chronic pain. When prescribed in this way, ketamine is used “off label,” a term that simply means a drug is used in a way not originally intended by its manufacturers.
Ketamine therapy involves a short series of treatments, typically administered two to three times per week. One advantage to ketamine therapy is that individuals learn very quickly if it will be effective for them. Usually, one treatment is enough to determine if additional treatments will be helpful. Because ketamine is a medication that has the potential to be abused, ketamine therapy is not appropriate for individuals with addiction.
Scheduling Ketamine Therapy
The first step in the process is a consultation with M. Justin Coffey, MD, medical director of the Center for Brain Stimulation, and his team, during which they take into consideration each individual’s unique psychiatric and medical history and discusses the approach that is most likely to be helpful.