It’s hard to believe that its taken almost 20 years for ketamine to gain traction as an antidepressant. Since the development of Prozac in the 1980s, no other mental health discovery has had the potential to make such a difference in the lives of those suffering. Ketamine not only relieves depressive symptoms in as quickly as a few hours, but it is effective where other treatments fail. Up to 70% of patients find relief through ketamine infusions—compared to the 40% who respond positively to traditional antidepressants, this number is huge.
Not only is ketamine as miraculous and wonderful as researchers have claimed it to be, but it’s also enabled an entirely new understanding of the brain, and how mental health disorders affect it.
And that new understanding…was entirely stumbled upon.
In the mid 1990s, two researchers, Dennis Charney and John Krystal, were studying the glutamate system in the brain—often referred to as the brain’s “information highway.” Charney was interested in the way depression worked on the glutamate system, while Krystal was curious about the role of schizophrenia on the glutamate system. Together, they performed a single-dose ketamine study. Normally, since the effects of ketamine wear off after 1-2 hours, study participants would only have been monitored for about that long and sent home. However, since ketamine had gained a bit of a reputation as a recreational “club drug,” they decided to keep the participants under close watch for 72 hours.
And that is when they stumbled upon hope.
In about 4 hours, some of the participants claimed that they felt better…a lot better. Charney and Krystal were shocked and a bit confused, since every other antidepressant on the market took weeks, if not longer, to take effect. It took Charney and Krystal a few years to publish their findings, mostly because they were confused by them themselves. But in 2000, when they finally shared the results of their work, they were met with little interest…at first.
Ketamine has been around since the 1960s, introduced as an anesthetic and later approved for use as an analgesic. It was an old, cheap, generic drug that pharmaceutical companies weren’t willing to invest millions or research dollars into. However, small studies here and there kept pushing the research forward, and by 2009 it was pretty clear that there was something special about ketamine and the way it works to treat depression. Johnson & Johnson and Allergan both began working on ketamine-inspired medications—Johnson & Johnson’s nasal spray, esketamine, could be approved by the FDA as soon as next month!
Knowing the potential of a drug, but not being able to administer it to patients is one of the most frustrating situations for a doctor to be in. But ketamine was legal, approved for use as an anesthetic and painkiller—it just wasn’t approved for FDA use as an antidepressant. The same way that aspirin is FDA approved as a blood thinner and for stroke prevention, but not as a painkiller or fever reducer. Clinics began to open their doors, offering “off-label” ketamine infusions and changing the lives of those who had been suffering in unimaginable darkness for so, so long.
Contact Elev8 MD Wellness Center
Our ketamine clinic is happy to bring hope to the greater Charlotte area. We offer ketamine infusions for depression and chronic pain, as well as several natural remedies for depression and pain: reiki, massage, IV hydration, CBD products, and more. Complete the brief form below to request a free consultation—we are happy to answer your questions and point you in the direction of health and happiness.