On April 19th, 2019 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced, through their website, that it has been receiving an increasing number of reports of serious harm in patients who are physically dependent on opioid pain medicines, when the medicine is abruptly discontinued or the dosage is rapidly decreased. According to the report, these patients are suffering from severe cases of withdrawal which are causing additional uncontrolled pain, psychological distress, and, in some cases, suicide. The report makes it clear that, going forward, any pain treatment using opioids MUST only introduce gradual decreases after the patient is made aware, and the dosage is reduced in small percentages relative to their current prescription. For those who have chronic pain, and want to avoid developing a dependence on opioids, it may be wiser to try an equally effective and non-addictive alternative, like ketamine infusions, instead.
When compared to opioids, ketamine offers similar benefits through different mechanisms of action. The opioid receptors are only one of a number of different types of neurotransmitters in the brain. Through these neurotransmitters, our brain sends and receives signals of pain, pleasure, and more. When we experience pain, our brain transmits a specific signal to specific parts of the body. However, when an opioid is in the system, these signals are either blocked completely or significantly reduced to a mutter. While this has proven to be effective, it does not come without significant drawbacks. One glaring problem persists regardless of the case: patients who find relief through opioid medication will have to gradually increase their dosage—further increasing their biological investment in the regimen—in order to continue to receive adequate relief. This can spell trouble for anyone using these drugs for an extended period of time. In addition to building a tolerance, the body also begins to expect this drug, which causes other biological shifts to occur. As a result, abruptly stopping these medications can be very painful or even fatal.
Ketamine, on the other hand, works through the glutamate system, and acts as an NMDA-receptor antagonist. Ketamine also acts on mu and delta receptors which are the same pain receptors that opioids such as morphine, Percocet and Vicodin act upon. And, while most drugs require a daily dose to remain effective, the benefits of ketamine actually come from the body’s response to it, and not the presence of it alone. For most patients, this means that each infusion’s effects last much longer than for just that day. It should be said that most patients who receive ketamine infusions do so multiple times through the year, at least. Many find this a much easier and effective alternative to taking a daily analgesic, and wonder why more drugs do not work the same way.
Elev8 MD Wellness Center offers a wide variety of treatments for those suffering from depression or anxiety. Our treatment options range from psychotherapy and ketamine infusions to reiki, acupuncture, massage and IV hydration therapy. Contact our Charlotte, NC wellness center today and let us know how we can meet your health and wellness needs.