Ketamine was originally developed as an anaesthetic but it has more recently shown promise for the treatment of certain mental health disorders, particularly depression. Treatments based on ketamine are now available in the UK through private clinics but many patients have questions about this new option for treating depression.
How Does Ketamine Help with Depression?
The way that ketamine affects the brain isn’t fully understood, but its effectiveness as a treatment for depression has been proven by clinical trials. It is thought that ketamine binds to a specific type of receptor in the brain, triggering a chain of effects that leads to the release of signalling molecules that help change our mood and thought patterns. Ketamine could help the neurons in our brains to communicate better with each other. Unlike antidepressants, which can take several weeks to start working, the effects of ketamine treatment can be apparent right away.
What Happens During Ketamine Treatment?
Ketamine is given as an intravenous infusion, which means you will need to come into the clinic to have the medication. You will be asked to lie down and make yourself comfortable on a bed. A small needle will then be inserted into a vein on the back of your hand. The medication will be slowly pumped into your bloodstream through this needle. The treatment usually takes about 40 minutes so it can help to bring some relaxing music and headphones with you. Wearing an eye mask can also help as you should try to relax as much as possible during the treatment. You may feel a bit unsteady afterwards, but you will be able to recover in the calm clinic environment.
You will need to be closely monitored while you are undergoing the treatment so that we can be sure you are responding well. If you do benefit from ketamine, then you may need to come in regularly for additional treatments at the clinic every few weeks. A typical course of treatment might require 6-8 infusions, which will be given every 2-4 weeks.
Who Should Have Ketamine for Depression?
Ketamine can be an effective treatment for depression. It has proven to be particularly effective for people with severe depression and people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts. Some people who have depression with anxiety have also benefitted from ketamine treatment. However, as with other medications, ketamine isn’t the right option for everyone. Ketamine is still a very new treatment for depression so we have to take extra care to ensure it safe and effective for you. Some people can find the experience overwhelming as ketamine can trigger feelings of dissociation, so you may decide that it is not right for you.
Ketamine will usually only be recommended for depression if other treatments haven’t been able to help you. You may also benefit from other approaches such as lifestyle changes and therapy alongside your medication.
If you have any questions about how ketamine is used for depression then you can make an appointment to talk to your doctor at the North London Psychiatry Practice.