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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Ketamine: a cutting-edge treatment for depression, PTSD

Aug 28, 2017 01:49PM ● By BEACON Senior News

Forty million Americans—or one in five adults—have a mental health condition, according to Mental Health America. Within that number, nearly 16 million people suffer from depression and more than seven million are affected by PTSD.

The two conditions tend to go hand in hand, as those who suffer from PTSD often experience depression as well.

Nearly twice as many women suffer from depression than men. Even though PTSD is mostly associated with male soldiers coming back from war, it can be a result of traumatic events, such as car accidents or sexual assaults. PTSD is something that men and women must deal with, and it occurs twice as much in women according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

While there are dozens of medications to treat depression and PTSD, most merely cover up the problem.

“Many medications work on the assumption that you don’t have enough serotonin in your brain,” said Dr. Steven Levine, a psychiatrist and founder of Ketamine Treatment Centers. “If you replace enough of these feel-good hormones, you will feel better.”

Levine, an expert in the clinical use of ketamine for mood and anxiety disorders, treats patients who suffer from depression and PTSD by helping them repair damaged connections in the brain by using periodic ketamine infusions in small doses.

Developed in 1962, ketamine was originally used as an anesthetic, but quickly found its way onto the streets as a recreational drug, taking on the name Special K. It has also been used as a tranquilizer for animals. It’s still considered one of the safest anesthetics around, but with repeated infusions, the long-term effects on the brain are still unknown.

“Those who may be at risk of cognitive damage are people who abuse it daily or multiple times a week in high doses,” said Levine.

Most of his patients receive an infusion once a month and go through traditional talk therapy.

“The results have been amazing,” said Levine. “In some cases, ketamine has started to alleviate patients’ symptoms after one infusion. Most anti-depressants can take weeks or months to start working.”

Extensive ketamine research reveals a 75 percent success rate for the treatment.

A recent study at Columbia University found that ketamine infusions given in a vaccine-like fashion to those embarking upon an environment likely to cause significant stress- ors, such as soldiers entering a battle or aid workers going to a disaster area, prevented or reduced PTSD symptoms.

“Depression and PTSD can cause a lot of pain in people’s lives,” said Levine. “I don’t think of ketamine as a magic bullet—it’s a tool. I want patients to eventually feel like they are sailing on their own and ketamine is merely there as a backup.”

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