Earlier this year, two hospitals and an emergency department in the Chicago suburbs rolled out a new opioid alternative program for some types of pain treatment. They are participating in the Alternatives to Opioids Protocol (ALTO) program. The ultimate goal is to decrease the rate of opioid addiction by using less addictive drugs – like ketamine – when possible.
ALTO helps doctors consider different medications before giving opioids to patients. This protocol applies to 6 common types of pain: joint dislocations, headaches, abdominal pain, kidney stones, musculoskeletal pain, and broken extremity bones.
“We want to have alternative treatments that are as effective but with less side effects,” Dr. Danial Sullivan, chief medical officer and vice president of medical affairs for Edward-Elmhurst Health Hospital, told The Daily Herald.
And ketamine is among the alternative pain medications being considered.
Ketamine for Pain
Ketamine is growing in popularity as a pain management option. It’s already grown in notoriety for treating chronic pain not only because it’s effective, but also because it’s simply not as addicting when administered by a medical professional. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine reports that 2 million Americans were addicted to opioids in 2015 alone. Especially as opioid addictions are on the rise, the medical community is looking for alternatives to opioids for pain treatment.
And these Chicago area hospitals are among the latest in the medical community eyeing ketamine as an opioid alternative. New Jersey and Colorado already implemented programs similar to ALTO which resulted in lower opioid prescriptions – urging the Chicago area hospitals to implement their approach.
How Ketamine Works for Pain
Ketamine works as a pain blocker because it blocks a neural receptor called N-methyl-d-asparte (NMDA). This neural receptor is responsible for pain signaling. According to a 2011 article published in U.S. Pharmacist, ketamine is proving itself to be a highly effective in blocking the NMDA receptor. And it has shown to work in “multiple pain settings.”
Furthermore, a 2009 study linked ketamine to inhibiting the release of glutamate within glia – a process necessary for signaling within the nervous system. This essentially means that ketamine can block the transmission of pain signals within the nervous system.
Ketamine for Pain Management
Ketamine is already known for helping people manage types of pain including complex regional pain syndrome, migraines, fibromyalgia, neuropathic pain, and more. As these hospitals roll out their opioid alternatives program, ketamine may be used to treat even more types of pain including broken extremity bones, kidney stones, abdominal pain, and more.
What is Ketamine
As research into ketamine continues to grow, the potential uses for this continue to grow as well. And interestingly, the drug itself is not new to the medical community. It’s been used for decades by veterinarians as horse tranquilizer and by combat medics and hospitals as an anesthetic.
Ketamine it’s only know for effectively treating chronic pain: It’s probably more widely known as a treatment for treatment resistant depression and a host of other mental health issues including suicidality, PTSD, and more.
Do you think ketamine could help you manage your pain or depression? We invite you to schedule a free consultation with one of the doctors at Virginia Infusion Therapies in Leesburg, VA.
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