While Ketamine is most commonly known for either being a club drug or for maintaining anesthesia, this powerful drug has received a lot of positive attention in recent years for being a safe and effective treatment for chronic and/or severe depression. By controlling certain brain receptors, Ketamine is able to mend the loss of neurological dendrite “spines” on specific brain circuits, which results in increased brain connectivity and a “reversal of stress-induced damage” (Scientific American). Ketamine’s effects are effective for those with depression, anxiety, bipolar, and even alcoholism. Recently, scientists been exploring what other mental fields Ketamine can address. While research is still ongoing, scientists have discovered that Ketamine may provide help for those with autism, schizophrenia, and other mental health struggles as well. These cannot be treated with Ketamine in office yet, and the research is not yet conclusive, but the unfolding discoveries are exciting for the future of mental health help.
How Does Ketamine Work?
For many years, Ketamine was viewed as a mysterious and elusive drug. In recent years, the beneficial abilities of Ketamine have been more fully realized, resulting in a groundbreaking FDA-approved way to effectively treat mental health struggles. In early 2019, Weill Cornell Medicine released a new study confirming the effectiveness and revealing the process Ketamine has on the brain.
Observing the mental synapses of depressed mice, psychiatrist Conor Liston reported that Ketamine helped recover stress-induced damage on the brain by re-building neurological pathways on dendrites. The effects were almost immediate, resulting in better behavior and cognition. The new “spine” mental pathways developed a few hours after the treatment. Upon hearing about the study, neuroscientist Ronald Duman from Yale said, “These findings suggest that increased ensemble activity contributes to the rapid effects of ketamine, while increased spine formation contributes to the sustained antidepressant actions of ketamine.” By targeting the excitatory impulses in the brain (glutamate receptors), Ketamine is effective in relieving depression.
Basically, Ketamine helps reverse the damage of stress in a groundbreaking way that differs from traditional mental health medications. When administered properly, Ketamine helps the brain rebuild previously-damaged mental pathways. This allows the brain to communicate to the central nervous system, which administers pain relief, peace, and proper rest to the body. In addition, Ketamine is a very stable drug. This has earned it a spot on World Health Organization’s list of the world’s top safest and most necessary drugs.
With research on both Mental Health and Ketamine increasing, scientists have been eagerly studying the beneficial, effective, and life-changing help that Ketamine has been able to give those struggling with mental health difficulties.
Can Ketamine Help Bipolar?
Bipolar, previously known as manic-depressive, is a mental health struggle that affects over 2.3 million Americans. For some, traditional medication helps. But for others, in fact, a reported 60%, the struggle can be so severe that traditional medication doesn’t help. However, hope is not lost — Ketamine infusions have shown to greatly improve the effects of bipolar, even far more than the commonly-prescribed midazolam.
In a recent study, scientists administered Ketamine to bipolar patients (some of which had exhausted all other medical sources to no avail). The improved results were immediate — patients reported dramatically improved mood, better control of their thoughts, and greatly improved mental clarity. With doctor-approved semi-frequent doses, the patients were able to stably maintain the beneficial results.
In short, yes, Ketamine infusions have been shown to greatly help patients struggling with bipolar. For many, Ketamine treatments are life-changing and greatly help bring desired stability to everyday life.
Can Ketamine Help Autism?
TL;DR: Ketamine shows potential for helping those with autism, but more research and more studies must be conducted before approval.
For those struggling with autism, repeatedly hearing from most sources that autism has no known cure can be incredibly disheartening. However, for the first time in history, scientists are discovering that Ketamine specifically addresses the genetic deletion that autism causes, making it a candidate for possible future therapy. Dr. Dawson, who spearheaded the study in Lancaster University said, “Intriguingly our data suggest that ketamine can restore some aspects of the brain dysfunction that results from 2p16.3 deletion [autism] and suggests that ketamine, or other related drugs, may be useful in treating some of the symptoms seen in autism and Tourette’s.”
While Ketamine isn’t a “cure” for autism, scientists hypothesize that it can be beneficial in autism therapy. Ketamine can potentially directly addresses most symptoms displayed by those with autism like difficulties with dexterity, repetitive behaviors, and restricted abilities by helping the brain build dendrite “spines”. In a study published by Einstein College, an autistic patient experienced dramatic, improved changes after Ketamine infusion.
While these studies are still in progress, Ketamine may greatly benefit those with autism, allowing them an easier, safer, and more effective way to improve their symptoms. Only time will tell whether Ketamine will truly be able to help those with autism.
Can Ketamine Help Schizophrenia?
TL;DR: Ketamine has potential for helping schizophrenic patients, but the complexity of schizophrenia makes it difficult to know. Further research and studies must be conducted.
Like Ketamine treatments for bipolar and autism, Ketamine’s ability to target the glutamatergic transmission (the excitable impulses) in the brain is exactly what makes Ketamine look like a positive alternative. While most traditional medications treat for dopamine, that model does not often work (in fact, it doesn’t for the majority of people struggling with serious mental health difficulties). For scientists looking for options for schizophrenic patients, this is very promising news. Scientists are discovering that ketamine may potentially help schizophrenic patients needing improved sensory processing and higher-level functions, like memory, far better than traditional medication. In addition to this promising news, according to Dr. Joshua T. Kantowitz, Ketamine has great potential in not only treating schizophrenia, but also helping doctors understand schizophrenia better.
However, unlike for bipolar, Ketamine therapy isn’t as straightforward when treating schizophrenia. Because of the long list of schizophrenia symptoms, it’s important that both the patient and the doctor have a good grasp on the most persistent and manifested schizophrenic symptoms. Because of schizophrenia’s nature, some of the symptoms (like hallucinating) may be worsened by Ketamine treatments, while other symptoms (like repetitive behaviors and/or memory loss) may be improved. Because of this, using Ketamine to treat schizophrenia will likely not happen for many years as scientists and doctors attempt to learn more about ketamine and schizophrenia respectively, and how to two interact together.
Will Ketamine Treatments Help Me?
Mental health issues are increasingly becoming the #1 concern that doctors and psychiatrists are aiming to solve. Ketamine therapy is revolutionizing the way that doctors treat mental health patients. Unlike traditional medications, Ketamine has a higher success rate and more immediate results. There is a reason it’s called ‘the best drug on earth‘ by some. For those struggling with depression, bipolar, aholholism, or anxiety, Ketamine infusion may be the life-changing help that people need, and every new study is reaffirming the groundbreaking help that Ketamine provides.
If you or someone you know is struggling with any significant mental health struggles, we would love to help you find new hope! Visit us at Virginia’s premier Ketamine infusion clinic in Leesburg where you can talk to one of our doctors. We want to help you find a brighter tomorrow with Ketamine therapy!