Learn More About Ketamine
Ketamine is a well-researched, dissociative anesthetic that was approved by the FDA in 1970. Since then, Ketamine has been used extensively for pediatric and adult treatment in surgery, emergency departments, ambulances, trauma medicine, and war zones. It is commonly used medication in veterinary medicine. The World Health Organization lists Ketamine as one of the most essential medications due to its therapeutic effects and wide margin of safety.
Over the last decade, Yale University and the National Institutes of Health identified additional benefits of Ketamine in treatment of mood disorders and chronic pain. The use of Ketamine for depression has been named “the biggest discovery in mental health in decades.”
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So how exactly does Ketamine work?
Ketamine is known as an NMDA receptor antagonist. Many researchers are still searching for exactly how the medication can affect mood so rapidly and effectively, but what we do know is that ketamine works on glutamate, one of the most numerous neurotransmitters in the body. This increase in glutamate can cause a cascade effect of increased neural activity and communication in the brain. The areas of the brain which have shutdown due to over anxiety and depression, are suddenly awakened. Ketamine causes neuroplasticity, or new neural growth, a “rewiring” of the brain believed to play a big part in the lasting anti-depressant effects.
We know that ketamine is not only working on the NMDA receptor, but ketamine is also working on other receptors such as GABA receptors, G protein-coupled receptors, and small effect on cholinergic Mu receptors. Along with reversing neuronal atrophy, ketamine also has an anti-inflammatory effect. Interestingly, the dissociative effects of ketamine are believed to play apart in the healing process as well. When given appropriately and titrated in the right doses by a trained provider, ketamines multiple mechanisms of action create a powerful, effective treatment for a variety of chronic mental illness and pain conditions.
A picture of a neuron. The neuron below shows new dendritic formations, or new neural growth, within just 2 hours of receiving ketamine.
A CT scan of a human brain. After ketamine treatments, the depressed brain is almost identical to the non depressed picture as new neural activity has awakened the depressed areas.