Learn / Treating Depression With Ketamine and Psychedelics

Treating Depression With Ketamine and Psychedelics

Kayla Gill
 October 30th, 2018|   Clinically Reviewed by 
Olivia Mueller

Key Points

  • Ketamine is shown to be effective as a fast-acting antidepressant.
  • Psychedelics can give people insight into their problems and increase connectedness.
  • Both are safe under professional supervision, but require certain considerations.

Both ketamine and psychedelics have emerged as popular therapeutic methods in recent years for those who have been resistant to other forms of depression treatment. While many medical professionals and people who have undergone these treatments attest to their benefits, there are still legitimate concerns being expressed about the potential risks associated with their use.

]We take a look at some factors to consider, and the science behind this approach.

How Ketamine Is Used to Treat Depression

Ketamine’s most common medical use is as an anesthetic and a sedative. But it can also be used as a fast-acting antidepressant, usually in the form of a nasal mist or IV infusion performed under medical supervision. Studies have shown that, starting within 4 hours of receiving a dose, ketamine relieved the symptoms of depression for approximately one week at a time.1 Research further suggests that ketamine causes new connections to form in brain. Its fast-acting effectiveness and impacts on neuroplasticity have led clinicians like Gerard Sanacora, Psychiatry Specialist at Yale Medicine, to speculate on its increased use in medical research.

“It’s quite possible that we will see more medical institutions offering ketamine as a treatment,”2 says Sanacora. “And the FDA recently approved the use of esketamine, which is derived from ketamine. These are all very exciting prospects.”

Is Ketamine Safe?

Currently, ketamine is only approved by the FDA as an anesthetic and pain reliever,3 not as a depression treatment. This is largely due to the fact the long-term impacts of ketamine are mostly unknown. Since it’s also used recreationally for its narcotic properties, addiction risk is a major concern. Too much ketamine can have adverse effects like dissociation, hallucinations and paranoia (known as a “K-hole”).4 While ketamine administered in the proper doses under professional supervision is considered safe, these concerns prevent it from becoming more mainstream.

How Psychedelics Are Used to Treat Depression

Psychedelics have a different way of treating depression. Research shows that hallucinogens like psilocybin (found in psychedelic mushrooms), LSD and ayahuasca can potentially relieve the depression symptoms after just a single dose. Successful psychedelic treatments can help people gain clarity about problems they’re experiencing, giving them the opportunity to access their subconscious and process past traumas they had previously suppressed. According to recent studies, psychedelics enhance people’s feelings of connectedness with others,5 their spirituality and their sense of meaning. Some studies suggest that these substances open pathways in the brain—hence the notion that psychedelics expand your mind. While this sounds promising, the science on how these drugs work to treat depression is still being studied.

Watch this TED Talk by Mark Haden, Adjunct Professor at the University of British Columbia School of Population and Public Health, to learn more about psychedelics:

Are Psychedelics Safe?

Psychedelics also pose their own set of risks. Although they’re not generally considered to carry high addiction risk, there can be unpredictable short-term effects of psychedelics.6 Not least of these is a “bad trip,” which can include symptoms like extreme paranoia, anxiety, and loss of psychological control. While these symptoms usually subside within a relatively short period of time, they can lead users to place themselves in dangerous situations. Generally speaking, however, when intentionally therapeutic doses of ketamine or psychedelics are administered by professionals in safe environments, the risks to your safety are quite low.

Finding the Right Rehab for Depression

If you’ve tried different treatment methods for depression and find yourself still struggling with this debilitating disorder, know that there is an abundance of treatment options out there, and some may work better for you than others. While ketamine or psychedelics may not be for you, a variety of other program offerings might be.

Visit our collection of luxury rehabs specializing in depression treatment to explore some of the world’s best centers today. Additionally, learn more about RehabPath and get the most up-to-date company news.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can ketamine and psychedelics be used to treat depression?

Ketamine and psychedelics treat depression by influencing the brain’s chemical pathways, promoting new thought patterns and behavior. They can provide rapid relief for symptoms of depression, and may be particularly useful for people who haven’t found success with other treatments.

What is the difference between ketamine and traditional antidepressants?

Unlike traditional antidepressants which can take several weeks to start working, ketamine can provide relief from depression symptoms within hours. Ketamine targets different neurotransmitter systems in the brain compared to other antidepressants, making it a valuable treatment option for people who haven’t responded to other medications. Additionally, helps repair damaged neural pathways, leading to longer-lasting effects.

What’s the process for ketamine or psychedelic therapy for depression at a residential rehab center?

In residential rehab, you’ll undergo ketamine or psychedelic therapy under the guidance of qualified professionals. Patients are carefully screened to ensure that they’re appropriate candidates for these treatments. After an initial consultation, your care team will develop a personalized treatment plan, and you’ll receive the medication in a comfortable, private setting. The treatment is closely monitored to ensure safety and efficacy, and you may receive ongoing therapy and support to promote long-term recovery.

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