Ketamine was first synthesized in the 1960s as a painkiller and anesthetic. Then in the early 1980s, it became a popular club drug. In more recent years, medical research has discovered that it can rapidly reduce the symptoms of depression, chronic pain, migraines, and even some symptoms of PTSD. This is especially true for people who have not been successful with conventional drug therapy. For many, ketamine represents a powerful opportunity to manage their mental health challenges.
While there has been much excitement over the fast acting nature of ketamine, how the drug actually works has yet to be fully explained. As ketamine has garnered significant attention, more and more research is being conducted. These studies have yielded results identifying several ways that ketamine affects the brain.
One reason researchers believe ketamine is so effective is that ketamine targets a different neurotransmitter from traditional antidepressants. Ketamine targets glutamate which produces and balances Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), a calming neurotransmitter. Overactive glutamate receptor genes can cause imbalances with GABA causing changes in mental health. For example, a depletion of GABA can result in depression.
Another study identified that ketamine reduces depression symptoms by prompting the growth of new connections between nerve cells in the brain that relate to mood and emotion. Patients who were given ketamine showed an increase in brain activity associated with the regrowth of neurons in the areas of the brain linked to depression.
The lateral habenula is the center of emotional processing and is also known as the brain’s disappointment center. Specifically, the lateral habenula focuses on emotions that are difficult. In individuals with depression, this area of the brain tends to over fire causing an overwhelming amount of negative thoughts and feelings. Studies have shown that ketamine targets this area and may serve to reset it thus easing the symptoms of depression and restoring a more normal processing of disappointment.
Lastly and most recently, researchers have discovered the most fascinating find to date. When ketamine is in the bloodstream, it shuts off communication between the brain and the body. This slows down the function of the nervous system and shuts down the areas of the brain associated with depression. When the ketamine leaves the system, those areas are turned on again, resetting them, so they function more smoothly.
Researchers will continue to study the effects of ketamine in order to understand how it works with the brain to help reduce the symptoms of depression and other mental health issues. This is an exciting time as focus has shifted towards this new and innovative treatment.
Iconic Infusions offers ketamine infusions for the treatment of depression, psychiatric disorders, and chronic pain conditions. If you or a loved one is suffering, let ketamine "reset" your mindset today. Contact us for a free consultation and to learn more.