The stigma of ketamine being a party drug is slowly being stripped away as doctors explore the medical and potentially life-saving benefits it provides. Over the past 20 years, researchers have been uncovering many uses for the drug. Perhaps the most exciting came when ketamine was first shown to alleviate depressive symptoms in a matter of hours. This was a sharp deviation from traditional antidepressants, which take weeks to begin working.
As the ketamine wave continues, more and more research has shown that ketamine works well for patients who have failed to respond to multiple other treatments. What remains a mystery is exactly how it works in the brains of people with depression.
The "how" for scientists has been elusive, but researchers are narrowing in on the key targets of the drug.
For depression, researchers believe that ketamine changes synapses in the brain. They identified that those with depression displayed a loss of synapses in a certain area of the brain, and when given a dose of ketamine, these damaged synapses were restored. This indicates that the drug potentially helps to repair these damaged circuits.
It is also believed that ketamine works so well because it 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.
Researchers still have a long road ahead of them as there is still much to learn about how ketamine works. For now, the direction they are headed is a promising one, as ketamine is available and bringing relief to many patients who have previously struggled to have a positive quality of life due to depression.
Ketamine infusions are available here in our Fayetteville, NC ketamine clinic and wellness center. If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD or another mood disorder, ketamine infusions may be the solution you've been looking for. Contact us today for a free consultation and discover if you are a candidate.