Home Health Ketamine and Anxiety: A Guide to How it Works and What You Need to Know

Ketamine and Anxiety: A Guide to How it Works and What You Need to Know

8 min read
Ketamine and Anxiety: A Guide to How it Works and What You Need to Know

People who suffer from anxiety and depression now have more alternative options than ever before.

One of the most promising treatments happens to be something once classed as an ‘illegal party drug’: ketamine.

Ketamine and anxiety actually go hand in hand, and it could offer patients so much more than the typical SSRI or SNRI.

Here’s what you need to know about these new anxiety treatments.

Ketamine and Anxiety: How Does It Work?

Ketamine is best known in the popular consciousness as a club drug – or something given to horses. But it’s long been well known to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (who approve all prescription medications). The FDA originally approved ketamine for use as an anesthetic, but new studies found that it can also successfully treat:

  • Anxiety disorders (including Social Anxiety Disorder and General Anxiety Disorder)
  • Treatment-resistant depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

There are also studies working to identify its impact on chronic pain.

Why does ketamine seem to work where so many other treatments – even benzodiazepine – don’t?

It’s all down to chemistry.

The Chemistry Behind Ketamine

Scientists now understand that your response to stress and your brain’s mechanism for forming traumatic memories are the result of glutamate. Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter that gets widely distributed throughout your body.

Ketamine is well-suited to dealing with glutamate because it is an ionotropic glutamatergic N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist.

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The big difference between ketamine and SSRIs is that when you take other medications, the effects only last while you have it in your system.

Ketamine, on the other hand, triggers a reaction that allows your brain connections to regrow once damaged. As a result, it is the brain’s response to ketamine rather than the mere presence of it that’s so important.

What Could the First FDA-Approved Ketamine for Anxiety Look Like?

A vast amount of work on ketamine and anxiety is taking place at Yale Medicine.

In early 2019, a team there announced FDA approval for the first ketamine treatment for depression: Esketamine. Esketamine is a nasal spray tested on patients who present treatment-resistant depression.

One of the qualifying studies found that 70 percent of patients who used both the nasal spray and an oral antidepressant improved (compared to only half in a group that did not have the spray).

Other treatments include ketamine infusions or ketamine infusion therapy. Ketamine infusion therapy involves administering the drug through an IV. Unlike the prescription, IVs aren’t considered for initial treatment but only play a role once a frontline treatment fails, and if a patient’s previous treatment history warrants it.

Is Ketamine the Future?

Ketamine offers the chance for people who don’t respond to standard treatments to finally feel better. Unlike SSRIs or other drugs, your body doesn’t need it in your system for it to work. The way it triggers the regrowth of connections offers real potential for patients with many types of resistant mental illness.

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