When Yale psychiatrist, John Krystal, discovered the antidepressant effects of ketamine in the late 1990s, he set off a domino effect that would ultimately change the way scientists and medical researchers understand depression and how it works in the brain. Up until his discovery, research had largely focused on the mood centers of the brain, and the neurotransmitters regulating them. Maybe you’ve heard of serotonin? Well, the discovery of ketamine for depression shifted this focus from singular defects of specific brain systems, to defects in the brain’s neural connections and circuitry. The impact that this shift would have on depression treatment research has been profound, to say the least.
Krystal’s study was inspired by previous research on ketamine use in mice, where the drug was shown to block glutamate receptors in the areas of the brain responsible for higher-level thinking, like reasoning, planning, and decision-making. He conducted a small study—with just seven participants, all suffering from depression—administering one low dose of ketamine, and monitoring their mood for two weeks. He was shocked to learn that the majority of participants had already started to experience relief within 24-hours of the infusion! “I feel like I’m back to myself,” one study participant was quoted saying.
While a study of seven depressed individuals hardly holds enough clout to make sweeping suggestions about the safety or efficacy of ketamine for depression, the larger impact of this study was on the way researchers began to understand depression. What if depression was caused by disruptions in brain circuits, and not just a singular defect in one neurotransmitter system?
And so ketamine research began quickly, and feverishly…
In a larger study performed by Carlos Zarate at the National Institute of Mental Health, ketamine’s efficacy as a depression treatment was confirmed, as were its rapid and robust effects. Meanwhile, looking at the depressed brain from a new perspective taught researchers that stress—which is widely known to cause depression—damaged neural connections in the prefrontal cortex and limbic systems. This information spurred Ronald Duman, a Yale researcher, to conduct yet another study, this one showing that ketamine actually helped repair these damaged neural connections!
While countless studies have been performed about ketamine use and its effects on depression, the bottom line is this: we have a new understanding of how the depressed brain works, and we have ketamine to thank for it.
How ketamine works is still a bit of a mystery. While researchers have discovered a lot about this depression treatment, and the availability of ketamine for depression has been widespread and mainstream, there is still much more to be learned. Researchers continue to study ketamine use for other mental health conditions, such as PTSD, alcoholism, and even addiction.
Ketamine for Depression & Pain Available at Emerge Ketamine
Emerge Ketamine offers ketamine infusions for depression and chronic pain, with the option to receive ketamine infusions at our office, or in the comfort of your own home. Ketamine works for 70% of patients, even those who have resisted other depressions treatments in the past.
Are you a candidate? Complete the brief form below to request an evaluation with a member of our clinical team.
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