Post-traumatic stress disorder, more commonly known as PTSD, is a potentially debilitating mental illness that can occur after a person witnesses or lives through a traumatic experience, such as a natural disaster, childhood abuse, physical assault, or military combat.
Symptoms of PTSD include intrusive memories and flashbacks about the trauma, avoidance of anything that may remind the individual of the trauma, excessive anxiety, hypervigilance, and intense emotional reactions.
It is estimated that nearly 8 million American adults will have PTSD at any given time. Unfortunately, traditional treatments such as talk therapy or medications are not always successful in relieving PTSD symptoms for everyone.
This is why researchers are constantly looking for alternative treatments. And in recent years, ketamine infusion therapy has emerged as a promising treatment option for PTSD and other mental health illnesses like depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder – backed by a growing body of research demonstrating its efficacy.
What Is Ketamine Infusion Therapy?
Ketamine is an FDA-approved general anesthetic medication that has been used in the medical field for over 50 years to induce or maintain anesthesia during surgery or other invasive procedures.
In recent years, it has become more widely used off-label as a treatment for certain mental health disorders due to its unique ability to quickly shift brain chemistry and modulate key brain systems involved in mood and emotional regulation.
Ketamine for mental health treatment is typically administered intravenously (through an IV line) in small controlled doses in a supervised medical setting – hence the name ketamine infusion therapy. A single infusion session typically lasts 40-60 minutes, and most patients often report experiencing significant improvement in symptoms within hours or days of the first infusion.
How Does Ketamine Infusion Therapy Treat PTSD?
Ketamine also has a rapid antidepressant effect, believed to be mediated through its ability to increase synaptic connections and improve communication between various parts of the brain by boosting levels of key brain growth factors like BDNF and glutamate. This results in an overall calming effect on the mind and body, helping to reduce hyperarousal symptoms associated with PTSD.
In addition to its rapid antidepressant effect, ketamine’s ability to interact with and modulate key brain systems can help disrupt the formation and recall of traumatic memories – which can help reduce the severity of PTSD symptoms over time. In essence, ketamine serves as a “reset” button for the brain, allowing it to find its equilibrium and regain its ability to regulate mood and emotion.
Is Ketamine Infusion Therapy Safe?
Though largely used as an off-label treatment for mental health disorders, ketamine is a safe and effective treatment option when administered under the supervision of a medical professional. In particular, it has been found to have fewer side effects than other medications commonly used to treat PTSD, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.
However, some patients will experience mild side effects that often include nausea, dizziness, headaches, and mild dissociation. These side effects are typically short-lived and will almost always dissipate within a few hours after the infusion.
The Bottom Line
Overall, ketamine is a promising alternative treatment for mental disorders and chronic pain conditions. And while more research needs to be done to fully understand the potential benefits of this innovative new treatment, ketamine promises to be a safe and effective option for those diagnosed with severe and treatment-resistant PTSD.