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How Does Ketamine Treatment Work?

How Does Ketamine Treatment Work?

All of us have unique reactions to medicine and different kinds of treatment. An over-the-counter ointment may work for your cut, but not someone else’s. The same goes for treatment for chronic pain and mental illness. If you experience either, ask your doctor for information on ketamine treatment.


The U.S. National Institutes of Health says chronic pain is persistent. “Pain signals keep firing in the nervous system for weeks, months, even years. There may have been an initial mishap — sprained back, serious infection, or there may be an ongoing cause of pain — arthritis, cancer, ear infection, but some people suffer chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or evidence of body damage.” The symptoms may be treatable with ketamine.


Alexander Papp, MD, psychiatrist at UC San Diego Health, offers the following answer: “Treatment-refractory depression, better known as treatment-resistant depression, is a term used to describe cases of major depressive disorder that do not adequately respond to appropriate courses of at least two antidepressants. In this situation, “responding” to an antidepressant means not only improvement in mood but experiencing a full disappearance of the majority of the depressive symptoms and a return to normal functioning.”


Again, from Dr. Papp: “Ketamine was originally developed as an anesthetic and an analgesic or pain reliever. Currently, ketamine is approved and labeled by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for both of these uses in the United States.” Besides these uses, ketamine also works to sedate the worst symptoms associated with mental illness or chronic pain. The FDA gave approval in 2019 to use ketamine to treat depression, but it has other uses.


Everyone suffers from pain. Pain from broken bones or shingles, or mysterious chronic pain which seems to linger. Pain from depression or another mental illness. Pain is a constant, global pandemic that affects more than a billion people.

  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that chronic pain affects from 11 to 40 percent of the U.S.
  • In 2016, studies indicated that chronic pain harms about 20 percent of U.S. adults; high-impact chronic pain, about eight percent.

People suffering from high-impact chronic pain experience higher levels of depression, anxiety, and fatigue.

  • Depression affects nearly 300 million people globally.


Ketamine is approved for treatment-resistant depression in teenagers and adults. If a child 12 or younger needs help for mental illness, a doctor or pediatric specialist may recommend therapy and certain other medicines like anti-depressants. Ketamine is normally administered in a licensed clinic and patients may see improvement within days.


After ketamine was approved for anesthesia and used as a battlefield anesthetic during Vietnam, researchers discovered its other therapeutic value. Thanks to its psychotropic properties, the medicine was discovered to alter the brain’s perception of pain.

According to Harvard researchers, ketamine “exerts an antidepressant effect through a new mechanism, ketamine may be able to help people successfully manage depression when other treatments have not worked. One likely target for ketamine is NMDA receptors in the brain.”

Ketamine was approved for the treatment of depression by the FDA in 2019.

Its ability to eliminate pain is pretty obvious, as it’s still used today in pre- and post-operative settings. The medicine is also dispensed in dangerous situations to calm or sedate someone who poses risk to themselves or others.

Areas of the brain responsible for brain perception include the frontal lobe, motor cortex, sensory cortex, parietal lobe, occipital lobe, and temporal lobe.


Treating any kind of pain is successful only through proper diagnosis. Getting diagnosed for chronic pain normally involves a physical exam and undergoing diagnostic tests to determine the possible cause. A mental evaluation seeks to uncover the source of depression or other mental illness. Both can result in a therapy recommendation.


If you’re suffering from chronic or mental pain, ignoring the symptoms is the worst thing you can do. Recognize them, then see a doctor or therapist for diagnosis. Your healthcare provider may recommend a different treatment, but one worth asking about is the medicine ketamine, once only used as an anesthetic.

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