For those who struggle with depression or pain, oftentimes getting lukewarm results with their current medication, Ketamine might be the answer. Widely used in hospitals for anesthesia, it is on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines and was approved for use by the FDA in 1970.
“We have people who come in after years of seeing multiple doctors and trying several different drugs without the results they want,” says Angelo Sambunaris, M.D., C.P.I., a psychiatrist, researcher and founder of Trek Medical. The clinic is one of a handful of centers that provides intravenous Ketamine infusions for people struggling with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD, chronic pain and substance abuse.
Dr. Sambunaris has been a leader in the field of clinical research for over two decades, leading over 200 medical research studies since his early days as a Clinical Staff Fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). It was that experience that brought him to Ketamine, a cutting-edge treatment option that works differently than medications like Prozac, Effexor, Paxil or Cymbalta – ironically all medications that he helped bring to market.
“The reality is that only 33% of patients treated with an antidepressant achieve remission. Ketamine offers a completely new way of changing how the brain manages mood. Unlike antidepressants, which work by shifting the balance of brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, Ketamine is thought to change the way brain cells communicate with each other. Ketamine blocks a brain receptor known as NMDA and also acts on other brain receptors like opioid receptors, which affect pain and depression,” says Sambunaris. “Moreover, it can help repair the connections that have been damaged by stress over the years, supporting the ultimate goal of brain health and wellness.”
What is most exciting for patients is the rapid onset of effectiveness. Depressive symptoms tend to improve within just 24 to 72 hours—a huge improvement over the 6-12 week waiting period of other medications. Additionally, Ketamine’s success rate of 85% is almost double that of traditional antidepressants (45%).
That is not to say that Ketamine is right for every patient. “Every patient is different, and it is critical that they seek help from medical providers who can provide a variety of options to meet their unique needs,” says Sambunaris. “I would encourage everyone who continues to grapple with their depression or pain to keep seeking help until they get the quality of life they deserve.”