How Ketamine May Help Pain

Source: Tina Donvito, The Health

In light of the ongoing opioid addiction crisis, doctors have been searching for new ways to treat pain, including with low-dose ketamine.

“It has received renewed interest in the research community in recent years as the United States continues to battle the opioid epidemic and tries to identify and study drugs that could be suitable alternative to opioids for pain management,” Dr. Schwenk says. “Ketamine is one such drug with a long-established record of safe use with generally mild and treatable side effects.”

He points to the different way ketamine works in the body: It primarily acts on different pain receptors than opioids. It also does not generally carry the same risks, such as impaired breathing, which can happen with opioid overdoses.

Results from studies on ketamine for pain have been encouraging.

“Researchers are looking into new uses because at low doses, ketamine has been found to help improve uncontrollable pain and improve patients’ response to pain medication,” says Olabisi Lane, MD, an assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology at Emory University School of Medicine and Emory Pain Center in Atlanta.

Plus, ketamine may also reduce opioid tolerance. And in some cases, it can prevent the need for higher doses of opioids, says Dr. Lane.

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