Should You Use Ketamine to Treat Anxiety and Depression?

Source: Joseph Raspolich, Vista Pines Health

Ketamine infusion therapy is an off-label use of ketamine to treat mental health problems like depression. Infusion refers to the fact that ketamine is administered in an intravenous solution rather than a pill. Infusion therapy began in the United States before there was FDA approval for drugs like esketamine. While ketamine infusion therapy was legal since the drug was FDA-approved for use as an anesthetic, its off-label use to treat depression was not usually covered by insurance. 

Ketamine infusion therapy lowers improved depression symptoms after four hours and peaks around 24 hours. However, the effects may begin to wear off after seven days. Patients may need to return for therapy after ten days to two weeks. While a single infusion produces longer-lasting effects than a single dose of a traditional antidepressant, infusion requires outpatient visits to a clinic with each dose. For that reason, infusion therapy is similar to maintenance programs. FDA-approved esketamine, sold as Spravato, offers home treatment options.

Ketamine infusion is also used to treat chronic pain symptoms. Ketamine is used in hospital settings among people with pain that is difficult to treat with traditional methods. It may be used alongside morphine or other opioids, but it may also be used on its own. 

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