One in five adults — 40 million Americans — has a mental health condition, according to Mental Health America.
Within that number, nearly 16 million people suffer from depression and more than 7 million are affected by post-traumatic stress disorder. The two conditions tend to go hand-in-hand, as those who suffer from PTSD often experience depression in their lives.
Nearly twice as many women suffer from depression as men, and even though PTSD is mostly associated with male soldiers coming back from war, any traumatic event such as a car accident or sexual assault can cause the condition.
PTSD is something that both men and women must deal with, and it occurs twice as much in women, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
While there are dozens of medications to treat depression and PTSD, some of which overlap, most merely cover up the problem.
Many medications work on the assumption that you don’t have enough serotonin in your brain. And if you replace enough of these feel-good hormones, you will feel better.
But there are other options. For example, periodic Ketamine infusions in small doses can help repair damaged connections in the brains of patients who suffer from depression and PTSD.
Developed in 1962, Ketamine was originally used as an anesthetic, but quickly found its way onto the streets as a recreational drug, taking on the name Special K. It has also been used as a tranquilizer for animals such as horses and cats.
As an anesthetic, it’s still considered one of the safest around. But that usually happens in one dose. The unknown is what happens to the brain over time with repeated infusions of Ketamine.
But those who may be at risk of cognitive damage are people who abuse the drug daily or multiple times a week in high doses. In contrast, I work with patients who receive an infusion once a month, and also go through traditional talk therapy.
In some cases Ketamine has started to alleviate patients’ symptoms after one infusion. Most anti-depressants can take weeks or months to start working.
Extensive research conducted on Ketamine at multiple universities in the United States and abroad reveals a 75 percent success rate for the treatment. A recent study at Columbia University found that Ketamine infusions given in a vaccine-like fashion to those embarking upon an environment likely to cause significant stressors — such as soldiers entering a battle or aid workers going to a disaster area — prevented or reduced PTSD symptoms.
But Ketamine shouldn’t be viewed as a magic bullet; it’s a tool. Ideally, patients eventually will feel like they are sailing on their own and Ketamine is merely there as a backup.
Dr. Steven Levine founded Ketamine Treatment Centers (ktcpartnership.com) in 2011. Though he is a psychiatrist who places great emphasis on the importance of psychotherapy, medication is often a necessary component of treatment, and he was dissatisfied with the relatively ineffective available options with burdensome side effects. Levine pioneered a protocol for the clinical use of Ketamine infusions, has directly supervised many thousands of infusions and has helped establish similar programs across the country and around the world.
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