Millions of people have symptoms like headaches, mental illness, widespread pain, sadness, fear, and trouble sleeping, among many types of physical and psychological problems, often caused by things both known and unknown. For many, pain and discomfort can affect every aspect of their lives, but there may be ways to regain control, including with treatments like ketamine infusion therapy.

The Early Days of Ketamine

Ketamine has a varied and expansive history. In the early 1960s, researchers at Parke Davis, a pharmaceutical company in Detroit, Michigan, began looking for a new kind of anesthesia and settled upon a medicine that not only worked as a powerful sedative, but also conjured up a temporary detachment from reality and out-of-body-like experience when administered in low doses.

Thanks to its success in treating wounded U.S. soldiers fighting in Vietnam, ketamine soon earned status as a preferred human anesthetic once it received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1970. It also became a fixture in veterinarian medicine around the same time. Because of its countercultural status and misuse, it has been classified as a Schedule III non-narcotic substance under the Controlled Substances Act. 

Conditions It May Help

During the intervening decades, numerous research studies took place looking into the efficacy of ketamine beyond its use for anesthesia. As was suspected, its temporary dissociative and psychedelic effects were found to treat a wide range of mental illness and physical pain symptoms, including:

  • Anxiety and anxiety disorders (generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder)
  • Mood disorders (depression, bipolar disorder)
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Chronic pain
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Cancer pain
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Affective disorders
  • Sleep disorders
  • Panic disorders
  • Fatigue
  • Substance abuse
  • Sleep and eating disorders
  • And many other conditions and ailments which don’t respond to conventional treatment

No one knows for certain how ketamine works, but thousands of public and private studies are taking place worldwide to unlock its mysteries and better understand its medicinal benefits. The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), for instance, lists more than 1,000 clinical trials involving ketamine.

According to the NIH, studies indicate that one, subanesthetic dose (or a lower dose that wouldn’t result in anesthesia) ketamine infusion can often quickly lower depression symptoms in a few hours in people who haven’t seen positive outcomes with conventional antidepressants – which could take weeks or longer to work.

Ketamine is typically dispensed intravenously in a licensed medical facility or clinic, but also recently became available as a nasal spray. A form of ketamine called esketamine was approved by the FDA as a therapy for treatment-resistant depression. 

Ketamine is a fast-acting medicine that is believed to strengthen, or repair, weakened or damaged neurotransmitters in the brain – chemical messengers critical for how the brain transports pain signals to cells throughout the body, and how those signals are interpreted and processed. This is especially important as it relates to the brain, where regions like the amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and others are responsible for hundreds of biological and neurological functions (breathing, physical movement, speech, emotions, and memory, among many others).

Are You a Candidate for Ketamine Therapy?

How do you know if you’re a candidate for ketamine therapy? Ultimately, the decision to use ketamine is yours and yours alone. If you’re having symptoms of mental illness or another condition that isn’t responsive to normal treatment, and no cause is discovered, then your healthcare provider may recommend that you consider alternative treatment options. Popular options include psychotherapy, physical therapy, medicine, diet and lifestyle changes, or medicine like ketamine.

You may need to schedule an appointment for a medical examination or a psychological screening if you think your condition merits attention. The first is to look for an underlying medical problem, the other is to look for a psychiatric reason for your symptoms.

Final Thoughts

Thousands of people use ketamine to treat a wide range of illnesses, but the medicine may or may not be right for you. Ask your healthcare provider for more information before making a treatment decision.

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