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Is Ketamine Different Than an Anti-Depressant Medication?

Updated: Sep 7, 2022

Wyoming has legalized ketamine for the administration of medical professionals, and ketamine treatments are gaining popularity as a unique and powerful approach to treating depression, PTSD, and chronic pain. Here’s the important information you might want to know about antidepressants, sublingual ketamine, and ketamine infusions in Wyoming.

What Are Ketamine Treatments?

Ketamine treatment is a safe, less addictive, method of fighting drug-resistant depression, chronic pain, and PTSD in adults. Using ketamine for treating these disorders is considered as an “off-label” use; however, to put things in perspective, 1 in 5 drugs prescribed today are prescribed to patients for “off-label” uses.

A controlled dose of ketamine is administered sublingually or intravenously by a medical professional in a calm, clean, and relaxing environment such as the Wyoming Wellness Center. The medical professional will work with the patient to determine the frequency and amounts of re-administration of the ketamine treatment. For many, relief is felt within hours— and that quick relief might be backed up by science.

How Does Ketamine Treatment Work As an Antidepressant?

While both ketamine and antidepressants aim to treat depression and PTSD, their cellular process and success rates couldn’t be more different.

Depression and stress create cellular wear and tear on the body. Chronic stress and depression wear down the synapses that connect neurons. Carlos Zarate Jr, M.D. from the National Institute of Mental Health, described the way that depression harms the synaptic connections between neurons in an interview with NPR. He stated that a healthy neuron looked like a healthy tree in bloom, with lots of neurons, (leaves and branches), reaching out towards other neurons, like trees reaching out to other trees. "What happens in depression is there's a shriveling of these neurons, (branches and leaves) and it looks like a tree does in winter. A drug like ketamine does make the tree look like one back in spring."

How Ketamine Differs From SSRIs, SNRIs, and MAOIs in Treating Depression.

Structural Repair With Ketamine Treatment

Ketamine works by repairing the synaptic connections between neurons that are damaged by stress and depression.

A study was conducted in 2019 by an international team to observe cellular repair after a dose of ketamine. They gave mice a substance that induced cellular damage that was similar to the damage created by stress, and then observed the brain of a ketamine group and a placebo group

During this study, Dr. Liston, a neuroscientist and psychiatrist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York and one of the members of the research team, observed that ketamine was able to repair the damaged connections quickly and that the new connections were almost identical to the way that the neurons were before the cellular stress was induced.

A similar study conducted by Dr. Zarate and his team looked at 30 depressed patients who were given ketamine treatment. The study showed changes in brainwave activity, indicating that the ketamine had strengthened neural connections in areas of the brain involved in depression.

While ketamine works on a structural level to fix the pathways that have been ravaged by stress, depression, and anxiety, antidepressants offer a more temporary solution.

Short-Term Chemical Balance With Traditional Antidepressants

Antidepressants, such as an SSRI, work to fix a chemical imbalance in the brain. The assumption is that serotonin prevents anxiety, and the person who suffers from anxiety might not be creating enough serotonin. To mend this, traditional antidepressants help the brain to produce more serotonin or absorb less serotonin. The problem? The brain of a person with depression likely has damaged neural pathways.

Although the more balanced chemical mixture might supply some relief, it takes a total repair of the synapses to provide lasting change. It’s like a new paint job on an old house: it might look good, but structural damage will remain. Because of these properties, ketamine infusions like the ones at Wyoming Wellness Center can provide effective, safe, and long-lasting results.

How Do Antidepressants and Ketamine Treatments Compare Overall?

Ketamine treatments are gaining popularity in Wyoming and across the United States because of their fast-acting benefits, low side effects, and overall effectiveness.

Ketamine Works More Quickly Than Antidepressant Medications

Typical antidepressants take weeks or months to relieve any of the symptoms of depression. A patient has to wait it out. Some patients are prescribed fast-acting benzodiazepines like Klonopin or Xanax, which can easily lead to addiction or dependence issues.

Ketamine, on the other hand, can provide relief within hours. Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D. is the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and oversees the studies conducted on ketamine. In a press release for NIMH, he commented on the quick onset: “Remarkably, while ... antidepressants take weeks to work, the effects of ketamine on depression occurred within hours.’’

A study conducted by an international team sought to understand why ketamine works so quickly. They created a scientific model where they could observe the effect of ketamine on synaptic connections in the area of the brain related to mood and emotions. The results? Positive effects on the mice’s behavior were noticeable in just three hours, and synaptic connections that were damaged by chronic stress were restored in under 12 hours.

Ketamine Treatments Have Fewer Side Effects Than Antidepressant Medication

According to Neha Pathak, MD, DipABLM, the most commonly prescribed antidepressant medications are SSRIs, MAOI’s and SNRIs. Each type has its own side effects, but the most common include fatigue, weight gain, sexual problems, and insomnia. While some of these side effects will go away within a few weeks of taking your medication, side effects like insomnia, weight gain, and low sex drive often remain.

Conversely, a study conducted by NIMH found that a professionally administered ketamine infusion, such as the ketamine treatments at the Wyoming Wellness Center, was relatively free of lasting side effects for patients with treatment-resistant depression. The study— which was conducted for 13 years and observed 163 patients with depressive disorder or bipolar disorder and 25 without— evaluated 120 possible side effects. Of the 120, there were 8 most commonly experienced side effects. These side effects made them feel “spacey” or “loopy”, and none of the side effects were present after four hours.

By working with professionals like those at Wyoming Wellness Center, you can speak directly with a medical professional if you are experiencing any side effects. With traditional antidepressants, this type of attention requires another doctor’s visit, copay, prescription, and set of side effects.

You Can Stay On Your Antidepressant Medications While Receiving Ketamine Treatments

If you have experienced the unpleasant experience of tapering off an antidepressant, you know that stopping a medication can adversely affect your mood and emotions. Fortunately, most psychiatric medications can be continued without adverse effects while you are receiving ketamine treatments. In fact, ketamine treatments can often provide relief from the symptoms and side effects of antidepressant medications!

Understanding whether or not your current medications will interfere with ketamine treatments is one of the many benefits of working with the medical professionals at the Wyoming Wellness Center. The pre-screening process will examine your whole medical and mental history to make sure you are safe to receive ketamine and will most likely benefit from ketamine therapy.

Ketamine is More Effective Than Traditional Antidepressant Medications

Research shows that ketamine infusions have a high success rate at treating drug-resistant depression. Depressive symptoms were relieved quickly in comparison to antidepressant medications, and the symptoms stayed in remission for over half of the participants. Ioline D. Henter, MA, and colleagues from the National Institute of Mental Health who conducted this study stated that “No other treatment for depression to date has shown similar effects with regard to the magnitude of response to a single dose for treatment-resistant patients.”

Ketamine: The Clear Choice for Healing Depression and PTSD

If you are interested in long-term relief from depression or PTSD with minimal side effects, contact Wyoming Wellness Center today. The Wyoming Wellness Center strives to bring hope to those in need of treatment for all kinds of mental health conditions, including treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and postpartum depression.

We also focus on bringing help to those with chronic pain syndromes, such as fibromyalgia, CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome), postherpetic neuralgia, and many other severe chronic pain disorders.

We were inspired to bring this treatment to our community due to the tremendous success of IV ketamine infusions, which have been proven to rapidly decrease – and even reverse – serious depression symptoms, including thoughts of suicide. After researching this novel use of ketamine, a drug we have safely used in clinical anesthesia practice for many years, we were compelled to make ketamine treatment available to the many individuals and families plagued by debilitating mental health conditions and chronic pain syndromes.

If you believe that ketamine infusions might be a viable treatment option for you or a loved one, we would love to help! Give us a call today!


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