Understanding the Science Behind Ketamine Treatment for PTSD

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Post-traumatic stress disorder can devastate your life and relationships. It develops after a traumatic incident, such as war, physical or sexual assault, an automobile accident, a natural disaster, or the death of a loved one. As many as 8% of the American population experiences some form of PTSD in their lifetime.

If you or a loved one suffers from PTSD, the effects can be dramatic. The disorder is characterized by constant re-experiencing of the trauma and avoidance of situations that remind of the trauma. Men and women with PTSD are often jumpy and easily startled, and they’re plagued by nightmares and irrational fears. They may also suffer from depression and memory impairment.

Conventional therapies for PTSD include cognitive and family therapy and medications. These treatments take time to work, and in some cases, men and women with PTSD get little relief from their condition. If your PTSD is resistant to these treatments, ketamine may be an option.

Ketamine, used primarily in anesthesia, has notable effects on the symptoms of PTSD when administered in lower doses than those used for anesthesia. Research shows that even a single infusion can decrease depressed mood and anxiety in patients with severe depression — including those with PTSD.

An accidental discovery

The ability of ketamine to positively affect PTSD was accidentally discovered during the 1990s and the war in Iraq. Soldiers injured in battle who underwent surgery using ketamine as an anesthetic did not develop, or rarely developed, PTSD while soldiers who had other types of anesthesia did develop the disorder.

How ketamine works

A circuit in the brain involved with resilience and resistance to stress can be activated by ketamine. Research has indicated that ketamine can block NMDA-glutamate receptors in the brain. Glutamate is a major neurotransmitter and has a large effect on many regions of the nervous system. Overactivation of this neurotransmitter can cause depressive symptoms. When ketamine blocks this neurotransmitter, it helps ease depression by restoring the balance in the glutamate neurotransmission pathway.

Ketamine has anti-inflammatory properties as well. Depression is linked to chronic inflammation.

Ketamine may also work by stimulating the regrowth of specific neurological connections. Researchers believe that prolonged exposure to stress or trauma can kill off certain neurons, causing depression. Ketamine has the ability to cause neurons to regenerate within hours, relieving depressive symptoms.

Ketamine is particularly effective on those areas of the brain dealing with emotion and long-term memory.

Quick effects

Ketamine is especially valuable if your PTSD symptoms have not responded well to other treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Patients treated with ketamine often notice an improvement in PTSD symptoms within a few hours or days, rather than the weeks or months that it takes other therapies to work.

Even one 40-minute infusion can rapidly diminish PTSD symptoms. The physicians at Klarity Ketamine Clinic typically know within four infusions if ketamine is the right treatment for you. Dr. Henry Liang wants to help people in the Las Vegas, Nevada, community overcome the psychological distress of PTSD. In addition, Dr. Jonathan Force of Klarity Clinic of Denver in Colorado and Dr. Adam Tibble of Klarity Clinic of Northern California in Fairfield, California will be opening their doors to treat patients soon. To explore how you might benefit from ketamine treatment, contact the office.