In medicine, as in life, misconceptions and misunderstandings never lead anywhere good.
However, when misinformation and misperceptions about medications cause people to avoid a
potentially life-saving treatment, well, that’s a huge problem. Recent headlines about ketamine
have led many people to believe that is an opiate, and with the opioid epidemic spiraling more
and more out of control each day, ketamine seems to have earned the same bad reputation. It
is this bad reputation that has prevented countless suffering patients from seeking a treatment
that could change their entire lives. Adam Kaplan, assistant professor of psychiatry and
behavioral sciences at Columbia University, openly states that, “to wrongly label [ketamine as
an opioid] could eventually keep patients from essential antidepressant medications that could
make a huge difference in their quality of life.”
For example, one of the studies that delivered a blow to ketamine’s reputation came in 2018
when researchers from Stanford University and Palo Alto University came to a particular
conclusion about Naltrexone, a drug designed to reverse the effects of opioid overdose and
counteract all opiates. Naltrexone works by binding with the opioid receptors in the brain; it also
blocks the antidepressant effects of ketamine. Using these results as a backbone, the media
headlines sounded something like, “Ketamine works on opioid receptors in the brain,” which, to
a non-medical professional, reads a lot like, “Ketamine is an opiate.”
Kaplan says that there is a multitude of contradictory evidence showing that ketamine uses a
completely different receptor path, binding to the NMDA receptor rather than to opioid receptors.
And, in fact, several studies have shown that ketamine’s efficacy is based on the way it works
on glutamate receptors in the brain.
But this isn’t the only reputation hurdle that ketamine has faced since its antidepressant qualities
were discovered in the 1990s. Below, we hope to clear up some of these misconceptions about
ketamine by debunking a few myths surrounding its history and uses, and to explain how it has
drastically changed depression treatment…for the better!
- Myth 1: Ketamine is Highly Addictive
Unlike opioids, ketamine is an extremely regulated substance and very rarely given as a take-
home drug. Ketamine treatments are administered in such low doses that the possibility of
becoming addicted is almost zero. Ketamine is also not a physically addictive substance,
though, when abused recreationally it can become psychologically addictive.
- Myth 2: Ketamine is a Horse Tranquilizer & Unsafe for Human Use
First, ketamine has been used on humans since the 1970s, when its was a popular aesthetic
during times of war. Since then, it has been regularly used for surgical operations—on humans.
It has been on the World Health Organization’s Model List of Essential Medicines for many
years, because of its highly effective and rapid results as an anesthetic and analgesic
medication. It is true that ketamine is used in veterinary medicine, however so are drugs like
Benadryl and many common antibiotics…
- Myth 3: Just Another FDA “Fast-Tracked” Drug that Won’t Measure Up
As of March 2019, the FDA has approved a nasal spray—an isomer of ketamine called
esketamine, which is now marketed by Janssen Pharmaceuticals as Spravato. Spravato is
administered by medical professionals in a clinical setting to treat severe depression in adults
who have failed to respond to two or more first-line depression treatments. However, even
though Spravato is available, ketamine infusions are still the “gold standard,” as they are easier
to access and more affordable in most situations.
To further reinforce the scientific proof behind the above mentioned facts, here is a breakdown
of how ketamine works. There is not a 100% direct answer to this yet, but what scientists have
found is that ketamine works on NMDA receptors in the brain, increasing the amount of
glutamate (which is responsible for cognitive function, memory and mood) present in the brain.
In turn, this allows the brain to form new, healthy neural connections, which improves mood and
alleviates depression…rapidly. Another way ketamine may help relieve depressive symptoms is
by reducing the signals for inflammation in the body.
There are many reasons why we need to stop the miscommunications surrounding ketamine,
but the most important one is that it could save someone’s life. As a leading ketamine clinic in
Baton Rouge, LA, we have personally seen how these highly effective infusions give our
patients rapid and long-lasting relief that completely changes their lives…for the better! Call us
today, or use the form below to request a free consultation and to learn more about ketamine for