What is Ketamine?

IV Ketamine is a medication now offered in San Diego as a novel treatment for Depression and Anxiety.  Ketamine is the most widely used anesthetic medicine in the world. It was developed more than 50 years ago for use in the operating room.  Ketamine has been used as an anesthetic since that time in children, adults, and even animals. Over the past 17 years researchers at Yale University, Stanford and the National Institute of Mental Health have made important discoveries on how IV Ketamine works rapidly to relieve patient’s depression and other mood disorders.

Thomas Insel, the former director of the National Institute of Mental Health stated, “Recent data suggest that ketamine, given intravenously, might be the most important breakthrough in antidepressant treatment in decades.”

IV Ketamine promotes new brain growth by increasing the number of connections in the brain. When the brain is subjected to chronic stress and anxiety, the number of connections in specific parts of the brain decrease.  Patients become depressed with the loss of connections in the mood center of the brain and experience a “brain fog” where it is difficult to think clearly.  Ketamine works to restore those lost connections and make the brain whole again.

Many patients experience positive effects as early as 3 to 4 hours after the first infusion. The positive effects experienced may be subtle at first.  A patient may feel a little more hopeful, less sad, decreased thoughts of suicide, elevated mood, increased calmness, “weight” of depression lifted, or more inclined to engage with people. Less commonly, the patients may notice drastic improvements after the first infusion.  As patients complete the 6 treatments over 2 to 3 weeks they continue to make more improvements.

A series of 6 infusions may last anywhere from one month to several months. When the positive effects begin to wear off, a single booster infusion is often all that is needed to extend the positive effects for another month or longer.

The Ketamine Infusion Experience

Ketamine is given very slowly intravenously over 40 to 50 minutes. Calming music will be provided as the patient relaxes in the soft power recliner chair with a warm blanket. Patients enjoy their own private room where a guest is invited to stay and Dr. Belnap will remain to monitor the patient during the infusion.  Patients enjoy the warm home type atmosphere.  Most patients first feel calm and relaxed as the infusion begins.  Most often the patients experience a feeling of “lightness” or “weightless.”  Patients can feel like they are in a dream like state, but can still engage in a conversation if they choose. Some patients choose to enjoy the high definition nature images on the big screen 4K television.  Others may choose to close their eyes and be more introspective during the infusion.  Many patients feel like the infusion experience is therapeutic in itself.  Patients feel calm and relaxed, yet they do not sleep as the experience is so unique.

Once the infusion is complete, the main side effects resolve in approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Patients may experience more minimal side effects (i.e. fatigue) for the next 3 to 4 hours after the infusion is complete. After these side effects resolve, there are no other side effects or long term side effects from the ketamine treatments.