A substance widely known as a recreational club drug is being called a “new hope for depression.”
Ketamine clinics have been opening up across the country, and Channel 9′s Joe Bruno visited a local clinic to learn more about the unconventional treatment for depression.
Lindsay Rowe said she tried everything but was still having a hard time with depression.
“I maxed out my Benzos, I’d been on mood stabilizers, SSRIs, all that, and I was still barely able to get out of bed,” she said.
That was until she came across a different type of therapy and got a referral from her psychiatrist.
“I have been off and on SSRIs my whole life basically; I am completely dry,” Rowe said. “It is wild. It is really wild.”
Odds are you’ve heard of ketamine in two contexts. It’s used in hospitals as an anesthetic, and it’s also used as a club drug and sometimes called “Special K.”
But several studies have found it is effective at treating depression. A 2017 TIME cover story called it a “new hope for depression.”
“We have a medication that we are giving in a very controlled setting — in a safe clinic with a therapeutic goal in mind,” said Dr. Jonathan Leake with Derive Health.
Leake is an ER physician and the founder of Derive Health, a new IV ketamine clinic in Dilworth. He said the treatment tackles depression at its source, and the ideal patient may be someone who has tried talk therapy or antidepressants but hasn’t experienced much relief.
“A lot of medications that are used for depression, anxiety or PTSD in some ways are masking symptoms,” Leake said. “How do we make you not as sad? Not as irritable? Ketamine really allows some healing in the brain.”
The FDA hasn’t approved IV ketamine for depression, but since it is approved to be used as an anesthetic, it can be prescribed off-label as a treatment. Dr. Leake said the problem is, most insurance companies don’t typically cover it. Patients pay out of pocket and each session is around $400.
Ketamine is also a psychedelic and there’s a risk of a bad trip. But Leake said that rarely happens because of the setting. Each patient is monitored the entire 40-minute session.
“If you’re in a therapeutic setting, you’re supported,” he said. “You had time to prepare and go into it with the right mindset, you are comforted with the right music, eye shades, and environment then that really minimizes the risk of that happening.”
Rowe said she was nervous before her first treatment but was pleasantly surprised.
“I have a face mask on, the music, and they say ‘OK we will start the IV.’ And then slowly I just start to drift and the music feels alive.”
She said she didn’t see or hear anything weird. After the sessions, she said she started to feel different — she started to feel like herself.
“My family sees a difference, my friends. I feel like Lindsay,” Rowe said.
Experts said other possible side effects of ketamine treatment are nausea, dizziness, headache or mood changes. Long term use can also lead to bladder or liver issues.
People with certain medical conditions are not eligible. That’s why experts said it’s important to consult a medical professional before treatment and be monitored during treatment.