Ketamine was first synthesized in 1962 by Professor Calvin L. Stevens, and in 1970 the medication was granted FDA approval as a surgical anesthetic.

In the decades that followed, researchers began to uncover the drug’s extraordinary potential to treat mental health disorders, including severe depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The success of these studies led regulating bodies across the world to expand clinical trials of ketamine therapy and, in 2019, to the FDA’s approval of Spravato—a ketamine-derived nasal spray—for the treatment of depression.

At the same time as the body of research attesting to ketamine’s potential to treat mental health has grown, so too has investigation into ketamine for pain. Recent studies underscore the drug’s effectiveness in relieving migraine headaches, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), fibromyalgia, diabetic nerve pain, and a range of related pain conditions. Further, emerging research has shown intravenous (IV) ketamine to be a safe and effective treatment for cancer-related neuropathic pain (CNP).

One study published in Pain Medicine entitled “Intravenous Ketamine for Cancer Pain Management, Including Flares During the COVID-19 Pandemic” reviewed 57 cases of patients diagnosed with CNP who were treated using ketamine infusion therapy. Each patient was administered an initial infusion followed by a second and third separated by one-week intervals. Responders, or “patients who reported ≥30% reduction in pain based on NPRS or positive subjective qualifiers,” continued to receive infusions every 4 weeks at a maximum dose of 70 mg/h. In total, 73.7% of patients experienced significant pain reduction as well as increased function and mobility. 

A minority of patients reported adverse effects including headache, dizziness, and somnolence. Gastrointestinal and cardiovascular events, such as nausea, vomiting, hypertension, and tachycardia, accounted for an even smaller percentage (3.6% and 2.1%, respectively) of patient-reported adversity. In 64.7% of cases, adverse effects self-resolved by changing the ketamine infusion therapy rate. The remaining 35.3% resolved with the rate being reduced or stopped. None of the recorded adverse events were life-threatening or required hospital care.  

The results of this study and others like it demonstrate the expanding potential of ketamine for pain treatment. Meanwhile, researchers continue to explore the many other potential applications of ketamine therapy. One exciting example is the FDA’s recent approval of PharmaTher Holdings Ltd.’s application to proceed with Phase 2 clinical trials of ketamine’s safety and efficacy in treating levodopa-induced dyskinesia in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

To learn more about this and other developing research and to determine how ketamine infusion therapy might improve your quality of life, do not hesitate to schedule a free consultation at Vitalitas Denver, one of Colorado’s leading ketamine therapy centers with locations in Littleton and Westminster.

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