What is ketamine used for?

Many people think of ketamine as a “club drug,” and many others know only of its application in veterinary medicine. Ketamine, however, is a safe and powerful drug that is used for many different medical applications. Most commonly, ketamine is used as an anesthetic for surgery in adults and children, as well as a treatment option for depression, chronic pain, and epilepsy.

Ketamine has a long history of medical use, with mounds of research to support its safety and efficacy when administered by properly trained medical professionals. It is FDA-approved as an anesthetic, and one of the most commonly used medications throughout the world today. Because of its wide range of applications, ketamine is listed on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medications.

Ketamine is among the faster-acting and shorter-lasting anesthetics used in surgery for adults and children. One of the advantages of ketamine in this setting is that ketamine does not have a substantial effect on breathing or heart function. Ketamine works as an anesthetic by causing dissociation, while leaving the spontaneous breath intact. It is a drug of choice for very young and very old patients undergoing surgical procedures, and is also a key anesthetic agent for operating in parts of the world where medical equipment is limited or substandard.

Beyond its surgical use, ketamine has been used for the treatment of refractory status epilepticus. This is a dangerous type of seizure that requires emergency treatment with anti-seizure medication. Studies have found that ketamine resulted in complete cessation of seizures for 63% of patients with super-refractory status epilepticus. The success rate of ketamine to treat this condition is amazing as refractory status epilepticus is associated with high morbidity and mortality rates.

Chronic pain is another condition where utilizing ketamine, specifically for its analgesic properties, has been met with success. Individuals with chronic pain, especially chronic pain conditions that have a neuropathic component, have been able to experience relief from their symptoms through ketamine infusions. IV ketamine therapy works by producing pain relief by inhibiting the NMDA receptor, and through other mechanisms, including reducing inflammation. Ketamine has shown strong efficacy for treating peripheral neuropathy, diabetic neuropathy, CRPS, phantom limb pain, and cancer pain.

The biggest medical breakthrough for ketamine has been in the treatment of severe depression and other psychiatric disorders. IV ketamine infusions have been found to ease the symptoms of depression in just a few hours. This is a significant improvement compared to antidepressants, which can take weeks to work, if they work at all. Patients usually respond to ketamine within 1-3 infusions, and can achieve a dramatic relief of symptoms for prolonged periods of time.

If you are interested in learning more about ketamine and if it is a good treatment option for you, we would be happy to schedule a consultation. At Vitalitas Denver, we offer a full spectrum of psychiatric services, including ketamine infusions. To find out if you’re a candidate, complete the brief form below to request a consultation with a member of our team.

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