According to Mental Health America, one in five adults – 40 million Americans – have a mental health condition.
Within that number, nearly 16 million people suffer from depression and more than 7 million are affected by PTSD. The two conditions tend to go hand-in-hand, as those who suffer from PTSD often experience depression in their lives.
Nearly twice as many women suffer from depression than men, and even though PTSD is mostly associated with male soldiers coming back from a war, any traumatic event such as a car accident or sexual assault can cause the condition. PTSD is something that men and women must deal with, and it occurs twice as much in women according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
While there are dozens of medications to treat depression and PTSD, some of which overlap, most merely cover up the problem.
“Many medications work on the assumption that you don’t have enough serotonin in your brain,” says Dr. Steven Levine. “And if you replace enough of these feel-good hormones, you will feel better.”
Levine is making an effort to treat patients who suffer from depression and PTSD by helping them repair damaged connections in the brain through the use of periodic Ketamine infusions in small doses.
Developed in 1962, Ketamine was originally used as an anesthetic but quickly found its way onto the streets as a recreational drug, taking on the name Special K. It has also been used as a tranquilizer for animals such as horses and cats.
As an anesthetic, it’s still considered one of the safest around. But that usually happens in one dose. The unknown is what happens to the brain over time with repeated infusions of Ketamine.
“Those who may be at risk of cognitive damage are people who abuse it daily or multiple times a week in high doses,” says Levine.
Most of Levine’s patients receive an infusion once a month and also go through traditional talk therapy.
“The results have been amazing,” says Levine who is internationally recognized as an expert in the clinical use of Ketamine for mood and anxiety disorders. “In some cases, Ketamine has started to alleviate patients’ symptoms after one infusion. Most anti-depressants can take weeks or months to start working.”
Extensive research conducted on Ketamine at multiple universities in the US and abroad, reveals a 75 percent success rate for the treatment.
A recent study at Columbia University has found that Ketamine infusions were given in a vaccine-like fashion to those embarking upon an environment likely to cause significant stressors – such as soldiers entering a battle or aid workers going to a disaster area – prevented or reduced PTSD symptoms.
“Depression and PTSD can cause a lot of pain in people’s lives,” says Levine. “I don’t think of Ketamine as a magic bullet, it’s a tool. I want patients to eventually feel like they are sailing on their own and Ketamine is merely there as a backup.”