Ketamine is an FDA-approved anesthetic drug that has been found in experimental studies to rapidly alleviate symptoms of depression, including treatment-resistant depression, and other mental health disorders. Mounting evidence suggests ketamine administration produces a surge in glutamate neurotransmission in the brains of people with major depressive disorder.
Traditional antidepressants, or SSRIs, target the neurotransmitter serotonin. For some of us, SSRIs can produce little to no improvement, may have debilitating side effects and can take weeks to months before benefits are felt.
Ketamine works differently than SSRIs, targeting glutamate, a major excitatory neurotransmitter responsible for activating different neurons in your brain. For those suffering from depression, often the activation pathways have become out of place and are prone towards activating the brain networks that lead to negative thought patterns, feelings of exhaustion, feelings of amotivation and preventing you from experiencing joy.
Research has shown ketamine not only shuts down those pathways, it also helps by turning up the more positive neural networks by increasing the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, and helps you to finally experience those emotions of joy and positivity.
It is estimated that 30% – 40% of us fail to achieve recovery with SSRIs, in which case, ketamine can be a very effective option.