Approximately 30% of individuals with major depressive disorder experience symptoms that do not improve with treatment. An individual, who does not improve with two different depression medications of adequate doses taken for at least six weeks in duration, is said to have treatment-resistant depression.
It is difficult to determine who will have treatment-resistant depression, but research has shown that female gender and older age are risk factors for treatment-resistant depression.
Individuals who have chronic medical illnesses such as chronic pain and thyroid disorders are also at an increased risk for treatment-resistant depression and individuals who have a history of eating disorders, substance abuse disorders, and sleep disorders.
There are effective treatment options that do work to treat this type of depression, as well as new research in the pipeline.
Ketamine has been used as an off-label drug to treat this type of depression for years before the FDA approved it. Ketamine does not target the same brain activities as antidepressants like fluoxetine (Prozac), venlafaxine (Effexor), and sertraline (Zoloft). Rather, it blocks a receptor called N-methyl-D-aspartate, or NMDA.
Researchers are still not certain why some people with depression respond to ketamine and others do not. Still, without FDA approval, this drug has been used for “off label” uses in individuals with treatment-resistant depression, pain management, and palliative care.
Before ketamine was FDA-approved for treatment-resistant depression, ketamine was administered intravenously. Following its approval by the FDA, individuals can administer it themselves as a nasal spray under medical supervision.
Ketamine is a promising treatment for treatment-resistant depression and has shown positive results on depression and suicidal ideations. As a result, this medication brings hope to those who have been battling depression and giving them a window of significant improvement.
This window can allow other interventions, including psychotherapy, to be implemented. Psychotherapy is an integral part of treatment for depression. Still, when individuals are extremely depressed, they usually cannot engage in psychotherapy in a meaningful manner, which can be too much of a psychological burden for them.
Ketamine is a medication that can potentially help alleviate depression rapidly, which can allow meaningful psychotherapy engagement for the long-term healing process.
Anxiety disorders also respond well to ketamine infusion therapy. Generalized anxiety is often brought on by stress and trauma and can lead to feelings of panic, heart palpitations, nausea, loss of appetite, or even a fear of dying. If you experience symptoms for a period of six months or more, you should seek a diagnosis for generalized anxiety or panic disorder. Anxiety disorders should always be treated in order to avoid worsening of symptoms or related disorders, such as depression.