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How Does Ketamine Affect the Brain?

Originally developed to replace phencyclidine (PCP) for anesthetic and analgesic purposes, ketamine is now known to exert antidepressant actions in the brain. Research suggests ketamine relieves symptoms of treatment-resistant depression by stopping specific receptors and regions in the brain from releasing chemicals involved in depression.

What Happens in the Brain After a Ketamine Infusion?

Once the body begins absorbing ketamine via infusion, it is quickly distributed throughout the brain. Ketamine especially targets N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors found on brain cells called postsynaptic neurons. A postsynaptic neuron is simply a nerve cell that has received an electrical impulse (communication signal) from a nearby nerve cell.

NMDA receptors are also referred to as glutamate receptors because they respond only to the neurotransmitter glutamate. When NMDA receptors “respond” to glutamate, this means they are taking in glutamate to perform regulatory actions involved in signaling, memory, and learning.

Research has discovered that people with depression have abnormally low levels of glutamate in the brain. Scientists think ketamine prevents NMDA receptors from taking in large amounts of glutamate. This allows glutamate levels to rise in the brain to help relieve symptoms of depression.

Ketamine is also thought to suppress activity in an area of the brain called the lateral habenula. PET brain imaging scans of individuals with depression have found increased activity in their lateral habenula not found in people without depression. Ketamine seems to reduce cell signaling in the lateral habenula that can alleviate symptoms of treatment-resistant depression.

Ketamine Treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by an inability to stop thinking about doing something and performing ritualistic activities to reduce anxiety. When someone with OCD is prevented from completing a behavior they feel compelled to do, they will experience extreme anxiety, severe depression, and panic attacks.

New studies indicate that ketamine may help reduce symptoms of OCD by rapidly interacting with the brain’s opioid system. While OCD is typically treated with serotonin-reuptake inhibitors such as Zoloft and Paxil, the time it takes for SRIs to alleviate OCD symptoms can range from one to two months. Ketamine’s ability to swiftly provide relief for depression, anxiety, and OCD makes it an increasingly viable alternative to treatment-resistant OCD.

Contact Premier Infusions today to schedule a consultation appointment about receiving ketamine infusions for the treatment of depression, anxiety, or OCD.