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The Modern-Day Agent of Change: A Brief History of Ketamine

Today, ketamine is a safe, effective analgesic and a clinically proven treatment for persistent depression. Initially synthesized in 1962 by a chemistry professor and consultant for Parke-Davis, ketamine ultimately replaced phencyclidine (PCP) as the preferred anesthetic for individuals undergoing major operations. In 1970, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved ketamine as an anesthetic so that Vietnam War soldiers injured on the battlefield could get rapid relief from pain.

Abuse of Ketamine as a “Club Drug”

When rave parties’ popularity peaked in the late 1990s, ketamine became one of the drugs of choice among “club drug” users. When given in therapeutic doses, ketamine reduces depression and anxiety without causing unwanted side effects. When abused and taken in large amounts, ketamine makes a person feel disassociated and euphoric. Ketamine abuse may also induce visual hallucinations that abusers have compared to a near-death experience.

Due to the increasing abuse of ketamine in the U.S., the federal government designated ketamine as a Schedule III non-narcotic substance. Unauthorized individuals caught in possession of ketamine may be jailed, fined, or both.

Ketamine for Depression: What Does Science Say?

After evaluating dozens of research studies on the benefits of ketamine in therapeutic doses, the FDA approved ketamine (esketamine) in 2019 as a nasal spray prescribed for treatment-resistant depression. Only certified physicians are permitted to prescribe this version of ketamine for major depression.

Although doctors aren’t exactly sure how ketamine relieves long-term depression, they do know that ketamine prevents certain brain receptors from releasing chemicals that promote depression. Neurological studies support the antidepressant effects of ketamine that are also supported by ketamine’s ability to increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

BDNF is a special type of protein (neurotrophin) vital to the healthy functioning of neurons, brain structures, and signaling among brain cells. People with major depressive disorder have been found to have abnormally low levels of BDNF. Individuals with treatment-resistant depression who take antidepressants show a significant increase in serotonin levels but minimal increase in BDNF. Only ketamine infusions can provide the kind of BDNF release necessary to relieve major depression.

For more information about our ketamine treatments, reach out to Premier Infusions today.