Ketamine, first developed in the 1960s for anesthesia, is currently being investigated for its ability to relieve symptoms of major depressive disorder, PTSD, chronic pain, and severe social anxiety disorder. If you are considering ketamine treatment for severe anxiety, here is what you need to know.
Anxiety at a Glance
Some scientists describe anxiety as an overactive fight-or-flight mechanism. Anxiety can negatively affect a variety of organs, including the heart, the lungs, and even the eyes. Our fight-or-flight response system once acted to protect us from dangerous predators; today, it arises in situations of stress, such as before a big exam or during a presentation at work.
However, if your feelings of anxiety don’t have a clear, immediate cause, you may be exhibiting symptoms of an underlying anxiety disorder.
While individuals with anxiety disorders do experience something akin to an out-of-control, fight-or-flight response, they might also experience a myriad of other symptoms, including muscle tension, sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, and irritability. Typically, medical professionals will look at several symptoms and their duration before making a diagnosis. In most cases, individuals who are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder report experiencing symptoms most of the time over a period of six months or longer.
There are actually several disorders that fall under the umbrella of “anxiety.” These include panic disorder, phobia, and generalized anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders may also result from both internal factors, such as systemic disease, as well as external factors, such as trauma.
Treatments for Anxiety
There are a few traditional options for treating anxiety, including benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and beta blockers. These should only be prescribed by a licensed medical professional after careful evaluation.
Benzodiazepines are thought to be useful for calming nerve impulses; some well-known benzodiazepines include Valium and Xanax. While these drugs tend to work quickly, many individuals become increasingly tolerant to their effects, meaning they constantly need to increase their dosage to relieve their anxiety symptoms. Benzodiazepines also have a variety of potential adverse effects, including headache, disorientation, and memory disturbance. Benzodiazepines also carry a high risk of physical dependence.
Antidepressants like Serotonin Selective Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) and Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors are another popular option for anxiety treatment. Instead of calming down anxious brain impulses, antidepressants tend to focus on increasing neurochemicals that produce feelings of happiness and contentment. A major drawback of antidepressants, however, is that they can take several weeks to work, as the drug needs to build up in the brain in order to have any noticeable effect. Antidepressants can also cause a variety of side effects, including nausea, dry mouth, and sexual dysfunction.
Beta blockers work to provide quick relief for anxiety symptoms and are often prescribed on an “as needed” basis for patients who suffer from severe anxiety. Beta blockers work to reduce anxiety symptoms like trembling and rapid heart rate by inhibiting adrenergic receptors throughout the body.
How Ketamine Helps
While scientists are still working to understand exactly how ketamine reduces anxiety, current statistics show very high promise for ketamine therapy. In one study, patients reported dramatic improvement after only an hour of their first ketamine infusion, as well as long-term improvement in their anxiety symptoms while on ketamine therapy. And, just as impressively, the low dosage of ketamine used during medical therapy creates no chemical dependency and has no known negative long-term effects.
A Treatment, Not a Cure
While ketamine has been very effective in treating anxiety symptoms, it is not a cure for the disorder itself. This means that patients require a series of scheduled infusions, in order to control their anxiety symptoms. It is important to understand, too, that an immediate feeling of relief does not mean that the underlying problem has disappeared; you should always continue with your prescribed treatment plan until your provider recommends otherwise.
Your Doctor Can Help You Decide
While the use of ketamine for anxiety is quickly becoming a popular alternative, it is still quite new, and therefore is not administered by all doctors. At Pacific Ketamine Institute, we partner with physicians to provide ketamine infusion therapy treatment as part of your overall wellness treatment. Contact us today to learn more.
If you are suffering from anxiety, work closely with your doctor on a treatment plan, and let them know of any existing conditions or medications you might be taking. Your doctor can evaluate your specific case and help you decide whether ketamine therapy is the best alternative for controlling your anxiety symptoms.
You also should not start or stop any form of drug therapy for anxiety without your doctor’s supervision; many anti-anxiety drugs should not be stopped abruptly and may not be suitable for patients with certain conditions. For instance, a beta blocker may be dangerous for patients with heart or lung diseases.
If you and your doctor decide that ketamine is the right next step for you, your doctor can help you find a qualified medical center that administers ketamine infusions. Your doctor will also likely prescribe a schedule for the ketamine therapy, along with other treatments. Remember, it is important to adhere to the treatment schedule prescribed by your doctor, even if you stop experiencing anxiety symptoms.
Ask about ketamine infusion therapy today.