KETAMINE FIRST RECEIVED APPROVAL FROM THE U.S. FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION (FDA) IN 1970.
Due to the short half life and minimal side effects Ketamine gained favor over other common anesthetics, and continues to be widely used today. Ketamines reputation became tainted after recreational drug abuse began. Fortunately, research has persisted, leading to the discovery that ketamine also provides a mechanism for treating both chronic pain and several mental health afflictions.
Numerous studies, as well as direct experience from patients, attest to ketamine’s extraordinary ability to relieve otherwise treatment-resistant depression. Likewise, ample evidence shows that ketamine therapy acts as a powerful treatment for PTSD and many other often insurmountable mental health conditions. Scientists know that ketamine works; what they do not yet fully understand is how.
Researchers believe a partial explanation of ketamine’s impact on depression relates to the fact that following the first dose, long, dormant synaptic connections in the brain begin to regrow. Another mechanism being studied has to do with the way ketamine recharges glutamate receptors, an important part of the functioning of those nerve cells which regulate mood. While neither of these findings provides a complete explanation of how ketamine therapy relieves depression, they contribute to a body of research that grows by the day.
Another area of research that further fufills in the overall picture of how ketamine works, is a notion known as metaplasticity. It is first important to know that part of ketamine’s success derives from its ability to improve synaptic adaptability, or plasticity, over time.
Recent research shows that not only does ketamine improve plasticity, but through repeated exposure, it actually strengthens synaptic plasticity, a characteristic researchers call “metaplasticity.” This shows that ketamine likely provides long-term relief from depression through eliciting structural changes in those brain cells responsible for mood regulation.