Suffering from treatment-resistant depression? New clinic offers hope

Dr. Eric Evans and Shannon Evans, owners of Desert Sands Medical Clinics, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — Depression can be tricky to treat. While there are a host of prescription drugs on the market – Prozac, Lexapro and Zoloft among them – many of them come with a bevy of unpleasant side effects.

Side effects can include sexual dysfunction or lack of sexual desire, nausea, insomnia, weight gain and more.

While many medications can be beneficial to a depressed patient by taking away the low feelings they experience, Dr. Eric Evans with the Desert Sands Ketamine Treatment Center in St. George said that the prescriptions often take away the highs too.

The result is that the person lives in a sort of numb or “blah” state, Evans said.

But even though treating depression can be a difficult proposition, living with it is nearly impossible for the patient and their loved ones.

“It’s not a small problem; it’s a very large problem,” Evans said, adding that approximately one in every five adults in Utah experiences depression, and the state has one of the highest percentages of antidepressant usage in the nation.

But Evans said there is hope.

Evans is an anesthesiologist with over two decades of experience at Dixie Regional Medical Center. Throughout his years at the hospital, Evans has been instrumental in the anesthesiology department. When he first started at the hospital, he was one of only seven anesthesiologists. Today, there are 23.

“It’s been fun to help the hospital grow,” he said, adding that he helped form the department of obstetric anesthesia and the department of cardiac anesthesia, as well as serving as the chairman for the department of anesthesia.

It is this experience as an anesthesiologist that Evans is relying on as he embarks on opening a new clinic aimed at helping people with depression.

Interior of the Desert Sands Ketamine Treatment Center, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

The Desert Sands Ketamine Treatment Center is part of Desert Sands Medical Clinics, which is owned and operated by Evans and his wife, Shannon, who is a registered nurse. At the center, they will utilize a relatively new treatment method with a tried-and-true drug known as ketamine.

Ketamine is a type of anesthetic drug that has been used in medicine for about 50 years, Evans said: “It’s a really great, safe drug, which is why we like it for anesthesia.”

However, in the past four to five years, he said doctors started noticing that depressed patients who had undergone surgery where ketamine was administered as part of a cocktail of anesthetics noticed improvements in their depression.

“For a while, their depression was much better after they’d had an operation,” he said.

Researchers began to study the powerful effects ketamine had on people with depression, particularly treatment-resistant patients who had already tried a number of other medications and therapies.

Evans said that researchers, primarily out of Yale University, have discovered that ketamine works on an entirely different mechanism than traditional medications for depression.

“They’re finding that it is working through a system called the glutamate system,” he said.

Patients receiving ketamine as treatment for depression are given a 40-minute infusion of the drug, which boosts a chemical in the brain known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor.

“In depressed patients, that is the chemical that their brains don’t have enough of to have normal neuronal function,” Evans said. When we give this treatment for patients, the boost in that factor is long-lasting.”

The boosting effects of ketamine can be felt immediately after treatment, Evans said, while many prescription antidepressants can take between six to eight weeks to start working.

Ketamine infusions can be beneficial for patients with depression or bipolar disorder, women suffering from postpartum depression as well as people diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“With ketamine, people can wake up in the morning and joy is a possibility for them again,” Evans said.

While Evans will guide Desert Sands Ketamine Treatment Center with his years of medical experience and expertise, he said that as a St. George native, his desire to help people in Southern Utah living with depression really comes from his heart: “There is a huge need in Southern Utah. I just want to help as many people as I can.”

He got emotional when he said that if he could reach out to every person experiencing depression or having suicidal thoughts, he would tell them that there is hope and that ketamine may just be that hopeful option that finally changes their lives.

For more information about the Desert Sands Ketamine Treatment Center or to schedule a free consultation, visit their website or call 435-522-5190.

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