Dispelling myths about ketamine infusion treatment for depression, mood disorders

Photo by Chinnapong/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — For people living with treatment-resistant depression and other mental health disorders, therapeutic IV infusions may hold the key to stabilizing mood imbalances, providing relief and hope at last. 

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

At Desert Sands Ketamine Treatment Center, Dr. Eric Evans focuses on patients suffering from clinical depression, postpartum depression and post-traumatic stress disorder using ketamine, administered in low doses via IV infusion. 

Ketamine works within the amygdala – the area of the brain that processes moods and emotions in the conscious mind – to boost a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor. It is approximately 70% effective in treating depression, Evans said, a significantly higher success rate than antidepressants and traditional talk therapy.

However, as a relatively new approach to treating mental health disorders, Evans said there are several common misconceptions attached to ketamine that he is working to dispel. 

Myth No. 1 – Ketamine is a horse tranquilizer. 

This is partially accurate, Evans said. Ketamine was developed during the 1960s to be used in anesthesia for both humans and animals. Many drugs are used across species, including antibiotics, antihistamines, supplements and medications for diabetes and thyroid imbalances. 

Evans has more than 25 years of experience administering ketamine as a board-certified anesthesiologist. At Desert Sands, infusions are given in a safe and effective way by knowledgeable staff

“While it’s true that ketamine is widely used in veterinary circles, it’s also true that it has been used safely for over 50 years in humans,” he said.  

Myth No. 2 – Ketamine is addictive. 

Evans said ketamine does not cause physical dependence and has a low addiction potential compared with other substances, particularly narcotics. And unlike numerous drugs, including some antidepressants, there are no withdrawal symptoms. 

As with many kinds of medications, people can abuse ketamine, but those who take it illegally are often using doses five to 10 times higher than would ever be administered by a physician for therapeutic purposes, Evans said. 

“In a supervised medical setting, there are no recorded cases of addiction in the literature,” he said. “Basically, ketamine is less addictive than your morning cup of coffee from Starbucks.”  

Myth No. 3 – Ketamine may cause psychosis. 

During a ketamine infusion, patients enter a dream-like state and experience sensations differently. These changes in perception are temporary and begin to fade once the infusion stops, as the body metabolizes ketamine quickly. 

Evans said that in patients with no history of schizophrenia or another psychotic illness, ketamine will not lead to psychosis – detachment from reality with delusions and distortions of thought. Ketamine is proven to be highly effective in treating depression and PTSD, with zero likelihood of causing a conversion to any other type of mental health disorder. 

“This is an absolute myth, period,” Evans said about ketamine causing psychosis. “Ketamine doesn’t cause mental illness – it’s an amazing treatment for certain types of mental illness.”  

Myth No. 4 – Ketamine is a party drug. 

Many people have heard of ketamine, commonly called “Special K” or “Vitamin K,” being abused for its hallucinogenic and dissociative effects. However, Evans said that virtually any type of medication could be considered a “party drug” when used recreationally.  

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

Ketamine is classified as a Schedule III controlled substance and closely regulated by the Drug Enforcement Agency. The use of ketamine as a treatment for mood disorders in a clinical setting is safe and 100% legal, Evans said. 

“When given under the supervision of a physician in the appropriate doses and in the appropriate way, ketamine is highly effective at treating certain mental health issues,” he said. “The fact that some choose to abuse it should in no way cause fear in people to come and get help.” 

Ketamine is nothing short of miraculous in treating depression, PTSD and other mental health disorders, Evans said. In conjunction with the family therapy and counseling referral services offered by Desert Sands, ketamine infusions have provided many patients with breakthroughs that change their lives for the better. 

At Desert Sands, patients are treated on an individualized basis with discretion and the utmost compassion. 

“We realize that every patient is different,” he said. “Every patient comes in with a different set of problems, a different set of emotions. As a combination, there is no other place in Southern Utah like Desert Sands for treating patients with depression.”  

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

Written by ALEXA MORGAN for St. George News

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