Desert Sands Ketamine explores a new frontier in treating depression, mental health disorders

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CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — The treatment of depression and other mental health disorders is a difficult undertaking. Many patients have already tried various methods and medications with little relief. 

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

At Desert Sands Ketamine Treatment Center in St. George, Dr. Eric Evans is exploring the new frontier of using ketamine infusion therapy to address mood disorders.

Ketamine is a wonder drug for patients struggling with treatment-resistant depression, Evans said. Offering lasting results, virtually no side effects and a much higher success rate than traditional antidepressants, it may provide hope at last. 

“We realize that 2020 was a very stressful year for people,” he said. “This is a great time to reach out to us and start the new year with a focus on your mental health. We’d love to be your partner in that.” 

Relief for treatment-resistant depression  

Of the 16.2 million adults in the United States that experience major depressive disorder, Evans said about 65% aren’t helped by their first antidepressant. Approximately one-third don’t respond to any treatment. 

“Treatment-resistant depression is generally defined as failing to respond to adequate doses of two different antidepressant medications for a significant duration of time, typically six to eight weeks,” he said. 

Studies have demonstrated that as many as 70% of individuals with treatment-resistant depression will respond favorably to ketamine therapy, Evans said, because it affects the brain differently than other antidepressants.

Most prescription antidepressants work to boost serotonin, norepinephrine or dopamine, chemicals that play an important role in mood. But ketamine targets glutamate, which helps regulate the brain’s ability to process cognitive thoughts and emotions and promotes the formation of new thinking patterns. 

Help with other mood disorders

Although better known for treating depression, Evans said that ketamine also provides lasting relief for patients struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder. 

Many people being treated for depression also suffer from anxiety, Evans said, which is commonly treated with medications like Valium, Ativan or Xanax. These drugs temporarily relieve symptoms but can actually cause rebound anxiety once they exit the body. Ketamine, however, keeps the patient’s mood stabilized long after each infusion.

Old drug, new tricks

The usage of ketamine in treating mental health disorders is an emerging science. However, ketamine has been widely used by doctors, primarily as an anesthetic, since the 1960s and appears on the World Health Organization’s Model List of Essential Medicines. Evans said ketamine is easily tolerated by most people and presents very few contraindications with other drugs

Ketamine can elevate blood pressure in some patients, Evans said, but the staff at Desert Sands screens for medical conditions that may prevent someone from safely receiving ketamine, including uncontrolled hypertension, uncontrolled narrow-angle glaucoma and increased intracranial pressure. And they closely monitors each patient during their infusion. 

The ketamine experience

Ketamine infusions typically last about 45 minutes. During that time, the recipient enters a slightly psychedelic, dreamlike state. Evans said his patients have described feelings of total relaxation, a spiritual connection or even out-of-body experiences. 

Evans said ketamine helps the conscious mind relax and stop processing daily worries, giving it the freedom to gain neuroplasticity. This helps the brain become more open to new connections and patterns of thinking when it “plugs back in.” 

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“Patients typically report that as being incredibly useful for them,” Evans said. “They will describe the feeling of having the ability to tackle their problems in a calm, peaceful manner.” 

Beyond ketamine infusions, Desert Sands provides patients with resources to improve all aspects of their well-being, including dietary guidance, meditation, massage therapy, relationship counseling and talk therapy. 

“Every patient has such a unique story and set of issues that they’re dealing with,” Evans said. “We try to use a complete approach to each patient.” 

As a board-certified anesthesiologist, Evans guides Desert Sands with more than 25 years of medical expertise, and as a St. George native, he said his desire to help people in the community living with depression truly comes from the heart.  

“There is a huge need in Southern Utah,” he said. “I just want to help as many people as I can.”

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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