Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues in the United States, affecting 40 million adults in the country annually. But ketamine, an anesthetic could be a breakthrough treatment for anxiety disorders when given in low doses in controlled settings by licensed medical professionals. Here’s what you need to know about this new approach to fighting mental illness.
What is Ketamine
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that has been used in medicine for over 50 years. In high doses, it can cause dissociation, or a sense of detachment from one’s self. It has also been found to be effective in treating anxiety, and is sometimes used as an adjunct to traditional antidepressant medications.
How Does it Help Anxiety
For some people, anxiety is a constant battle. Traditional treatments like therapy and medication can help, but sometimes they’re not enough. That’s where ketamine comes in. The drug has been used since 1970 as an anesthetic to block pain during surgery. It’s also been found to be useful in treating depression and other mental health disorders including PTSD. Clinical trials are underway with more promising results than traditional medications. And because it works on the brain quickly, it doesn’t take long before you feel relief from your anxiety symptoms. Most researchers believe that ketamine blocks N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors in the brain. When NMDA receptors are blocked, our dopamine levels increase and so do serotonin levels. These chemicals have been linked to feelings of pleasure and happiness—so when they’re released in high levels by ketamine, people tend to feel happier and less anxious.
Though more research is needed to determine ketamine’s long-term efficacy, it shows promise as a potential treatment for anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.