Ketamine for Depression & Anxiety: How It's Different from Antidepressants

Ketamine Therapy Basics

Ketamine for Depression & Anxiety: How It's Different from Antidepressants

Written by

Isha Team


May 23, 2022


October 27, 2023

Treatment of depression has made progress from earlier traditional antidepressant medications based on monoamine theory to alternative treatments including ketamien focusing on receptor signalings. Ketamine was originally developed as an anesthetic and was approved by FDA for that purpose. After years of its usage in medicine, clinicians and researcher realized its potential for mental health application. Now many providers use ketamine for the treatment of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health indications.

Our team of licensed clinicians at Isha health is focused on treating your mental health problems with ketamine therapy. It is considered a promising treatment for antidepressants resistant depression and anxiety. This blog will detail the key differences, side effects, and potency of both traditional antidepressants and ketamine.

How do Ketamines And Antidepressants Work Differently?

Ketamine blocks NMDA glutamate receptors in the brain, alters the amount of glutamate between neurons, and is thought to stimulate another glutamate receptor, AMPA receptor. Antidepressant medications change levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. These chemicals are responsible for the elevation of mood and a feeling of well-being. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs block chemicals responsible for the breakdown of serotonin in your brain. Fewer breakdown results in increased levels of serotonin.

Serotonin elevates mood by altering levels of chemicals and glutamate plays a vital role in cell signaling. As Ketamine alters the levels of glutamate, it directly targets the core problem. It is an effective, fast-acting, and novel therapeutic agent that treats mental health problems. In comparison, traditional antidepressants need to go through an extra step to do the same.

Ketamine also has a unique and interesting mechanism of neuroplasticity. In frontocorticolimbic pyramidal neurons, ketamine triggers and activates a long-lasting state of glutamate-driven neuroplasticity. This neurobiological mechanism consists of complex interactions between different neurotransmitters like serotonin and glutamate and synaptic hemostasis. This interaction resets the system and counteracts loss of connectivity, neuronal atrophy, and synaptic deficit, thus alleviating the symptoms of depression. Ketamines induce structural adaptations for longer periods that reduce the need for chronic dosing. Traditional antidepressants do not have these features.

antidepressant or ketamine?

Ketamine has Rapidly Acting Antidepressant Effect

Conventional antidepressants show their effects after 4-6 weeks of continuous administration of medications. Their effect peaks at 12 weeks and achieves maximum benefit. Changes in dosage regimens are required to reach steady levels of the drug in your bloodstream. It takes a long time during which patients continue to suffer from the symptoms of depression.

In contrast, Ketamine has a rapid effect. It is much faster than conventional Antidepressants. Instead of achieving maximum benefit after weeks and months, the effect of Ketamine starts as early as a few hours, and many feel the improvement of symptoms within a few days. You don't have to wait so long.

Efficacy; Ketamines Vs. Antidepressants

According to research studies, conventional antidepressants prescribed for depression and anxiety disorders have 20 percent or more efficacy as compared to placebo. They also possess adverse effects.

Among patients with treatment-resistant depression, ketamine has an efficacy of 70 to 80%. Many patients with depression have concurrent anxiety. Ketamine seems to be effective in alleviating anxiety as well.

Ketamines Have Fewer Side Effects:

Conventional Antidepressants are associated with the following adverse effects:

  • Weight gain
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Dehydration
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Loss of libido
  • Restlessness

Low dose ketamine has fewer side effects when administered by a licensed clinician. The following are the common side effects:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Transient increase in blood pressure
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dissociation (rare with a low dose)

These transient effects return to normal within 2 hours usually. Most people tolerate Ketamine therapy well and enjoy its promising rapid effects in relieving symptoms of mental health issues. To read more, please refer to this blog post.

We May Be Able To Help You With Ketamine Therapy!

Major depressive disorder, treatment-resistant depression, and PTSD are extremely challenging for one who suffers from them. Seeking professional help is important to feel better.  Reach out to us for consultation with expert clinicians.

Isha Health provides online ketamine therapy with a team of licensed clinicians.  

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