Ketamine is a powerful drug that has been around for 50 years. Much of that time it was used by veterinarians and even by medics as a surgical anesthesia on the battlefield. Today’s battlefield is a landscape comprised of everyday people suffering from a variety of chronic disorders ranging from depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to fibromyalgia, migraines, and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). A major weapon in the battle is ketamine infusion therapy.
Board-certified Anesthesiologist and Infusion Specialist Douglas Kornreich, M.D., is a native of South Florida, and founder of KetaMed Health & Wellness in the Village of Rye Brook, NY. “I believe that ketamine infusions help people lead a more stable, less pain-filled life,” he said. “I’ve practiced for 20 years, and for 10 years, ketamine has been used to provide my patients with pain relief.” The doctor reports that the majority of cases using ketamine have proven effective, especially in treating CRPS, a condition that even Oxycontin failed to remedy. Ketamine
CRPS causes pain throughout the limbs, and is extremely debilitating. Many of the most powerful opioid medications have not provided relief, but ketamine has shown significant promise; some patients are pain free up to six months. “Ketamine treatments block pain receptors that lessen nerve sensitivity, and that enables the body to heal itself,” Dr. Kornreich said. “CRPS has no cure, but there are ways to manage pain and nerve sensitivity efficiently.” CRPS can be treated with a variety of protocols. One method is admitting a patient into the ICU and administer high does of ketamine continuously for several days. Most patients reported no pain for up to six months. “Another protocol is a series of daily four-hour infusions for 10 days, and that is the protocol that I use,” Dr. Kornreich said.
The Benefits of Ketamine
About 10 to 15 percent of the population experiences a depression disorder each year, but ketamine is not a first line of medical treatment for depression. Rather, it’s the last line of defense. About 50 percent of patients report a positive improvement after the first medication, but those that experience no improvement are placed on a second drug. If there is no quantifiable improvement after two medication cycles, ketamine infusion therapy can be used on those “treatment resistant” patients. Treatment resistant depression patients require six infusions over a two-week period. According to Dr. Kornreich, 60 to 70 percent benefit from the therapy.
The Federal Drug Administration has given its stamp of approval on ketamine as surgical anesthesia. Yet, despite the benefits of the treatment, it has not been granted approval as a treatment of depression-although the World Health Organization calls it an “essential drug.” The FDA has now placed ketamine on a “fast track” protocol for potential future approval.
Ketamine infusions have also been proven to be an effective treatment for people with suicidal thoughts. “It is so effective that it has greatly curtailed, and in some cases cured, thoughts of suicide in people after just one 40- to 60-minute treatment,” Dr. Kornreich said. “PTSD patients receive up to two weeks of relief from a single 40- to 60-minute session.” The cost of the drug is a minimal, but a host of other fees for nurses, administration, rent, malpractice, infusion pumps, vital signs monitoring, intravenous supplies, legal fees, professional dues, and miscellaneous expenses, can skyrocket the cost to $800 per infusion.
The Infusion Process
A physician and a nurse assistant continually monitor the infusion procedure. Patients are placed in a recliner in a dedicated treatment room and ketamine is infused via an IV tube that runs from the pump into the patient’s arm. During the process, the pump can be programmed to infuse precise amounts of the medication-and dosages can be altered immediately. Having used ketamine for more than 10 years, Dr. Kornreich is an expert in the pharmacological and physiological responses that cause changes in blood pressure and heart rate. EKG pads are positioned and a blood pressure cuff is applied prior to the infusion.
When administered by trained clinicians, ketamine has many potential benefits. In the wrong hands is potentially lethal. The opioid crisis is a result of illegally manufactured drugs being diverted onto our streets, and ketamine (often referred to as “Special K”) is popular. Using it as a recreational drug leads to addiction, cognitive impairment, bladder disease, and potential death. However, the clinical use of ketamine has a long and safe record. When administered properly, the intake of ketamine into the bloodstream can be properly monitored and controlled at significantly lower levels than if it were taken as a recreational street drug.
“Infusions maintain a lower level of the drug in the blood for a longer period of time and that is a great benefit when treating depression and other chronic issues,” Dr. Kornreich said. “Through the use of ketamine we have learned much about OCD, and PTSD and what is going on in the brain “This only leads to better medications that will work as well or better than Ketamine, and will not require an infusion.”
For more information about this topic, visit Ketamineadvocacynetwork.org or ketamedhealth.com.