Limbic Medical

Ketamine and Depression: An Integrative Approach


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Ketamine has been called the biggest breakthrough in depression treatment in the last 50 years. Patients who previously were considered treatment-resistant or non-responsive to conventional medications/methods have found relief from severe depression, PTSD, anxiety and other mental health conditions through ketamine therapy.

Ketamine is an anesthetic medicine with a dissociative effect, which means it can create a feeling of being detached from oneself. This dissociative state has been shown to provide a positive healing benefit for mental health disorders, including major depressive disorder, and chronic pain.

Patients particularly like how quickly ketamine can work. It is renowned for its fast-acting nature, with many patients noticing a significant reduction in pain and depression levels within a matter of hours or days of first treatment.

Ketamine and Functional Medicine

Ketamine’s ability to address and reverse causes of inflammation in multiple body systems makes it a natural fit with a functional medicine approach. Functional medicine takes into account the impact of disease on multiple body systems, with the understanding that the body is a complicated network of interacting systems. Multiple systems may be impacted by a single cause.

Functional medicine also excels at identifying situations where a single symptom may be related to multiple diseases. Depression can manifest as both physical pain and mental pain, for example.

When ketamine and functional medicine are used together, it can result in better patient outcomes, particularly in the treatment of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

What is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine is an individualized, personalized approach to medical care. Functional medicine considers a broader range of factors that impact the patient’s condition than traditional medicine uses, such as diet, hormone levels, etc. While conventional medicine focuses on treating symptoms or specific causes of disease in isolation, functional medicine looks at the interaction of multiple biological systems, the external environment, and the patient’s own circumstances in order to create a custom treatment plan that addresses multiple significant issues at the same time.

As an example, patients with chronic pain often experience depression concurrently. A treatment plan that only focuses on one symptom (either the depression or the chronic pain) may not adequately address the complete patient condition and will fail to provide sufficient relief.

Functional medicine examines multiple aspects of the patient’s condition in order to address the true root cause. In this way, functional medicine can more accurately address and resolve mental health and physical health conditions, like depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, and chronic pain.

How Ketamine Helps With Depression

Ketamine is an anesthetic medication that has gained attention for its rapid and often significant antidepressant effects, especially in individuals who haven’t responded well to other antidepressant treatments. So how does ketamine actually work? While the exact mechanism is still being investigated, it is known that ketamine acts on the glutamate system. By blocking the glutamate receptor, N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA), ketamine leads to increased levels of glutamate in your system which in turn produces the antidepressant effects experienced by those receiving ketamine therapy.

The increase in glutamate levels is also thought to increase synaptic plasticity, which helps rewire the brain and create new neural connections. The development of new pathways helps break out of depressive thought patterns that you may be stuck in, allowing you to experience life in a new way.

Patients who undergo ketamine treatment often feel significant relief from symptoms within a few hours or days after treatment. Rather than waiting weeks to months for antidepressants to take effect, the effects of ketamine are almost instantaneous by comparison. Additionally, antidepressants may cause side effects such as weight gain, sexual dysfunction, crankiness, etc. Antidepressants like SSRIs target neurotransmitters like serotonin, while ketamine acts on the glutamate system. This difference in the mechanism of action makes ketamine a powerful alternative in cases of Treatment-Resistant Depression where antidepressants fail to be effective.

While ketamine therapy is most effective when administered through Intravenous (IV) infusion, Limbic Medical is the only clinic that also offers an at-home micro-dose program to maintain patients’ symptom relief following IV treatments. The at-home microdose protocol can also be a standalone treatment, delivering the same improvements in mood and mental health without the dissociative effects of higher-dose ketamine. Limbic Medical has led its own research on micro-dosing for healthcare workers during the pandemic, showing promising results in improvements for depression, anxiety, stress, and PTSD.

How Functional Medicine Helps With Depression

Because ketamine addresses multiple body systems simultaneously, it is well-suited for a functional medicine approach. Ketamine creates a window of opportunity to address underlying factors such as diet, lifestyle, sleep, and inflammation, which in turn can help sustain and enhance the therapeutic benefits of ketamine. Once underlying causes are addressed, patients can experience significant long-term relief from depression.

While depression may make a patient unable or unwilling to participate in care decisions, the relief supplied by ketamine and functional medicine encourages patients to participate in and adhere to an appropriate treatment plan.

Depression Treatment That Works in Los Angeles

Dr. Andre Atoian at Limbic Medical combines ketamine treatment for depression with functional medicine treatment for depression, helping patients incorporate both treatments for faster, more effective relief from depression. If you are suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD or chronic pain, contact Limbic Medical to receive a full diagnosis and treatment plan. Call Limbic Medical at 323.886.2273 or schedule an appointment today.