Ketamine: Longer-Term Efficacy and Safety
Over the last five years, I have used ketamine infusion therapy to treat hundreds of patients for major depression, PTSD, OCD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I have not always reserved the treatment for those patients who fail to benefit from several oral antidepressant or antianxiety medications. Sometimes, patients wish to try ketamine as an earlier component of their treatment. That can make sense, because ketamine works so fast, is very often so effective and is exceedingly well-tolerated.
My personal experience having made ketamine available to these individuals is that it can be a very long-lasting treatment—sometimes because it is profoundly effective and seemingly transformational after just six infusions, and sometimes because patients return for additional infusions over time. Some patients of mine (some of whom are also still taking oral medications, of course) now have experienced years of relief from psychiatric symptoms that had not remitted before they received ketamine.
This is an astounding result. For many, ketamine is life-changing—for the long-term, not just for weeks or months.
What’s more, not a single patient of the hundreds I have treated has shown any significant side effect from ketamine infusion therapy. Not one. And I am aware of no patient who has become dependent on ketamine, after receiving infusions.
Let’s think about that for a moment: I know, for sure, that ketamine has often been effective in treating even the most serious cases of major depression and other psychiatric disorders. I know that its effectiveness has not been limited to short-term relief. I have seen no worrisome short-term or longer-term side effects. And I have never seen any patient of mine abuse or become dependent on ketamine, after receiving a series of ketamine infusions—ever. Even though I am only reporting my own clinical experience, I still see that as astounding data.
Obviously, additional academic research trials should and will unfold, in order to examine ketamine’s mechanism of action, and efficacy in various clinical conditions.
But, as one of the first psychiatrists in the world to use ketamine to treat depression and other psychiatric disorders, I can say that my early observations that ketamine was very effective and very safe, still seem true to me.
Ketamine is one of the most exciting treatment modalities psychiatry has ever known.