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You may know ketamine mainly as a recreational drug, but it is actually a strong anaesthetic. If you break a leg on the football pitch, you might get a shot of ketamine to get you through the rest of the day. However, 'Keta','ket' or 'K' has also recently become known for its ability to treat psychological symptoms. In particular, people with therapy-resistant depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) seem to benefit from ketamine. But besides the potential life-enhancing effects, there are also risks associated with the use of ketamine for psychological symptoms... Read all about the opportunities offered by this so-called 'ketatherapy' here.

Why people use ketamine for psychological symptoms such as depression

Depression is a common mental illness, so unfortunately it affects many people. If you have depression, it is unfortunately not always a case of 'therapy and antidepressants and on again'. Some people simply do not get rid of their symptoms, or barely. Traditional antidepressants, the best known of which are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs for short), do not work for everyone.

They can also take weeks or even months to take effect. It is often a matter of trial and error to find the best antidepressant. And sometimes that depression still persists. Despite pills and therapy. PTSD, for instance, can be very persistent and complex. This group of therapy-resistant individuals now appears to be able to benefit from ketamine.

Research on ketamine in depression

Several studies have shown that ketamine can be quick and effective in treating depression. Unlike traditional antidepressants, ketamine can lead to a marked improvement in depressive symptoms within a few hours (!) to a few days. Instant relief from depressive symptoms: almost unthinkable for many people who fall within this target group.

In ketotherapy, the substance esketamine is administered via nasal spray. So it's not like you lay a line in front of your doctor. In addition, the patient is always given antidepressants in addition to ketamine. Besides depression, ketamine has also been studied as a possible treatment for PTSD; anxiety symptoms after a traumatic experience. PTSD can be very complex, especially if someone has a very intense history. In those cases, therapy and medication are far from effective in reducing PTSD symptoms. But ketamine does appear to be able to help these people reduce those psychological symptoms.

How exactly does ketamine work on psychological symptoms?

Ketamine is known to affect neurotransmitters in the brain. In short, these are the messengers in your brain. Ketamine increases the release of glutamate and enhances communication between neurons. In part, ketamine works so well for people with anxiety and PTSD because it can better regulate the fear response that causes symptoms in PTSD in the brain.

Risks of therapy with ketamine

Curing therapy-resistant people with psychological symptoms: that is, of course, a wonderfully impressive outcome. While the results seem very promising, there are also risks associated with ketamine use. First, ketamine is a drug so popular among partygoers for a reason: it is potentially addictive. That is why it is strongly discouraged to do 'ketamine therapy' on your own, however tempting it may seem. Moreover, with such an experiment on your own, you don't really know what the ideal approach in terms of dosage and use schedule is for you.

Moreover, the long-term effects of ketamine use are not yet fully known. Keta can cause damage to your bladder and kidneys, for example. And it is certainly not a panacea that will work for everyone. In fact, it can also worsen symptoms and cause side effects you don't want. That is why you really need guidance from professionals to manage ketamine therapy. This way, you also have the best chance of success. And that, of course, is what you want!

I have depressive symptoms. Can I be treated with ketamine?

Do you have depressive symptoms and have therapy and antidepressants had little or no effect? Then you may be eligible for ketamine to reduce your psychological symptoms. Among others, the University Medical Centre Groningen (UMCG) can help you with a research treatment. Be sure to read up on exactly how this ketamine treatment works.

There are more options if you want to use non-traditional means to get rid of your depression, such as psychedelics. Be sure to read our article on psychedelic therapy in the Netherlands if you want to know more about this. For instance, psilocybin can help with PTSD. There are also natural remedies that can help reduce depressive symptoms.