Ketamine therapy shown to be effective in treating depression in veterans, study finds

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Ketamine could be a viable treatment for veterans struggling with depression, new research has suggested.

The University of Michigan released a study on the effects of ketamine in cases of severe or treatment-resistant depression among veterans.

Half of the study participants experienced significant relief after undergoing six weeks of ketamine therapy, according to a press release from Michigan Medicine.

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The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, looked at data from 215 veterans receiving intravenous ketamine therapy at Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals.

All participants had also undergone previous depression treatment without any improvement.

separation of vile and depressed ketamine veterans

Research from the University of Michigan found that ketamine therapy may be beneficial for veterans with depression. (Julia Rendleman for The Washington Post via Getty Images; iStock)

Nearly half of the patients saw a “significant drop” in depression scores after six weeks of intake, according to a study by the University of Michigan and VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System (VAAAHS).

About 25% saw their depression score drop by half within six weeks of treatment, and 15% went into complete remission despite the complexity of their mental health status.

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Almost all patients studied continued their treatment every few weeks or months.

“Further study is needed to determine the optimal infusion frequency and the potential for adverse effects with repeated ketamine injections for depression,” the study’s findings said.

a veteran in medicine

Nearly half of the participants in a new study saw a “significant drop” in depression scores after six weeks of IV ketamine infusion, the study found. (iStock)

In a statement sent to Fox News Digital, VA press secretary Terrence Hayes supported ketamine therapy as an option for veterans.

“VA supports the evidence-based use of intravenous ketamine for treatment-resistant depression and severe suicidal ideation,” he said.

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“Many veterans with these mental health conditions are treated with IV ketamine each year — both at VA facilities and by community providers.”

Dr. Justin Gerstner, a psychiatrist and chief medical officer at Ellie Mental Health in Minnesota, told Fox News Digital that he thinks these findings on ketamine are “fantastic,” because the VA population “needs on new, innovative treatments for depression.”

(Gerstner was not involved in the Michigan study.)

Stupid ketamine

A doctor holds a vial of ketamine at the MindPeace Clinic in Richmond, Virginia. (Julia Rendleman for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

“This study shows that this helps some of the most difficult-to-treat veterans with depression,” he said.

As more psychedelic-assisted treatments emerge to treat a variety of mental health issues, the doctor said ketamine is among those that produce results “very quickly.”

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Another benefit of ketamine therapy, according to Gerstner, is that it eliminates the need for patients to take medication every day, as with other treatment methods.

Gerstner said he uses ketamine therapy in his own practice, where the response from clients has been “good.”

ketamine treatment in a clinic

Carl Montalbino, 67, receives his ketamine treatment while nurse Melissa Dougher checks his vitals on July 5, 2022, at the MindPeace Clinic in Richmond, Virginia. (Julia Rendleman for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

“It’s been very transformative for a lot of our clients,” he told Fox News Digital. “It’s been a great experience to be a part of that.”

Gerstner’s practice typically administers ketamine to clients via IV injection in two- to three-hour sessions, in conjunction with pre- and post-treatment psychotherapy.

Potential risks and limitations

While ketamine can act as “a very powerful anti-depressant and anti-suicide drug,” Gerstner said, he cautioned that “it’s not the right answer for everyone or everything. “

“This is a very powerful medicine and the way it is used can make a big difference.”

There are some risks and limitations involved, he said – including the potential for ketamine to be abused.

There isn’t much regulation of how ketamine treatments are administered, Gerstner noted, because the drug was previously approved for anesthetic use.

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“The area is wide open, and it’s a bit like the Wild West,” he said. “This is a very powerful medicine and the way it is used can make a big difference.”

Different clinics have had success giving the drug in different forms, including oral, IV and injection, according to Gerstner.

ketamine IV infusion

Various clinics have seen success with the drug given in various forms, including oral, IV and injection. (Julia Rendleman for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

For patients with treatment-resistant depression, a standard IV system is given every two to three days in a hospital-based outpatient clinic, according to Michigan Medicine and VAAAHS.

“These things are really all over the map,” Gerstner said. “It’s difficult to manage and there’s some risk involved, but it’s also what we have to do while we learn what’s best.”

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For veterans seeking better treatment, ketamine could be a “very important thing to consider for depression,” Gerstner said.

“If they’re suffering from depression and feel like they’re not getting what they need, and they haven’t talked about ketamine, it’s okay to ask. [their provider] about,” he said.

Fox News Digital reached out to the University of Michigan for additional comment on the investigation.

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