According to the World Health Organization, depression has now surpassed HIV, AIDS, malaria, diabetes, and war as the leading cause of disability. Current antidepressants may take weeks to months to be effective. Unfortunately, one-third of patients are still unresponsive, and are called “treatment-resistant.” However, there are other options available.
Researchers hypothesize that neurogenesis, or neuron growth, is an antidepressant action. This hypothesis is linked to the understanding that nearly all antidepressants increase birth of granule neurons in rodents. Ketamine, however, has such rapid antidepressant effects, within hours, suggesting that the mechanisms involved with ketamine are not involved with neuron birth. Instead, researchers hypothesized that ketamine’s rapid effects are due to it enhancing the maturation of neurons born previously.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology in 2018, specific brain waves are related to the anti-anxiety effects of ketamine. The brain waves involved in this function are called theta waves, found in the right frontal area of the brain. Ketamine can treat a wide variety of neurotic disorders, such as depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and PTSD, but researchers do not conclusively understand how ketamine works to relieve the symptoms of these disorders.
Bipolar disorder will affect 4.4% of U.S. adults at some point in their lives. It can cause dramatic shifts in the mood, energy, activity, impacting a person’s ability to live fully. One of the symptoms of bipolar disorder is anhedonia, which is the loss of ability to seek pleasure. Effective treatments for anhedonia have traditionally been lacking, but fortunately, recent research suggests that ketamine can help.