Is Ketamine The Answer to Veteran Suicide?
Ketamine, the veterinary anesthetic turned party drug, is a psychoactive drug that takes the user on a trip to expand their mind. Lighting up dormant parts of the brain, this drug has done wonders to kill the PTSD that the Veterans we talked to were once haunted by. As the VA comes around to endorsing this as a legitimate treatment rather than a rave party drug, many ketamine infusion therapy centers have opened across the USA. It’s time to get some basic understanding of what ketamine is and how it works and feels.
To answer our own question, we say yes, ketamine and other psychoactive drugs are better than the status quo for some Veterans. But the VA needs to gear up to be able to offer it at VA hospitals around the nation. Prices at private practices are out of reach for most. Veteran families are no different. Having the VA launch a new ketamine program is essential before we take another 17/day of Veteran suicides.
Ketamine is a medicine historically used for anesthesia during surgeries and medical procedures. It was synthesized in the 1960s and is FDA-approved for procedural sedation and anesthesia. It is widely used in hospitals and ERs and is on the World Health Organization’s “List of Essential Medicines.” Ketamine is now being used “off-label” to treat depression, as well as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and some chronic pain disorders. This medication has a long track record for its safety when used appropriately.
How Does Ketamine Work?
The exact mechanism of how ketamine works in depression, anxiety, and chronic pain is not fully known. (Honestly, we don’t care how it works, just that it does work. Besides, we’re only using, what 4% of our brains, we can’t possibly figure it out yet.) However, scientists do know that ketamine works on the NMDA receptor to block the glutamate neurotransmitter. And scientific study is showing ketamine improves the health of the neurons (brain cells) by increasing the connection between the neurons and improving the brain’s ability to adapt (aka neuroplasticity).
A recent study performed at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) finally detailed the mechanism of how ketamine dampens the symptoms of depression and keeps it at bay. It turns out, it works in a remarkably similar fashion to SSRIs, the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants. Read their paper: NMDAR-independent, cAMP-dependent antidepressant actions of ketamine.
Ketamine also changes the way the central nervous system processes pain, so it’s like hitting the reset button on your computer, to restore normal pain processing. Research is also showing in animal models, the potential for ketamine to increase resilience and recovery from stressful traumatic events which can trigger or cause depression and anxiety disorders.
Furthermore, ketamine decreases activity in the Default Mode Network (DMN) of the brain, which is more active in those with depression, anxiety, and chronic pain.
What Does a Ketamine Infusion or IV-drip Therapy Feel Like?
For some people they can experience positive effects within an hour of finishing the infusion. For others, they will not notice an effect until after their fourth or fifth infusion. Commonly the effect is gradual and subtle, noticing thoughts of sadness and hopelessness to begin to lift and go away. Occasionally some people may have a dramatic effect. Function (going out, doing things you enjoy, work) improve before mood does. With improved function you are able to more fully participate and engage in your treatment plan, thus improving your success rate.
Other Psychelics That Help With PTSD
Psychedelics, also known as psychedelic drugs, hallucinogens, or hallucinogenic drugs are chemical substances that induce hallucinations and other sensory disturbances.
Psychedelic – relating to or denoting drugs that produce hallucinations and apparent expansion of consciousness. Psychedelics were originally called ‘Psychotomimetics’ by the scientific community (mimicking the effect of a psychotic state). In 1956, Humphry Osmond coined the term Psychedelic (‘Mind Manifesting’ in Greek) in a letter to writer Aldous Huxley.
Entheogen – a psychoactive substance that induces alterations in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, or behaviofor the purposes of engendering spiritual development in sacred contexts.
Psilocybin – a naturally occurring psychedelic prodrug compound produced by more than 200 species of mushrooms, collectively known as psilocybin mushrooms.
DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine) – a chemical substance that occurs in many plants and animals and which is both a derivative and a structural analog of tryptamine. It can be consumed as a psychedelic drug and has historically been prepared by various cultures for ritual purposes as an entheogen. DMT has a rapid onset, intense effects, and a relatively short duration of action.
LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) – also known colloquially as acid, is a hallucinogenic drug.Effects typically include altered thoughts, feelings, and awareness of one’s surroundings.
About Once a Soldier
Once a Soldier’s mission is to help the families after a soldier suicide. Most soldier suicides are performed by veterans who have lost touch with the VA and their families won’t be getting any financial help from the government at this critical time. Even when they do, the support is limited. We aspire to fill or close that gap especially when it comes to the heartbreak of paying funeral costs. But this post aspires to be a place where someone in need RIGHT NOW can get some help for themselves or for a loved one who’s thinking about suicide.