TULSA, Okla. — Ketamine is becoming more popular as a treatment for depression and other mental health issues.
Currently, nurse anesthetists and doctors are using it even though it's not regulated by the FDA and is considered experimental. 2 News found several clinics in Tulsa offering Ketamine treatments.
Ketamine is a medication used in general anesthesia, and it causes an altered state of sensory perception with the loss of consciousness.Although Ketamine is still considered off-label, some said it is an effective treatment for depression.
Jackson Mitchell, 18, said he struggled with anxiety and depression most of his life.
"Yeah, since I was about 7 or 8. I tried all sorts of medicines, and I did therapy. The medicines were like Prozac, Zoloft, and Effexor," he said.
When the medicines didn't work, he started researching depression and anxiety treatments online. Mitchell said he finally found relief at Oklahoma Interventional Infusion Center where nurse anesthetist, Lavonna Sanders started giving him a series of Ketamine infusions.
"Going into it I was pretty scared but once I got on it, all of that went away," said Mitchell.
For those that might consider Ketamine treatments as a way to get high, Sanders says that's not the case.
"It's not the same as the Ketamine that's on the street. The dose is much lower and it's a slow, low infusion. They might feel a little disassociation with it and maybe some dreaming, but it's really a common and pleasant experience but it's not high," said Sanders.
According to Sanders, Ketamine is safe when administered in a controlled setting at a low dose and monitored by a quality provider.
'It's regulated because I'm an advanced practice nurse, it's regulated by the board of nursing," she says.
The National Institutes of Health, along with Yale, Harvard, and Johns Hopkins all researched Ketamine's effect on depression. Currently, Ketamine infusions are still considered off-label by the FDA.
Aaron Pierce, a psychiatrist for the OSU Center for Health Sciences said there is some evidence that it works.
"There is a fair amount of data that is does work well for depression. It helps about 60 percent of people who would at least have a response to the medication," said Pierce.
But, he says Ketamine tends to wear off after 2 or 3 weeks and the symptoms can return.
"I can see the hesitancy in wanting to refer to these clinics. It's not a well-established, FDA-approved treatment for depression just yet, and that fact that it does seem to be pretty expensive," said Pierce.
Both Sanders and Pierce say it's critical a psychiatrist evaluate anyone interested in Ketamine treatments.
Across town at Seva Med Care, Dr. Jayen Patel is treating his patients with Ketamine. He agrees patients need to be under the care of a licensed, mental health care specialist prior to treatment.
"We would make sure that they are wholly invested in psychotherapy and a psychologist as well as a psychiatrist and had a full workup and the ability to open up and talk to someone and they are having ongoing coaching. Once that is extinguished, we can then incorporate Ketamine while that individual is under the care of another mental health specialist," said Dr. Patel.
Several Ketamine studies show a low dose of the drug typically has a 70 to 80% success rate when treating depression.
Sanders recommends a patient get at least six infusions and says most will see a difference after two or three.
For Mitchell, he says Ketamine has been life-changing for him.
"It's been really helpful for me, and I think anyone suffering from these issues should take a look at it and maybe consider giving it a chance," said Mitchell.
Ketamine infusions are not covered by insurance, and typically cost around $350 per session. The process of getting a Ketamine infusion can last up to an hour.
The FDA authorized a version of Ketamine. It's called Esketamine and is used as a nasal spray. However, it's only used for treatment-resistant cases of depression.
Some local Ketamine clinics in Tulsa are:
Oklahoma Interventional Infusion Center
- Located at 9308 S. Toledo Avenue
Seva Med Care
- Located at 2811 E. 15th Street Ste 102
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