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How Ketamine Treatment Can Relieve Chronic Pain?

May 3, 2021
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With the issue of chronic pain, comes a variety of treatment options. All treatment options are unique and can have varying effects on an individual. Ketamine, an anesthetic drug, has been known for treating severe and chronic pain issues in various individuals. Therapy-resistant chronic pain is something that can be very crippling to one's everyday living, and quality of life. Ketamine in medical settings has begun to show improvement in stubborn chronic pain that is very complex and difficult to treat. People have begun to turn to ketamine when other treatment options fail to help their issues in the long run.

What Is Ketamine Therapy?

Ketamine therapy is the idea of infusing the drug in either one session or over a set of a few sessions. Ketamine infusion clinics have begun working hand in hand with medical care centers and psychiatric professionals. The American Psychiatric Nurses Association describes how ketamine infusion therapy has different options of session times to adhere to patients' needs.  With the patients dealing with continuous pain, multiple ketamine therapy sessions can be beneficial and sometimes necessary in order to monitor long term pain. Ketamine therapy is becoming more accessible to patients looking for alternatives to mental disorders and stubborn pain that has not shown relief with traditional treatment.

How Does Ketamine Therapy Work?

Ketamine has antihyperalgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antidepressant effects. Because of this, it has proven to be an extremely useful tool when treating various medical and mental conditions. Many medical professionals believe that the ketamine used in a clinical study would have the ability to block pain signals which are trying to reach the brain. The Medical News Bulletin explained that “Ketamine works by acting on a cellular receptor called N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA). This receptor plays a role in regulating pain and is located in the nervous system”(MNB). The response that patients have to the drug allows them to overcome their issues revolving chronic pain by blocking it out. This is why so many people have found that ketamine actually works because they are able to treat pain that is stubborn and lingering in the body.

Ketamine Therapy for Chronic Pain

Long term chronic pain is a common issue among many people. Ketamine has shown to have lasting effects on pain that will come and go with conventional treatment. Pain relieving effects of even just one ketamine therapy session have shown to last over three months. This long term effect on patients who are suffering from chronic pain brings a sigh of relief to them. Because ketamine has been used in the past in medical settings, it is also good for patients who need variety in ways to take medication. Ketamine can be administered in a variety of ways, including intravenous (IV), oral, subcutaneous, transdermal, and spinal.

The Challenges with Ketamine

As with all treatments there are some side effects and a long list of pros and cons. While ketamine therapy can be greatly beneficial to treating chronic pain and psychiatric disorders, side effects which are noted during clinical trials can be seen to mimic psychedelic traits. The National Library of Medicine described that some of these side effects can potentially include “hallucinations, memory defects, panic attacks, nausea/vomiting, somnolence, cardiovascular stimulation and, in a minority of patients, hepatoxicity”(NLH). Recreational use of ketamine can also pose threats to one's physical and mental health. The increase of recreational use of ketamine has already shown to come with a handful of risks ranging from bladder and renal complications to persistent psychotypical behaviour and memory defects. Recreational use of ketamine prior to the use of ketamine in a clinical setting can raise concerns for some people due to high risk of substance abuse in frequent users. However, in safe, clinical, and monitored environments, ketamine has been proven to show breakthroughs in therapy-resistant chronic pain.

Benefits and Risks of Ketamine Therapy

There are many benefits and risks to ketamine therapy. While side effects and success of treatment varies from person to person, it is becoming a more effective and conventional way to treat many different physical and mental disorders everywhere. For people who may be scared that ketamine therapy won’t work for them, other treatments are available and are promising. Monitoring patients is a large part in the study of ketamine therapy, especially when results can last over three months. More research will be conducted in the near future predicting whether the negative side effects and costs of ketamine therapy are genuinely worth it. However, there are already patients who have found success in ketamine therapy when no other treatment options have worked for them. As such, it is important to appreciate the psychedelic therapy benefits ketamine can provide to people suffering from chronic pain disorders.  

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