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Ketamine Infusions Can Reduce PTSD Symptoms for Weeks at a Time, Researchers Find

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Jan 12, 2021

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Image Credit: Boundtree.com

Repeated intravenous (IV) ketamine infusions can reduce severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms rapidly and keep them controlled through multiple weeks, according to new research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

“PTSD is an extremely debilitating condition and we are pleased that our discovery may lead to a treatment option for so many who are in need of relief from their suffering,” Dr. Dennis S. Charney, study co-author and dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, U.S., said in a statement.

Ketamine’s efficacy lies in how quickly it targets neurotransmitters in the central nervous system — more quickly than antidepressants, which can take several weeks or even months to work. However, ketamine is also a drug that produces dissociative and hallucinatory symptoms if utilized in certain amounts and outside medical supervision, making it a well-known party drug and addictive substance.

In this study, participants were randomly assigned to receive either six infusions of ketamine administered thrice a week over a fortnight, or a psychoactive placebo. Participants in the study had lived with chronic PTSD due to a variety of trauma causes and had experienced symptoms for on average 14 years.

According to the study’s results, around the majority of participants taking ketamine experienced a 30% or more reduction in symptoms from the second week of infusions. Participants showed marked improvements across several PTSD symptom clusters including reliving the trauma (as through flashbacks or nightmares), avoidance of traumatic triggers, and negative changes in mood and cognition. Participants were also able to maintain this improvement for the month following their first check-up. The study also found that repeated ketamine infusions were safe and well-tolerated by the study participants.


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Apart from PTSD symptoms, ketamine also helped reduce symptoms of depression, a known comorbidity among individuals who live with PTSD. Previous research has confirmed that ketamine-based drugs were very effective in treating depressive symptoms as well.

“Future studies may include administering additional doses over time and examining repeated ketamine infusions combined with trauma-focused psychotherapy, to help us determine how we can maintain this robust response over the long term,” Dr. Adriana Feder, a study co-author and associate professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said in a statement. “We want people suffering [from] PTSD to know that hope is on the horizon and we are working diligently to collect the information that will help bring them the relief they so desperately need.”

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Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is the senior culture writer at The Swaddle.  Write to her using aditi@theswaddle.com, or find her on social media @aditimurti.

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