FOX 32 NEWS - Millions of Americans suffer from depression and for a big percentage, traditional medications don't always work.
But now with the use of a party drug, there is hope.
It’s known as an illicit party drug called ‘Special K.’ It's also used in surgery as an anesthetic. The drug has been around for years. It’s called ketamine. In clinics around the country, people are now finding relief by getting multiple infusions to ease depression.
Rebecca Brown is undergoing her 5th IV infusion in a series of 6. It’s a 45 minute treatment. She’s suffered from depression all her life, but says it got to a point where her medications were no longer working.
Dr. Bal Nandra is with Ketamine Centers of Chicago.
"If a patient is not doing well with medications or having problems with side effects then ketamine can be a good option,” Dr. Nandra said. "Ketamine is said to be up to 80% effective in treating depression that might not otherwise be helped by traditional medications. It's also being used to treat chronic pain and PTSD."
Ketamine works by blocking a certain cell receptor in the brain that is responsible for pain. Unlike standard medications for depression, it is quick acting, often within hours and is said to have mild and brief side effects. The treatments can leave patients feeling in a dream like state, but experts say not to the level of what recreational abusers experience. And doctors believe this type of therapy could have a long term positive impact on the brain.
"The stress of depression tends to cause that receptor to react differently,” Dr. Nandra said. “What ketamine does...it actually can cause new connection to form in the brain as well as help the brain to become healthier."
A recent study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that half the patients given infusions of ketamine say they experienced relief from suicidal thoughts.
Rebecca is scheduled for one more infusion and then hopes to be able to cut it down to a once a month maintenance appointment.
"The future looks bright definitely,” she said.
The FDA has not approved ketamine to treat depression. So at this point, it's being used as what's known as "off label."
Insurance does not cover the procedure, which can cost more than $500 a treatment.
For more information visit KetamineCenterofChicago.com or call 1-844-648-6337.