What is PTSD?
PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is best known for affecting veterans and first responders, but millions of others who have experienced or witnessed traumatic events may also suffer from PTSD. It affects 3.6% of the population in the U.S. PTSD that goes untreated can lead to intrusive recurring memories, avoidance, hopelessness, and detachment from family and friends. PTSD may also accompany severe depression and anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts and actions. What you are feeling is not simply the short-lived result of one of life's disappointments. Currently, the FDA has approved treatment for PTSD with some SSRIs. Patients are also treated for PTSD with "off-label" use of other medications such as benzodiazepines, mood stabilizers, and atypical antipsychotics. These medications usually do not provide lasting relief and can become addictive. Therefore, patients with PTSD often self medicate which may lead to alcoholism and drug addiction.
How does Ketamine treat PTSD?
Ketamine blocks the N-Methyl-D-Aspartate (NMDA) receptor in the brain, allowing it to modulate the production of the neurotransmitter Glutamate. Glutamate plays a prominent role in the ability for strengthening or weakening of signaling between neurons over time to shape learning and memory. The hypothesis is that high activity of the NMDA receptor may be a risk factor for developing PTSD. Since Ketamine is the most potent clinically available NMDA receptor blocker, researchers began using it to help patients with PTSD. Ketamine may provide deep healing in multiple ways to a patient with PTSD, including its dissociative properties.
One of the physical issues in PTSD is a change in the structure of the brain. The Amygdala in the brain, which is the emotion and fear processing center, becomes larger and overactive. Also, the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for higher brain functioning, atrophies. This happens because the brain is always trying to grow the areas it's using the most and shrink away the areas it's using the least. When a person is exposed to a highly stressful situation for an extended period of time, or even to a singular, very traumatic event, the brain changes in an attempt to adapt to the stimulus it has received. Ketamine can help to correct these negative changes, partly because it increases a protein in the brain known as brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).