Although ketamine is most commonly associated with its anaesthetic properties and as a recreational drug, studies have found it to be highly effective for treating many psychiatric issues such as depression, PTSD, anxiety, and burnout syndrome.
There is a lot of interest into what ketamine has to offer in terms of improving the quality of life in people with various psychological disorders. Psychiatrists, anaesthesiologists and other physicians are now considering this form of treatment due to the speed in which symptomatic improvements take place, and the longevity of its effect – especially when compared to other more traditional treatments.
Ketamine for Depression infusion therapy has been found to significantly reduce the symptoms of burnout. High achievers working in high-pressure professions such as medicine and investment banking most often experience this condition. Burnout typically happens without warning, usually after the high achiever has been taking on heavy workloads and putting in long hours while planning enormous pressure on themselves to exceed in their profession. As these people are passionate about their professions, they tend to ignore any warning signs – leading to eventual burnout.
What is Burnout?
Dr. Herbert Freundenberger coined the term ‘burnout’ in the 1970s, and it is now officially recognized psychiatric condition with its own range of specific symptoms—many of which are similar to those associated with depression, anxiety disorders, and PTSD. The condition is now so widely recognized that burnout has its own classification in the latest International Classification of Disease handbook.
Burnout typically occurs after experiencing extended exposure to stress, often leading to:
- Emotional and physical exhaustion
- Detachment and cynicism
- Feelings of non-accomplishment and ineffectiveness
In addition to these symptoms, burnout also shares many of the symptomatic attributes of depressive and anxiety-related disorders and PTSD combined. These can include, but are not limited to: feelings of hopelessness, anxiety and apathy, decreased energy, reduced ability to concentrate, increased irritability, and disturbed sleep.
Current Treatments for Burnout
The more commonly prescribed treatments for conditions such as depression; anxiety and burnout typically focus on reducing the symptoms, rather than discovering the triggering factors that induce the condition. Traditional medications such as antidepressants are often prescribed to ‘correct’ an imbalance of neurotransmitters. However, studies have shown that in addition to the slow acting time of antidepressants, few patients benefit from such medications over the long term. Because of this, scientists have been exploring new ways of studying the brain to discover the causes of illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and burnout in order to develop more efficient treatments.
Recent technological advances in the form of Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) have allowed scientists to gain an improved ‘inside look’ of the brain and it’s incredibly complex network of connections. This has allowed them to compare the brains of depressed patients against those that are healthy. The findings were remarkable – it was discovered that a depressed brain loses many of its connectors, and that many of the neural pathways in the brain become reorganized which is believed to be a major contributing factor of depressive illnesses.
During an extensive series of studies, small, controlled doses of intravenously administered ketamine were found to restore and regenerate these previously lost or disorganized connections in the brain. This restoration process was also found to take place rapidly, with many symptoms of depression relieved within only hours. Such findings have led to many physicians considering prescribing ketamine to depressed patients who have not responded well or at all to more traditional methods such as psychotherapy and antidepressants.
Ketamine for Preventing and Treating Depression
Not only are physicians considering prescribing ketamine infusions for treating and relieving symptoms of depression, but also as a preventative measure for those likely to develop such conditions. As studies have shown that ketamine reorganizes and regenerates lost and disorganized connections in the brain — quickly leading to rapid relief from depressive symptoms — it will also work well in preventing such symptoms from occurring in the first place.
Although ketamine is not currently FDA-approved for this use, some physicians are implementing this treatment method with significant success in treating patients with severe burnout symptoms.
These patients initially come in with complaints of symptoms that would otherwise point to depression or anxiety. After listening closely to their statements, it soon becomes apparent that the cause of their symptoms is job-related stress, leading to burnout syndrome. Many patients are unable to function optimally both at work and at home due to burnout, which inevitably affects them professionally and personally. Therefore, it is not only the patients who are being affected, but their families too.
When administered at the correct dose, a ketamine infusion serves as an incredibly effective therapy, often completely reversing the symptoms of burnout. A significantly noticeable improvement in mood and levels of anxiety is achieved after only several ketamine infusions. Many patients state an improved ability to concentrate and focus while noting increased effectiveness both professionally and at home. Ketamine treatments have been found to not only treat burnout syndrome, but also to prevent it from happening to begin with.
How Does Ketamine Treat Burnout?
Patients with the symptoms of burnout are often prescribed antidepressants or other anxiety medications, which typically take several weeks for their effects to be felt. Furthermore, only around 38% of patients experience any real benefit from this type of treatment. While these medications need to build up in your system over time to take effect, ketamine works differently. Traditional antidepressants work on the symptoms of depression and burnout while they’re actively within the body, whereas ketamine takes effect on these symptoms as it leaves your body while being naturally broken down.
As opposed to several weeks or months with antidepressants, ketamine takes just hours to take effect. With an effectiveness rate of 75%, ketamine is also twice as effective as traditional treatments or medications. Although researchers aren’t yet certain how ketamine works to ease the symptoms of burnout and depression, the findings strongly suggest that its ability to aid the regrowth of brain connections associated with mood play a significant role.
This profound effect works considerably quicker and more effectively than traditional antidepressants. In fact, intravenously administered doses of ketamine are currently considered to be one of the most important breakthroughs in the treatment of depressive illnesses in several decades.
It would not be surprising that if in the near future, doctors are routinely using ketamine treatments to not only help patients with severe forms of depression or burnout syndrome, but also to treat related conditions such as substance and alcohol abuse.
The science behind the use of ketamine is extremely promising, but its use should not be considered lightly. Careful assessment and monitoring should always take place whenever ketamine is used to treat and prevent psychiatric illnesses. However, as recent findings have generated much excitement within the scientific community, more information is expected very soon.