Although PTSD is usually associated with military veterans who were subjected to extreme trauma and frightening life-and-death situations, anyone can develop PTSD, including children. The National Center for PTSD estimates that seven out of 100 people in the US will suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives.
You may develop PTSD after experiencing a life-threatening event, abuse, or profound loss. Traumatic events like these can disrupt the normal function of a hormonal system called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The altered HPA axis keeps your body in a hypervigilant, alarmed state, leading to symptoms such as:
- Terrifying thoughts
- Angry outbursts
- Being easily frightened
- Feeling uneasy and tense
At the Palo Alto Center for Mind Body Health, Dr. M Rameen Ghorieshi recommends the FDA-approved drug ketamine in an off-label use for men and women with PTSD who haven’t responded to other treatments. Dr. Ghorieshi is a licensed physician board-certified in both psychiatry and addiction medicine who is dedicated to helping his patients achieve optimal health and happiness with the most supportive therapies possible.
How ketamine works
Ketamine is an anesthetic and pain-killing drug with a long-standing record of safety. It has been used in the military as a quick, effective painkiller in the field since the 1960s.
Recently, doctors have been using ketamine to alleviate symptoms from a variety of conditions, including depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. Ketamine blocks pain receptors in your brain and calms the HPA axis. Ketamine may also create healthy new synapses (connections between nerves) in your brain.
When given at high doses, ketamine can put you to sleep, just like any type of anesthesia. For PTSD, ketamine is given at extremely low, sub-anesthetic doses to avoid complications such as excessive sleepiness and hallucinations.
What happens when you get ketamine
If Dr. Ghorieshi thinks your PTSD symptoms will respond to ketamine, you come to the Palo Alto Center for Mind Body Health to receive your treatment in a quiet, private suite.
While you relax in the treatment chair, Dr. Ghorieshi slowly administers a low-dose, intravenous infusion of ketamine over the course of about 40 minutes. The medical staff continuously monitors the progress of your treatment, as well as your vital signs, to be sure you are safe.
Men and women who receive ketamine for PTSD say that the treatment is relaxing. You can bring your favorite music and earbuds or reading material to augment the calm feeling you get during your treatment.
You are conscious during ketamine treatment, but your body and brain are highly relaxed. Because ketamine affects your brain, you may have slight alterations in your perceptions or feelings.
Afterward, you may feel a little drowsy. You should not drive or operate equipment for the rest of the day. You must have a friend or family member drive you home.
How symptoms improve with ketamine
When given at low, supervised doses, even the first in your series of ketamine treatments can immediately alleviate your PTSD symptoms. Some symptoms that improve within minutes to hours include:
- Intrusive thoughts
Dr. Ghorieshi recommends a series of six total treatments over the course of two to three weeks. If you do not respond to ketamine, he works with you and any other medical providers on your team to find an effective alternative therapy.
Is ketamine right for you?
As long as you are healthy and have been clinically diagnosed with PTSD, you may benefit from ketamine. Men and women with heart disease, hyperthyroidism, or bladder dysfunction may not be able to take ketamine. If you have underlying health conditions, Dr. Ghorieshi recommends that you go to your primary care physician for a physical examination to get cleared for ketamine treatment.
If you’ve been struggling to find for relief from PTSD, contact Dr. Ghorieshi at Palo Alto Center for Mind Body Health. In addition to helping you with ketamine, Dr. Ghorieshi and our team at Palo Alto emphasize whole-body and whole-mind healing that goes beyond symptom relief to improve your overall quality of life. You can phone our office or use the online form to book a consultation.