Every year, 18.1% of the American population is affected by an anxiety disorder. And of course, it isn’t a secret cannabis can be a treatment option for many of them. But some recent discoveries have determined ketamine may be another effective solution. In fact, ketamine appears to work in treating a number of other disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder, and phobias. Looking into patients with certain anxiety disorders, a team of scientists found that ketamine could alter theta brainwaves. Also it effected patients who had dealt with treatment-resistant disorders. Could this ability make it the next best therapeutic to treat these disorders?
The Study: Ketamine for Patients with Anxiety
Only focusing on generalized anxiety and/or social anxiety disorders, this study observed observed twelve patients. They gave three ascending ketamine dose levels every week, while monitoring their brain activity using an EEG. Changes in brainwaves were among the first things noticeable. In the front right part of the brain, scientists noted a decrease in medium-low frequency (“theta”) power. Theta brainwaves are responsible for the relaxed state of mind that one might feel after spending a long time driving on the freeway or running long-distance. This restful mental state can lead to coming up with ideas or creative thinking.
The patients receiving ketamine then took a fear questionnaire to determine their levels of anxiety. And because of these treatments, they saw changes in the degree to which they experienced anxiety. To be precise, 8 of the 12 patients reported changes in their anxiety at the conclusion of the analysis.
From this study, scientists were able to conclude ketamine may be an option for those resistant to other anti-anxiety treatments. And they were able to understand that changes in these theta waves could prove crucial for understanding all anti-anxiety treatments.
No Ketamine Prescriptions Anytime Soon
That said, don’t expect to pick up ketamine from the pharmacy any time soon. This study serves as only one of the first to look into the effects of ketamine as a drug for anti-anxiety. And though ketamine has been used to treat depression and PTSD, this study only looked into generalized anxiety and social anxiety disorders. Its small number of patients studied make it one of the preliminary studies of its kind. In order to ensure its effectiveness in treating other “neurotic” disorders like PTSD, OCD, or phobias, ketamine must be tested in a similar study on patients with these disorders.
Though these results of this study look promising, some things still remain unclear. Most importantly, though there was a change in those theta waves, it is unknown how ketamine creates those changes. In addition, ketamine can change these anxiety disorders for a short while, up to 7-days after treatment. Still, it requires more research on the long-term consequences on the patient.
Finally, this drug is not an easy one to give to patients. Pair that with some of the bad press ketamine has already suffered in the last few years, and it likely won’t make the market anytime soon. Though it seems to have great potential, more studies must be carried out before it can be of any help to treatment-resistant anxiety disorders. Only after more testing will we understand its scope in treating many types of disorders.
Ketamine: The Next Medical Breakthrough?
The power of ketamine becomes clear not only in this study, but in others from some of the same scientists. In a similar study looking at patients with anxiety disorders given ketamine, some patients reported success and some did not. Some claimed the ketamine caused side effects. For instance, one said the drug caused the patient to feel out of control. Others claimed it was an intense feeling. And like many drugs, the drug produced transient nausea in some people. Still others only felt a short-term reduction in their anxiety, without side effects.
Even with these side effects, the therapeutic possibility in ketamine makes it a new treatment possibility for those with anxiety disorders. Compared against what Big Pharma can currently offer these same patients, ketamine has few competitors. Strong-willed scientists working in small centers may well discover the research necessary to put ketamine on the market as the next best solution in treating anxiety disorders.