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Moore’s Ketamine Infusion Clinic offers alternative for those with treatment-resistant depression

Photo courtesy of Dr. Rachel Dalthorp
Dr. Rachel Dalthorp M.D., MHSA of The Ketamine Infusion Clinic of Moore.
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NORMAN, Okla.- Major depressive disorder is defined as a mental disorder characterized by two weeks or more of a persistent “low mood”, where the sufferer experiences low self-esteem, lack of interest in daily activities, lethargy, and physical pain. 

According to the World Health Organization, around 350 million people suffer from this mental illness worldwide or five percent of the entire population.  Of that, 16 million, or 6.9 percent, are afflicted in the United States.

The toll that depression takes on those who live with it is drastic.  Depression negatively affects every aspect of the lives it touches, and it can cling to someone for years, decades, and even a lifetime if not given the attention it deserves.  Sixty percent of those who commit suicide experience depression or other mood disorders.

Treatment is available to those suffering from major depressive disorder, but remission rates following standard treatment are common, standing at only 50 percent, with 45 percent not responding at all.

This means that millions of Americans suffering from depression have no way to alleviate their suffering by using what is currently offered by mainstream medicine.  But there is growing evidence that an effective treatment can be found in what many consider to be an unlikely place: ketamine.

Ketamine has been around since 1962 when it was first discovered.  Unlike other psychedelics, it is not a Schedule 1 controlled substance; It’s even FDA-approved.  Popularly known as a psychedelic party drug, it was first used as a general anesthetic, but a growing body of evidence shows that it can treat depression where other treatments fail.  Ketamine clinics are beginning to pop up around the country, including Oklahoma.

The Ketamine Infusion Clinic, located in Moore, provides ketamine infusion to treat depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders that have been otherwise treatment-resistant.  Founded by Dr. Rachel Dalthorp in late 2015, who is currently the only psychiatrist in Oklahoma providing such treatment, the clinic offers IV infusions in a controlled environment with nursing staff on-hand to administer the IV and monitor the patient.

The Ketamine Infusion Clinic in Moore. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Rachel Dalthorp)

“My primary practice is called Balance Women’s Health and my area of interest is reproductive psychiatry, and how hormones affect mood. So PMS, PMTD, post-partum depression.  I opened a separate clinic within my clinic so as not to exclude men from ketamine treatment,” Dalthorp explained. 

Dalthorp became personally interested in ketamine infusion therapy in 2015 after her experience with a patient with a severe form of treatment-resistant depression.  The patient had tried everything, including electroconvulsive therapy, but nothing seemed to work.  Both she and the patient agreed that ketamine should be given a chance, so her patient traveled to Dallas for treatment.  After reading all the clinical trials and poring over data, Dalthorp administered her first IM injection in the office.  She expanded to IV infusion soon after. 

“It’s frustrating to watch a patient go through medication after medication and suffer the side effects just to find a medication that works for them.”

How do her patients hear about the clinic?  “From the beginning, it was my patients I had already been treating who were struggling and looking for other ways to get their depression under control.  A lot of the patients I provide infusions for now are patients that I also see in my primary practice.  Patients that are referred to me or find our website are generally people who have been struggling for years to find an effective treatment.”

Dr. Dalthorp believes ketamine infusion to be a truly revolutionary treatment based on the evidence of its effectiveness.  “In 93 percent of patients it will resolve suicidal ideation in 24 hours”, something almost unheard of in any other standard antidepressant.  Mainstream medications such as Zoloft, Prozac, and Celexa take weeks for improvements to be felt.  Ketamine patients can feel improvements in a matter of hours.

Ketamine also does not have the potential for adverse reactions that many of the standard antidepressants and antipsychotics can cause.  On the subject of adverse reactions, Dr. Dalthrop said that, ““Any antidepressant that increases serotonin, as well as any typical antipsychotic, has a risk of something called akathisia, which is a side-effect described as an internal restlessness.”  Akathisia can heighten impulsivity, aggressiveness, and violence.

Although ketamine is currently not covered by insurance, Dalthorp believes that overall cost savings of such an effective treatment will be incentive enough for insurance companies to take a second look.

Aside from a treatment for depression, ketamine is an effective treatment in other areas.

“Ketamine is being used for addiction issues, it can actually help people who are withdrawing from opiates, and in several of my patients with an alcohol addiction, it can reduce cravings for alcohol. 

It can help relieve the symptoms of other medication, including wind-up, where the patient becomes hypersensitive to pain.  It can help patients prevent escalating their dose of opiates if it is needed for their pain issues.”

Ketamine’s effectiveness with treatment-resistant depression lies in its effect on the brain. The more mainstream SSRI’s used to treat depression differ from ketamine in that they are based on the monoamine neurotransmitter theory of depression, which states that depression arises from a lack of dopamine, serotonin or norepinephrine in between the neurons in the brain.  Every mainstream treatment since Prozac has been based on that theory, but ketamine is completely different.  It works on the MDMA receptor in the brain and downstream another receptor called the antha receptor, works through glutamate.  Ketamine works to repair the effects of stress on the brain.  It helps with neuroplasticity, helping to form new connections in the brain. 

“I really feel like we are fighting against a stigma,” said Dalthorp.

With a reputation as a party drug, animal tranquilizer and anesthetic, Dalthorp has experienced firsthand the stigma that comes with administering a psychedelic for depression treatment.  But her conviction about ketamine’s potential life-saving properties has helped her to overlook the negative response.  She is optimistic about ketamine’s future as a treatment for depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.

“We as a society need to rethink our perception of these chemicals because they can do amazing things.  There are over 90 clinical trials going on right now using ketamine not just for psychiatric illness but also fibromyalgia, chronic pain, chronic regional pain syndrome, OCD, PTSD, post-partum depression.  I think we’re just beginning to understand this different system in the brain, and it will change not just pain management but it will change psychiatry as a whole.”

 

 

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Shane Smith

Shane Smith is an accountant and freelance writer with a bachelor's degree in economics from...

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