Exactly how Ketamine treats Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and other mental health disorders are still being researched. The current understanding is that Ketamine binds to receptors in the brain that increases the amount of a neurotransmitter, glutamate, is released. This will then set off a chain of reactions within the brain that affects thinking and emotional regulation.
To put this in simpler terms, the brain reacts to Ketamine in a way that triggers hormones that help create more positive emotions. This can occur within minutes after a person receives their infusion, but some people may need several treatments before they experience the highest level of benefits.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD, is a debilitating disorder that can negatively affect a person’s life in many ways. Ketamine, an anesthetic drug used daily in operating rooms and emergency departments across the globe, is proving to be an effective, low-risk treatment for many mood disorders, including OCD.
Obsessive compulsive disorder can take over a person’s life. The overwhelming need to avoid germs can impede a mother’s ability to change her newborn’s diapers. An obsession with cleanliness can make a person’s hands go raw from scrubbing too hard. Reliance on ritual can keep someone from getting out the door to arrive at work on time. OCD is a truly debilitating disease, and traditional treatments like taking SSRIs and engaging in cognitive behavior therapy only help in about 50% of the cases. There is a great need for new treatment in this area, and ketamine is showing great potential.
Although OCD symptoms generally fall into one of these five subtypes, it is possible to experience a change in the nature and focus of your symptoms over time.
- Contamination Obsessions with Washing/Cleaning: Those suffering from this symptom subtype will usually focus on feelings of discomfort associated with germs/contamination, and will wash and clean excessively.
- Harm Obsessions with Checking Compulsions: Those experiencing this symptom subtype will often have intense thoughts regarding possible harm, either to themselves or others, and will use checking rituals to relieve their distress.
- Obsessions Without Visible Compulsions: Those experiencing this symptom subtype will often have unwanted obsessions regarding sexual, religious, or aggressive themes. Triggers related to these obsessions are usually avoided at all costs.
- Symmetry Obsessions with Ordering, Arranging, and Counting Compulsions: Those suffering from this symptom subtype may feel a strong need to rearrange objects constantly. It can also involve thinking or saying sentences or words over and over again until one feels it has been accomplished perfectly.
- Hoarding: This symptom subtype involves the collection of items of little or no value until one’s living space is consumed with so much clutter it becomes difficult to live in. This is often accompanied by obsessive fears of losing items that one feels may be needed one day.
SSRIs, serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are a class of drugs typically used for treating depression, mood disorders, and other chemical imbalances. They work on upping the serotonin levels in the brain. Ketamine, on the other hand, affects the neurotransmitter called glutamate. Abnormalities in this area have been linked to OCD, though scientists have not yet discovered the exact connections. Regardless, SSRIs, focusing on serotonin levels, have had mixed results with treating OCD, yet ketamine, which affects glutamate, is showing positive results.