Ketamine for Anxiety: Does it Work?

FEATURED
May 18, 2022

Nue Life

Nue Life
8 MIN READ
This article was medically reviewed by Lynn Marie Morski, MD, JD

Top points

  • Anxiety affects roughly 18% of the United States population, making it the most common mental condition.
  • If you have difficulty controlling your worries and your anxieties affect your ability to function in everyday life, your relationships, and your job, you might have anxiety.
  • Ketamine treatment is a promising option for people suffering from treatment-resistant anxiety.

Anxiety is the most common mental condition out there, affecting about 40 million Americans every single year. That’s around 18% of the population of the US.  

You might be tempted to read that statistic and feel like anxiety is an overwhelming, untreatable problem.

Instead, know that you are not alone in your struggle and that you can treat this mental condition. Anxiety is not a life sentence, and you can likely achieve the healing you deserve.

Today, we’re going to talk about one of the most effective treatments for anxiety: ketamine. Ketamine treatment produces unique results for those struggling with anxiety, so let’s take a deep dive.

What Is Anxiety?

First, we need to define what anxiety actually is. The most common form of anxiety is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), defined as persistent and excessive worry disproportionate to the actual circumstance.

Anxiety may feel out of your control. It can fill the mind with fear and make your body sweat. It’s a difficult mental condition that makes everyday life challenging.

There are other types of anxiety, too: panic disorder, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), and agoraphobia (fear of leaving the home) are just a few additional examples. Each type of anxiety has slightly different symptoms and is triggered by different situations.

What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety?

Anxiety can lead to a variety of different symptoms, expressing itself differently in every person. One person might have a very emotional expression of anxiety, and another person might have a physical expression, while still another might have both.

Here is a list of some of the common symptoms associated with anxiety disorders:

  • Nervousness or restlessness
  • Feelings of tension or sadness
  • Feelings of impending danger
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of energy
  • Elevated heart rate and breathing rate
  • Panic attacks

This isn’t a comprehensive list, but these are some of the more common expressions of anxiety that people experience.

What Are the Most Common Anxiety Triggers?

There isn’t really a definitive way to point out anxiety triggers. Every person is different, and what causes their anxiety is different too.

For some, an incredibly stressful event like a major condition or a big career move could be the spark that creates anxiety.

Other people might have a slow buildup of stress that eventually culminates in a clinical diagnosis of anxiety.

And some people might have gone through a major trauma that caused them to develop anxiety.

Everybody’s triggers are slightly different. And the path to anxiety relief begins with you trying to resolve those triggers or stressors and come to peace with them.

Is Anxiety Diagnosable?

Anxiety is an absolutely diagnosable condition. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5, in order to be diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, you have to have been experiencing anxiety symptoms more days than not for at least six months.

To be diagnosed, a mental health professional will likely do a blood test to make sure your symptoms are not due to something else. They will then conduct a psychological evaluation.

How Can You Tell if You Have Anxiety?

It might be difficult to tell whether or not you have anxiety. Many people have lived with anxiety their whole lives, making it difficult to recognize.

But generally, if you have difficulty controlling your worry and your anxieties affect your ability to function in everyday life, your relationships, and your job, you might have anxiety.

What Is Ketamine?

Ketamine’s use as a treatment for anxiety is new, but the drug itself actually has a long history.

Ketamine has been used for anesthesia since the 1970s. In a medical context, with the appropriate dosage, it is a mild hallucinogenic drug. It has also been used to help patients manage chronic or acute pain.

But in recent years, scientists have begun to discover ketamine’s positive effects on mental health issues. Specifically, ketamine therapy for depression has been quite effective. Ketamine binds to the NMDA receptor in the brain and increases the production of a neurotransmitter called glutamate, one of the most prominent neurotransmitters in the brain.

The surge of glutamate that ketamine creates increases the brain’s neuroplasticity, supporting your neurons and allowing your brain to create new neural connections, neural pathways, and thought patterns. This can reduce the hold that mental illness has on your brain and make way for new, positive thought patterns, leading to a rapid antidepressant effect.

Is Ketamine Legal?

Ketamine is legal. It has been FDA approved for decades in the use of anesthesia, and a nasal spray containing a type of ketamine called esketamine was recently approved by the FDA for the treatment of treatment-resistant depression.

So, like other prescription medications, ketamine is perfectly legal when administered or prescribed by a licensed healthcare provider. Any use outside of this context is still illegal.

Is Ketamine Safe?

Ketamine is generally considered quite safe.

In the small doses given to treat depression, the main side effects are hallucinogenic and are quite minor. You may experience some blurred vision, dizziness, dissociative effects, or have a spiritual experience. Many report this state to feel quite pleasant.

Ketamine can slightly increase blood pressure, so if you have a history of high blood pressure, talk to your doctor before pursuing this treatment.

Can You Use Ketamine for Anxiety?

As we have been discovering ketamine’s efficacy with major depressive disorder, scientists have also been learning about its anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects. As it turns out, it can also reduce the symptoms of anxiety.

Ketamine works quite similarly for anxiety as it does for depression. Relief is usually felt within 24 hours of the first treatment. One study on cancer patients with anxiety saw symptom relief in as little as one hour.

Who Can Benefit From Ketamine for Anxiety?

The people who stand to benefit the most from ketamine are people with treatment-resistant anxiety. One of the more common treatments for anxiety is antidepressant medications, which have relatively limited action. They typically target serotonin and norepinephrine.

However, ketamine acts on glutamate, an entirely different method of action. So if you have tried other treatment methods with no success, ketamine could help provide the healing you’re searching for.

Does Ketamine Have Calming Effects?

Most people’s experience with ketamine is enjoyable and relaxing. Some people experience a euphoric-like state, but most people simply feel as though they are in a pleasant dream that is relaxed and associated with pleasant feelings.

Precautions and Side Effects

There are some potential side effects of ketamine. Ketamine may create mild dizziness, nausea, and increased blood pressure, but these symptoms only last for a short while. No lasting side effects have been observed from therapeutic use, making ketamine an incredibly safe drug for mental health treatment.

What Is Ketamine Treatment?

Ketamine therapy is used to treat a mental condition or mood disorder. Ketamine can be used to treat anxiety and depression, as well as PTSD, and OCD, with great effects.

How Does Ketamine Treatment Work?

There are many different methods of ketamine treatment. Some common methods are IV ketamine infusions (intravenous ketamine) and nasal spray esketamine. These methods are effective, but a licensed healthcare provider has to administer them, they can be incredibly expensive, and the travel to and from the clinical setting can be time-consuming and inconvenient.

Here at Nue Life, we offer at-home ketamine treatment for anxiety disorders in the form of an oral tablet. The tablet dissolves under your tongue, so you can have your ketamine experience in the comfort of your own home. In addition, our programs offer health coaching and group integration sessions to help you learn how to better manage your anxiety through lifestyle changes and peer support.

Summary

Ketamine has been shown to be a promising treatment for anxiety. With the help of this incredible psychedelic, you could find relief from anxiety symptoms and begin healing. Ketamine works on a different neural pathway than traditional antidepressants and often provides relief within 24 hours. If effective treatment for anxiety has been difficult to find, ketamine might be an option worth investigating.  

Treatment at Nue Life

Nue Life believes in holistic treatment, which means that what happens before and after your ketamine experience is equally as important as the experience itself. We want to ensure you have meaningful takeaways from your experiences and help you establish positive new neural pathways.

That’s why we provide one-on-one health coaching and integration group sessions with each of our programs. We’re here to help map out the mind and body connections in your brain and help you discover the insights that lead to true healing.

Sources

Anxiety disorders | Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic

Facts & Statistics | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA

How New Ketamine Drug Helps with Depression | Yale Medicine

Oral Ketamine in the Treatment of Depression and Anxiety in Patients with Cancer | Mayo Clinic

Table 3.15, DSM-IV to DSM-5 Generalized Anxiety Disorder Comparison – Impact of the DSM-IV to DSM-5 Changes on the National Survey on Drug Use and Health | NCBI Bookshelf

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