Ketamine Therapy For PTSD: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

FEATURED
August 21, 2022

Nue Life

Nue Life
13 MIN READ

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that can affect anyone at any stage of life, young or old. As the name implies, trauma is at the heart of this debilitating disorder. 

Roughly 6 out of every 100 people in the United States will experience post-traumatic stress at some point in their lives — that’s about 6 percent of the population. 

Currently, treatment methods for this disorder center around a combination of cognitive therapies, psychotherapy, and medication. However, another potential treatment is breaching the horizon – ketamine therapy.

Found to be an effective treatment for mental health conditions like depression and anxiety disorder, the efficacy of ketamine therapy for ptsd and  managing the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder is also gaining traction. Here, we explore the ins and outs of this promising therapy. 

What Is PTSD?

To understand how ketamine treatment for PTSD can help those suffering from the disorder we must understand what PTSD is. Post-traumatic stress disorder, or simply PTSD, is a psychiatric disorder that occurs in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Generally, PTSD is assessed using a clinically-administered scale.

Nearly everyone will experience some sort of tragic or traumatic event in their lifetime. Feelings of fear are a biological reality and a natural reaction to traumatic situations. 

In fact, it is normal to feel on edge, to have issues sleeping, or to have upsetting memories after a traumatic event. So what makes PTSD unique?

In the case of PTSD, the feelings and fear associated with the trauma event don’t go away. Many people fully recover from experiencing trauma, and the symptoms associated with the “fight or flight” mechanism resolve naturally. 

For those with PTSD, there is a recurrence of these feelings even when the danger is long gone. One example of this is the post-war stress experiences among combat veterans. 

In the early decades of the 20th century, many combat veterans of the two world wars were diagnosed with “shell shock” and “combat fatigue.” They experienced flashbacks and the stress of war long after the war was over. Today, we know that they were experiencing the effects of PTSD.

However PTSD is not unique to combat veterans and first responders. Anyone can experience or develop PTSD regardless of age or gender. However, some risk factors can make a person more likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic situation or event. These pre-trauma risk factors include:

  • Cognitive vulnerabilities (e.g., low IQ or previous head injury).
  • Personal history of other mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety.
  • A family history of mental health issues like depression or anxiety.
  • History of substance abuse (e.g., excessive drinking or drug use).
  • A lack of social support system (family and friends).

Also, women are at a higher risk for developing PTSD than men. Women are more than twice as likely to experience PTSD than men — 10% of women compared to 4% of men. 

Sadly, one reason for this is that women are at an increased risk for sexual assault, which is a common cause of PTSD. 

Symptoms of PTSD

The symptoms of PTSD can vary from person to person. Also, the onset of symptoms does not have a definitive timeline. While it is common to experience PTSD symptoms weeks or months after a traumatic event, it is not uncommon for symptoms to appear years later. 

PTSD symptoms are marked by intense and often disturbing feelings and thoughts related to the trauma event long after the event is over. It is essentially re-experiencing the event. Feelings of fear, sadness, and anger are common, as are recurring flashbacks or nightmares.

PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four categories: Intrusion, avoidance, alterations in thinking and mood, and alterations in arousal and reactivity. 

  • Intrusion: Intrusive thoughts can include unpleasant and distressing dreams, repetitive traumatic memories, and flashbacks of the traumatic event. They’re often extremely vivid in nature.
  • Avoidance: Avoiding reminders of the event is common. This can include avoidance of places, activities, situations, people, or anything that could trigger distressing memories.
  • Alterations in thinking and mood: This can include an inability to remember key aspects of the event, ongoing negative thoughts and feelings (fear, shame, anger, hopelessness), and distorted beliefs about oneself or others (like harboring distrust).
  • Alterations in arousal and reactivity: This can include angry outbursts, irritability, reckless and self-destructive behavior, or being easily startled. Also, issues with concentration or sleep are common.

The symptoms of PTSD can cause significant issues in a person’s social or work situation and relationships. These symptoms can also interfere with the normal tasks of daily life, making even mundane tasks feel overwhelming. 

PTSD symptoms can overlap with other stress and trauma-related disorders, such as acute stress disorder. In fact, roughly half of the people with acute stress disorder go on to develop PTSD.

What Causes PTSD?

Although it is most notably associated with the effects of war and combat exposure, PTSD can occur from any stressful and traumatic event. However, the exact cause of the disorder is likely a combination of many things. 

In addition to traumatic events, there can also be genetic and biological factors (like hormones and chemicals) at play. With that in mind, some common traumatic events that can lead to PTSD include, but are not limited to:

  • Experiencing a natural disaster (hurricane, tornado, or wildfires).
  • Witnessing or experiencing a serious accident (like a car accident).
  • Experiencing threats of violence, physical assaults, or abuse.
  • Experiencing sexual violence 
  • Experiencing the death of a close loved one or friend.

At the end of the day, there is no limit or parameters to what constitutes a traumatic event for a given person. Trauma affects everyone in different ways.

How Does PTSD Affect Wellbeing?

What we tell ourselves is important. In fact, our mental and physical well-being is directly tied to our emotional state. While well-being is certainly subjective, it does involve positive emotions and moods, such as happiness, joy, and contentment.

A large part of well-being and health care is having the ability to manage stress. However, PTSD is not so easily tamed. This disorder, along with other mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, can greatly affect well-being as it disrupts the ability to cope with stress — and life.

Furthermore, when our mental and emotional well-being is compromised, the consequences can reach out into other areas of our life, including our close relationships, jobs, and more. 

Disrupts Relationships

One of the fallouts of living with PTSD is a disruption in close relationships. These can be relationships between spouses, children, close family members, and close friends. In short, PTSD can make it difficult to handle emotions and relate to other people healthily. 

It is not uncommon for PTSD patients to feel numb to and detached from close family and friends. Furthermore, angry outbursts and irritability can drive a wedge in close relationships.

PTSD can develop into a vicious cycle of acting negatively toward others which in turn causes them to react negatively in kind. Sadly, fractured relationships, separation, and divorce are common.

Causes Emotional Stress

PTSD can also elevate emotional stress. While stress is a normal reaction to the events and pressures of everyday life, living in the ebb and flow of anger, sadness, worry, and fear is not. 

Many people who live with PTSD are always on guard. This constant state of worry or hyperalertness can contribute to serious physiological issues that manifest with the physical symptoms of emotional stress.

Furthermore, constant emotional stress can pave the way to negative coping behaviors, including alcohol abuse and substance misuse.

Contributes to Poor Work Performance

Trauma can shake up all aspects of our lives, including work. Can you still work with PTSD? Yes. Can it be difficult at times? Absolutely. 

In fact, for some, PTSD makes retaining a job rather difficult. 

One of the difficult things about living with PTSD is its unpredictability. Many can continue to work and function within their work setting, but the anxiety that comes with PTSD and the fear of triggers can make work performance slip.

Sadly, many with PTSD will have difficulty holding down a steady job without treatment. Thankfully, there are protective employment laws in place that require reasonable accommodations to be made for those with mental health conditions, including PTSD.

Affects Sleep Schedule

Disruption in sleep and sleep patterns is very common among those with PTSD. Sleep disturbances are among the earliest signs of PTSD. These include insomnia and nightmares.

Sleep issues that are associated with PTSD can interfere with important cognitive functions. For example, sleep is essential to the brain’s ability to process emotions and store memories.

Also, sleep studies have shown that those with PTSD have faster heart rates while sleeping due to a hypervigilant state. This can lead to fragmented REM sleep and less restorative slow-wave sleep.

Promotes Dissociative Tendencies

Dissociation is also common in PTSD. Dissociative tendencies can involve disruptions in perceptions, memory, and identity. Many believe this occurs to protect the fragile psyche, in this case, after a traumatic event.

In short, dissociation is a mental process that is essentially a disconnection from one’s own thoughts and feelings. This is often the reason for the “detachment” associated with PTSD. 

Other dissociative tendencies can include identity confusion, problems with concentration, compulsions, distorted reality (derealisation), and more. 

It is important to note that trauma-induced dissociation differs from dissociation during certain treatments and therapies.

What Is Ketamine?

Medically, ketamine infusions are routinely utilized as an anesthetic drug during operations. While it does have dissociative and hallucinogenic properties, it is not classified in the same way as psychedelics. 

Ketamine is classified as a Schedule III drug, meaning it has a low risk for physical and psychological dependence. Furthermore, it maintains a legal status for medical and therapeutic use for mood and major depressive disorders.

While psychedelics work by overriding and overpowering the brain’s neurotransmitters and thought centers, ketamine simply relaxes these areas. It is classified as an N-methyl-D-aspartate type glutamate (NMDA) receptor antagonist.

Currently, ketamine is used as an effective treatment option for chronic pain, treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental disorders. Ketamine’s efficacy as a therapeutic alternative to antidepressants (SSRIs) is well-cited.

How Does Ketamine Therapy for PTSD Help?

Treatment of PTSD has typically involved a combination of cognitive therapy, psychotherapy, and medication. However, ketamine therapy is also breaking through as a treatment option for PTSD.

Clinically, ketamine is a potent NMDA receptor blocker. This is thought to be the reason behind its efficacy in treating conditions like depression. Activation of this receptor is associated with an increase in intrusive memories. 

Therefore, the hypothesis is that high NMDA activity is a culprit behind developing mental conditions like depression and even PTSD. 

One of the first randomized controlled trials that looked at ketamine as a treatment for PTSD found promising results. In fact, ketamine infusion was associated with a significant and rapid reduction in the severity of PTSD symptoms compared to midazolam (a CNS depressant).

One study found similar results when they looked at the efficacy of a single dose of ketamine infusions compared to midazolam for treating PTSD.

Supports Brain Healing

Ketamine affects the glutamate system, which is used in the brain for neuronal communication. 

Ketamine also helps activate the AMPA receptors responsible for fast excitatory synaptic transmissions. 

These also induced brain-derived neurotrophic factors. These play an important role in neuronal survival, healing, growth, and plasticity. 

Promotes Mental Health 

Ketamine helps promote mental health as a therapeutic. Mental health involves our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. In short, it affects how we think, feel, and act. 

Conditions like PTSD, depression, and substance use disorder disrupt normal mental health behavior, adversely affecting cognition and mood. 

Ketamine therapy has been shown to reduce these depressive symptoms, effectively improving and promoting mental health. 

Provides Quick Results

Aside from being more highly effective than other mood disorder treatments, ketamine is also fast-acting. For example, one placebo-controlled study found that 64% of patients found symptom relief within 24 hours. 

What Are the Side Effects of Using Ketamine?

Like any medication, using ketamine for ptsd can have some side effects, though it is generally safe for most people. 

Mental

Mental side effects of ketamine can include a dream-like state, decreased focus and impairment, and perceptual disturbances (hallucinations). 

As stated above, ketamine can also cause dissociation (out-of-body experiences). However, these differ from the dissociation caused by trauma.

Emotional

Emotional side effects vary from person to person. However, many describe feelings of joy, peace, calmness, and general freedom of emotions during ketamine therapy. 

Physical

In some cases, ketamine potentially causes high blood pressure, nausea, and vomiting. However, physical symptoms also vary from person to person, depending on their level of health.

Who Is a Good Candidate for Ketamine Therapy for PTSD?

Those With Stable Blood Pressure

Since ketamine does have the potential to cause acute high blood pressure, those with elevated or chronically high blood pressure should avoid ketamine treatment until it is stabilized or under control.

Those Who Have Exhausted Other Treatment Options

Many with PTSD and mental health conditions like depression have simply exhausted their options and have found no relief, but ketamine therapy from Nue Life may be able to help. 

In fact, ketamine therapy is a great alternative for those with treatment-resistant depression and mental disorders. Sadly, nearly 30% of people with depression see no improvements with traditional antidepressant interventions.

Those Looking for Healing

Simply put, if you’re looking for an alternative treatment method to help you get to the bottom of your PTSD, Nue Life programs may help you access the healing you’re looking for. 

You can get started by scheduling a free evaluation with us today. From there, we’ll follow up with you and answer any questions you have about our programs and ketamine treatment for PTSD.

The Bottom Line

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a debilitating mental health condition caused by traumatic events and marked by associated feelings that often reoccur. 

While treatments for PTSD have typically centered around cognitive therapy and antidepressants, ketamine treatment for ptsd  is quickly becoming another effective option. 

If you have chronic PTSD and are ready to make changes concerning your mental health, consider Nue Life for ketamine treatment today.

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:

How Common is PTSD in Adults? | Veteran Affairs | National Center for PTSD

Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5 (CAPS-5) | U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs

Sympathetic activity and hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis activity during sleep in post-traumatic stress disorder: a study assessing polysomnography with simultaneous blood sampling | NIH

Study Shows How Ketamine Reverses Depression—and How its Benefits Could Be Extended | Newsroom | Weill Cornell Medicine

Efficacy of intravenous ketamine for treatment of chronic posttraumatic stress disorder: a randomized clinical trial | NIH

Ketamine for PTSD: Well, Isn’t That Special | American Journal of Psychiatry

Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor: A Key Molecule for Memory in the Healthy and the Pathological Brain | PMC

Antidepressant Efficacy of Ketamine in Treatment-Resistant Major Depression: A Two-Site Randomized Controlled Trial | NIH

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