Ketamine therapy: a promising option for treating depression and pain

Whether it’s emotional or physical, chronic pain can haunt us all our lives. It’s not easy to live with, so if you suffer from constant physical pain or depression, chances are, you’ve tried “everything” to no avail. But don’t give up yet.

While the Colorado Ketamine Clinic, 201 West Park Dr., is relatively new to the Grand Valley, ketamine therapy has been around for a long time. Often used in anesthetic practice, recent evidence suggests ketamine can also be beneficial in treating clinical depression and chronic pain conditions such as trigeminal neuralgia, complex regional pain syndrome, postherpetic neuralgia (shingles pain) and some headaches.

Ketamine for depression

Studies show that a series of low doses of ketamine infused over one to two hours has dramatic effects on PTSD, anxiety and depression, including patients suffering from suicidal ideation. Even one infusion of ketamine has the potential to eliminate suicidal ideation for at least a week.

“When we talk about depression, we’re really looking specifically at patients who have had treatment-resistant depression,” said Ashish Chavda, MD, of the Colorado Ketamine Clinic and Colorado Injury & Pain Specialists.

Though the process is not fully understood, ketamine is thought to act by blocking the NMDA receptor and interacts with an amino acid called glutamine, which causes chemical changes that differ from those of antidepressants. When a patient has not responded to inpatient therapy, medicine or other forms of treatment, ketamine infusions should be considered the next step.

Treatment in comfort

Ketamine infusions are given intravenously under the supervision of a nurse and anesthesiologist in a comfortable surgical-center setting. After a thorough evaluation by a physician and the nursing staff, patients are hooked up to an IV and monitors—all from the comfort of a recliner.

“Bring a book, relax and close your eyes, bring music, bring a blanket or bring a friend to have them drive home,” Chavda said. “We turn the lights down, the pump starts and we check on you in regulated intervals. Since it’s a dissociative of anesthetic, it can cause you to have hallucinations, auditory or visual, but it would be extremely rare at the dosings we use. If we see that, again, that’s what we’re here for.”

The length of infusion can be longer for those with chronic pain or suicide ideation, but individualized plans are specifically tailored for each patient.

What does it cost?

The price depends on the type of infusion, but a solitary infusion can cost around $500. At this time, ketamine infusions aren’t covered by most insurance plans, so it’s often an out-of-pocket expense for the patient.

While ketamine doesn’t solve the problem of why Mesa County has such a high suicide rate, Chavda believes that ketamine therapy can improve the lives of those with severe depression or suicidal ideation.

“We still have to work as a community to figure out why our suicide rate is so high and what other services we need to offer,” he said, “but I think that from a treatment standpoint, I think [ketamine infusion therapy] is a great option.”

For more information on the Colorado Ketamine Clinic, call 632-4001 or visit

Cloie Sandlin

Cloie Sandlin

Cloie Sandlin is the editor of the BEACON Senior News. She has been with Pendant Publishing since 2009.
Cloie Sandlin

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