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Ketamine Therapy: New Hope for DC Veterans with PTSD

depressed veteran

Written by Dr. Ladan Eshkevari

In this post:

In Washington, DC, veterans with PTSD often find themselves navigating a challenging landscape where traditional treatment options fall short of addressing their complex needs. Against this backdrop, ketamine therapy has emerged as a groundbreaking alternative that acts fast and directly targets the condition’s harrowing symptoms. 

Ketamine for veterans in DC is a promising avenue for PTSD treatment that transforms hopelessness into healing. 

Understanding PTSD in Veterans

depressed veteran

PTSD prevalence varies significantly across different veteran populations and service eras. Generally, the lifetime prevalence of PTSD among U.S. veterans is estimated at 7%, with a higher incidence among female veterans (13%) compared to male veterans (7%). Additionally, veterans who served in recent conflicts are significantly more likely to be diagnosed. For example, up to 18% of veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq experience signs of PTSD or depression.

Symptoms and impact on daily life

PTSD symptoms can severely impact veterans’ daily lives, encompassing a range of psychological and physical manifestations. 

  • Flashbacks
  • Severe anxiety
  • Nightmares
  • Uncontrollable thoughts about the traumatic event
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Hypervigilance
  • Sleep disturbances

The condition can also lead to significant impairment in social, occupational, and other vital areas of functioning, affecting relationships, employment, and overall quality of life.

Challenges in treating PTSD with conventional methods

person with depression

Traditional approaches to treating PTSD typically involve talk therapy, medication, or both. Some veterans find relief from these interventions. However, symptoms like intrusive memories, severe anxiety, nightmares, and emotional numbness often persist.

Treatment resistance occurs due to various factors, including:

  • The complexity of the brain’s response to trauma
  • Variations in individual brain chemistry
  • Chronic nature of PTSD in some veterans
  • Presence of co-occurring disorders, such as depression or substance abuse
  • Unique set of traumatic experiences among veterans
  • Duration of untreated symptoms

The stigma around mental health issues and lack of access to care can also hinder the effective healing of PTSD among veterans.

What is Ketamine Therapy, and How Can it Help Veterans with PTSD?

veteran in therapy

Ketamine therapy involves the use of ketamine, a medication initially approved as an anesthetic, in a controlled medical setting to treat various conditions, including PTSD. It operates differently from traditional antidepressants by affecting the brain’s neurotransmitters in a way that can rapidly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, which are common in PTSD.

Ketamine’s effectiveness in treating PTSD and depression largely stems from its unique action on the NMDA receptors in the brain, which significantly affects the neurotransmitter glutamate. Glutamate is crucial in neural activation and regulating memory, learning, and emotions. By modulating these receptors, ketamine activates pathways that help form new neural connections. This process, known as synaptic plasticity, can repair the neural circuits damaged by chronic stress or trauma.

For veterans with PTSD, ketamine therapy can offer help in several key ways:

ketamine therapy for veterans with ptsd infographic
  • Rapid & Enduring Relief: Unlike conventional PTSD treatments that can take weeks or months to show effects, ketamine therapy can provide relief from symptoms like anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts within hours or days. Depending on the follow-up care, ketamine’s effects can last for several weeks or longer.
  • Symptom Improvement: Research shows that ketamine therapy can lead to marked improvements across several PTSD symptom clusters. Notably, patients have experienced reductions in distressing memories and flashbacks. They also engage in fewer avoidance behaviors, like steering clear of reminders of the trauma. Negative shifts in mood, including feelings of blame and estrangement, also happen less.
  • Improved Cognitive Flexibility: The alteration in brain function and chemistry following ketamine treatment can improve cognitive flexibility. This makes it easier for individuals to shift away from intrusive memories and toward more constructive thoughts. This enhanced flexibility can diminish traumatic memories’ grip on an individual’s daily life.
  • Enhanced Therapy Outcomes: Some patients report that ketamine experiences lead to increased introspection and insight into their emotional states and life patterns. These insights can be valuable in therapy, helping veterans address their conditions’ root causes and work towards lasting change.
Ketamine Infusions in Bethesda, MD, McLean, VA and Washington, DC

Studies on Ketamine Therapy for Veterans with PTSD

Several studies highlight the benefits of ketamine therapy for veterans struggling with PTSD and comorbid conditions like depression. 

University of Michigan Study on Ketamine and Severe Depression in Veterans

A study by the University of Michigan and VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System reveals ketamine’s effectiveness for veterans with severe, treatment-resistant depression. Nearly half of the 215 veterans studied experienced a significant drop in depression scores after six weeks. About 15% of participants achieved remission.

Exploring Ketamine’s Effects on PTSD in Veterans and Active Duty Military

A multi-center clinical trial published in the Neuropsychopharmacology Journal tested whether ketamine could reduce PTSD symptoms in veterans and active duty military members. The study evaluated ketamine’s safety, efficacy, and tolerability at varying doses. Results showed that while ketamine didn’t make a big difference in PTSD symptoms, it helped relieve depression significantly for those getting the standard dose.

Ketamine Therapy for Veterans in DC

Avesta ketamine clinic IV infusion

Ketamine for veterans in DC is a growing option thanks to partnerships between Veterans Affairs (VA) and private clinics like Avesta. 

Avesta Ketamine and Wellness, in partnership with the VA, offers free ketamine therapy for veterans with a VA-authorized referral. This partnership aims to provide life-saving treatment for servicemembers grappling with PTSD, suicidality, depression, and chronic pain.

Accessing Ketamine Therapy at Avesta for Veterans in DC

Veterans in DC can access ketamine therapy at Avesta through a simple process facilitated by the VA. Here’s how veterans can get started:

Meet with a VA Provider or Call Avesta: Veterans should first discuss their condition with their VA doctor to determine if ketamine therapy is a suitable option. Alternatively, veterans can schedule a free consultation with Avesta to learn more about the treatment before visiting their doctor.

Request an “Authorized Referral”: Once deemed eligible for ketamine therapy, veterans need to request an “Authorized Referral” from their VA provider. This referral allows veterans to receive IV Ketamine and Spravato treatments at no out-of-pocket cost.

Schedule the Treatment Sessions: After receiving the VA’s authorized referral, Avesta will contact the veteran within two business days to discuss the treatment plan and schedule the first IV ketamine or Spravato session. 

Bottom Line

Ketamine therapy offers research-backed hope for veterans in Washington, DC, grappling with the debilitating effects of PTSD. As traditional treatments often fall short, ketamine therapy delivers rapid relief and potentially enduring benefits. Through partnerships between the VA and private clinics like Avesta, veterans can access this life-changing therapy, paving the way for transformative healing and renewed hope in their journey toward recovery.

Ketamine Infusions in Bethesda, MD, McLean, VA and Washington, DC

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