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Navigating Virginia’s Mental Health Crisis: How Ketamine Can Help

Thumbnail Image Navigating Virginia’s Mental Health Crisis: How Ketamine Can Help Avesta Ketamine

Written by Deborah Tan, Avesta Ketamine Wellness Co-CEO

In this post:

More than one million adults in Virginia have a mental health condition, and a quarter million suffer from serious psychological illnesses. More than half do not receive treatment for reasons including access and cost. And those who do get help don’t always find relief from traditional medications. 

Ketamine, a dissociative anesthetic, is unlike any traditional antidepressant. Decades of clinical research show it can reverse severe depression and suicidality in hours. Alongside infusions, talk therapy helps patients sustain the benefits for months and years to come.

Virginia ketamine therapy can help countless patients emerge from hopelessness. It is the solution to an inadequate mental health system, leaving millions of people behind. 

Virginia’s Mental Health Crisis

Virginia mental health crisis infographic

Mental health disorders are on the rise across the country, and the Virginia mental health crisis is a serious issue for the state. Compounding the problem, the pandemic created unprecedented demand for mental health resources, aggravating Virginia’s staffing and overcrowding issues.

The top mental health conditions affecting Virginians include:

Depression & Anxiety

Virginia ranks 27th in the United States for depression rates, following common risk factors like chronic pain, major life changes, certain medications, and genetic predispositions. Depression often occurs alongside anxiety. 

  • In February 2021, 36.9% of adults in Virginia reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, with 22.2% unable to get needed counseling or therapy. 
  • The percentage seeking but unable to receive treatment increased to 28.1% in May 2022. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Virginia is a military-friendly state with many active and retired veterans suffering from PTSD.

  • Veterans are more likely to develop PTSD than civilians, with rates increasing based on their service area. 
  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that up to 29% of veterans deployed in Iraq might experience PTSD at some point in their lives. 


According to a recent report, 32% of adults in Northern Virginia have a family member or friend experiencing addiction. Many of those struggling with drugs and alcohol fail to seek or receive help. 

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

The Struggle to Get Effective Treatments

Virginia mental health treatments are often inadequate because the state has a shortage of resources. According to a recent Health Resources and Services Administration report, every locality in Virginia lacks enough mental health professionals to support its residents.  

Additionally, a new study exposed significant gaps in Community Services Boards (CSBs),  public organizations operating locally in Virginia that provide behavioral health services. 

Key findings include:

  • CSBs served 20% more patients in 2022 compared to a decade ago due to the prevalence of mental illness increasing in Virginia and nationally.
  • Staff turnover rates at CSBs have risen sharply in recent years, with 32% of CSB emergency services staff considering leaving within the next year, primarily due to uncompetitive pay.
  • An average of 33 adults and 10 children were on the state hospital waitlist daily between September 2021 and July 2022.

Effective drugs to combat Virginia’s mental health crisis are also lacking.


Antidepressants and pain medications are the first-line treatment for many mental health conditions. Commercially available antidepressants work by increasing levels of serotonin (5HT) and dopamine, neurotransmitters in the brain related to pain and reward that can boost mood and feelings of happiness. 

Current medications for conditions like depression, PTSD, and addiction can offer short- and long-term benefits for some patients. But many fail for reasons such as:

  • Delayed effects and the therapeutic onset
  • Side effects, such as sleep disturbances, drowsiness, and nausea
  • High abuse potential 
  • Treatment-resistant depression 

How Virginia Ketamine Therapy Can Help

IV ketamine infusion at Avesta

Ketamine therapy in Virginia is an emerging mental health protocol helping patients who had otherwise lost hope. Promising research shows multiple sub-anesthetic ketamine doses can immediately relieve:

Virginia ketamine therapy clinics, like Avesta’s McLean Center, administer the medication to patients in several sessions over two to three weeks using research-backed protocols. Patients typically arrive with severe psychological or physical pain, and most leave with the veil of depression lifted for the first time in years. 

How Ketamine Works 

IV ketamine vile

Ketamine targets unique subsets of neurotransmitters compared to conventional SSRIs, which may explain its remarkable antidepressant success. 

Glutamate activity: Ketamine activates glutamate-related receptors, one of the brain’s primary chemical messengers that plays a vital role in mood regulation, memory, and learning. Increasing glutamate levels can alter the body’s stress response, potentially rapidly improving depressive symptoms. 

Brain “rewiring”: A new study showed ketamine’s emotional benefits might arise from neurogenesis, the process of increasing the number of neurons. Neurogenesis contributes to the brain’s plasticity, or its ability to change and adapt to new experiences. This process can disrupt problematic or harmful thought patterns, making way for creating more positive thoughts.

Faster results: According to researchers in the neurogenesis study, ketamine is the “speedster of antidepressants.” Ketamine immediately increases activity in a new small population of cells, acting like a match to ignite activity in many other cells. As a result, ketamine works quickly to reduce depression symptoms, sometimes in minutes to hours, whereas SSRIs work slowly over time, often taking several weeks.

Fewer side effects: Ketamine side effects (if they occur) are generally mild and transient, such as temporarily elevating heart rate and blood pressure. Some IV therapy Virginia patients say they feel a bit drowsy during the infusion, but this lasts only 45 minutes to an hour. Most patients report improved clarity and functional capacity as quickly as a few hours after the injection.

Ketamine Therapy at Avesta’s McLean, Virginia location

virginia ketamine therapy at avesta

Northern Virginia patients can visit Avesta’s McLean ketamine clinic for monitored IV infusions and Spravato treatment using proven clinical protocols. Avesta’s team is a heart-centered patient advocacy group that ensures access to as many people as possible. 

Patients can find: 

  • Clinical expertise and high safety standards, with treatment led by Dr. Ladan Eshkevari, a pioneer in ketamine research and practice with over 20 years of experience.
  • A skilled team of professionals, including board-certified advanced practitioners with diverse backgrounds in healthcare, contributing to a patient-centered approach.
  • Patient advocates and educators who prioritize patient needs and emotions, offering thorough and honest information about ketamine and its effects.
  • Collaborative care and personalized protocols, with the team working closely with patients’ existing doctors and psychotherapists to tailor ketamine therapy plans.
  • A warm and inviting environment in a convenient and safe location, designed to promote tranquility and ease during treatment.
  • Comprehensive post-treatment support, including referrals to ketamine integrative psychotherapy specialists and personalized booster plans to ensure lasting benefits.
  • Financial assistance advice to help navigate therapy costs, including tools for insurance reimbursement and interest-free financing options.

Bottom Line

Many Virginia patients have trouble accessing adequate mental health support, whether they are unable to schedule therapy appointments or don’t see results with traditional SSRI medications. Virginia ketamine therapy is safe and effective, offering patients immediate relief with low side effects.

Virginia residents looking for relief can call the Avesta Ketamine clinic for a free consultation to explore their options. 

IV Ketamine infusions for depression anxiety ptsd chronic pain fibromyalgia CRPS Bethesda MD McLean VA Washington DC

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