Facing another “roller coaster” ordeal of new medications and treatments for her ongoing severe depression, Houston realtor Kim Crespo was desperate for anything that would help her debilitating condition.
She found it at Harris Health System’s Ben Taub Hospital in the unlikely treatment of ketamine, a version of the popular club drug (known on the street as K, Special K or kit kat) from the ‘80s and ‘90s. Following a six-week treatment in 2012, her depression was gone. Six years later, she still praises the drug’s lasting effects and calls it a “miracle” drug for helping her.
“Most drugs would wear off after a time—usually a year or two—and then I would have to up the dosage or change drugs,” she says. “It was like a roller coaster figuring out what would work next for me.”
Diagnosed with clinical depression in 1992, Crespo suffered crippling bouts of melancholy and uncontrolled periods of crying that would keep her homebound and leery to interact with others. After clinicians noted her up and down success with antidepressants, she was told about a pilot study the hospital was starting with ketamine.
“Almost immediately, my mind became clear after my treatments because when you’re going through depression your mind is in a fog,” Crespo recalls. “I was alert and no longer crying or emotional all the time. It was truly a miracle drug for me.”
Researchers theorize ketamine, a dissociative anesthetic, somehow repairs damaged nerve cell synapses responsible for a person’s mood and memory function. The hallucinogen must be carefully administered in controlled doses. Because it reacts quickly, it has to be monitored and regulated, says Dr. Asim Shah, chief, Psychiatry, Ben Taub Hospital and professor and executive vice chair, Menninger Department of Psychiatry, Baylor College of Medicine, and co-investigator of the research.
“Ketamine can cause serious problems if abused, but in the right setting it can do amazing things,” he says. “Taken off the streets or in the wrong dose, ketamine is highly addictive and can make some psychotic.”
Ketamine offers patients a high success rate (50-70 percent) of reducing or eliminating severe depression symptoms. On the other hand, traditional antidepressants boast a lower success rate (40- 45 percent).
“We’ve found that ketamine makes patients feel euphoric and happy, but the real impact is what it does to nerve cells to restore their function,” Shah adds. “The nerve cells are like a tree that loses its leaves. Ketamine is like giving the tree ‘Miracle Gro®’ and seeing it grow new leaves.”
Shah warns that ketamine isn’t a permanent cure for depression—no such permanent cure exists. However, he knows of many patients who report reduced severity of symptoms and better managing of their conditions. He sees ketamine working in concert with other medications and treatments.
Crespo couldn’t be happier with her participation in the ketamine study. She currently takes a sleeping pill and follows a healthy lifestyle with proper nutrition and exercise to manage her condition.
“You can’t argue with the results,” she says. “I’m living again and don’t know if that would’ve been possible without ketamine.”
@SilkRoadMed We appreciate the shout-out.
RT @UHCougarMBK: .@UHouston coming in at No 25 this week#ForTheCity #GoCoogs
RT @UHcheerleading: Today, we honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His message will always be one of love, compassion…
#Prostatecancer risk factors include: -being over the age of 50 -family history -diet Learn more: https://t.co/PQ77F2XysX #CancerMoonshot #endcancer
CHI St. Luke's Health@CHI_StLukes
As we reflect this #MLKDay, we hope to continue his legacy through caring for our communities, helping our neighbors, and sharing his message with others. https://t.co/phuNnJeQWG
Veteran awaiting heart transplant sang to lift others https://t.co/iBWkXD2gAZ via #VAntagePoint
Inspired by the support she received during #uterinecancer treatment and a new perspective on life, Callie Glaves is exploring ways to give back to others: https://t.co/j51l5j8b2j @PamSolimanMD #gyncsm #endcancer
Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Marine Veteran Arthur Roland Keller, who served in a WWI machine gun battalion at the Battle of Soissons: https://t.co/zhtwsuYoDM
RT @RiceEngineering: Today we honor and celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so that we may keep his dream alive forev…
"Many older adults don't get needed cardiac rehab after a heart attack," says a new study. https://t.co/sIlmV5VCRd via @Reuters https://t.co/XbCCl5QHDF
Even though Dana was just three when she first arrived at TIRR Memorial Hermann for polio treatment, she remembers it clearly. Nearly five decades after her treatment as a child, Dana returned. Read why: https://t.co/PJ1jfOqn2O.
@totalq8y2 Hi there, please see our response to your direct message. Best wishes to you.
Harris Health System@harrishealth
A sliced apple versus a slice of apple pie. If it were a healthy choice contest, fresh fruit would certainly win. But many of us may find it hard to resist that sweet treat. To help you eat better, try the following simple steps. https://t.co/nAQHDZhmXI https://t.co/1AcQaEk6W8
In recognition of Dr. King’s incredible legacy of service and leadership to gain equality for all Americans, Congress designated #MLK federal holiday as a national day of service. #MLKDay is a chance to honor his life and re-commit ourselves to serving our communities. https://t.co/XbzfO3k6o8
Campus is closed today in honor of #MLKDay. Celebrate Dr. King's life and legacy with UH: https://t.co/ZKWf16ih45 https://t.co/ZXdr2MFaN0