Combat veterans have been long stuck in an excruciating battle of physical, mental, and emotional distress even after being discharged from the military service. They are primarily at risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which occurs after a person experiences a traumatic event and becomes incapable of bringing the mind and body back to its normal state after being in shock. Approximately 30 percent of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime, and 500,000 U.S. veterans who served in wars in the last 13 years have been diagnosed with PTSD.
On the other hand, ketamine is an anesthetic drug that has recently been shown to be an effective treatment for numerous mental health disorders such as PTSD in combat veterans. However, its efficacy is still limited according to previous researches performed. The medication has been used for dressing changes or painful procedures in different hospital units.
PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that is undoubtedly difficult to treat. However, thanks to ketamine, a ray of hope are still seen in treating its symptoms. Ketamine is an ionotropic glutamatergic N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, which consists of antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects. The said effects are activated by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor translation and secretion and by inhibiting glycogen synthase kinase-3 and activating the mammalian target of rapamycin signaling. It is intravenously (IV) or intramuscularly administered and is consists of an acceptable window of dosage range and safety margin.
A recent study is performed, which consists of 30 veterans. They were provided a series of questionnaires used to evaluate themselves for changes that might occur in PTSD symptoms before the first and sixth infusions. The results stated that PTSD symptoms, as measured by the change in score on their health questionnaire, dropped significantly. However, further study is needed to deeply understand ketamine’s mechanism of action related to the treatment of PTSD.
As to what has been mentioned above, ketamine’s efficacy as a PTSD treatment is limited. It has shown potential harmful effects such as hallucinations, flashbacks, and paranoia. These possible side effects were of concern to some medical providers as it may lead to more harm to a patient already struggling with PTSD. Nevertheless, the discovery of ketamine’s use for treating combat-related PTSD could be a valuable tool that may help veterans overcome the difficulties of PTSD and gain control of their lives again.