Ketamine for Chronic Pain
To date, the alchemy wellness blog has mostly covered mental health and ketamine. However, we have been treating patients with chronic pain, with high rates of symptom remission.
Opioid addiction & chronic pain — a big problem
Chronic pain is one of the most prevalent health issues today, with roughly 20% of Americans suffering. It’s closely tied to the opiate crisis, where many legitimate users risk becoming addicted and begin to use illicit sources of pain-killing substances, from Percocet to heroin and fentanyl.
Treatment for chronic pain involves a variety of classes of medications, such as anti-seizure drugs, anti-depressants, anti-inflammatory agents (like NSAID’s), and pain relievers. Even with this multi-faceted approach, only 30-40% of Americans have adequate relief.
For many nerve-related chronic pain disorders, overly irritable nerves send inappropriate pain signals to the brain causing what is referred to as the ‘wind-up’ effect. Often, minor stimulation of that nerve will cause excruciating pain and patients suffer a dramatic decrease in their quality of life. Many medications shut down communication with these nerves, or mask the pain, instead of dealing with the root cause–nerve irritability.
Ketamine as a novel solution
Ketamine is proving to be a novel agent for the treatment of chronic pain, especially where this sort of ‘wind-up’ is the problem. Ketamine acts directly on receptors of the brain and spinal cord, restoring the normal functioning of the nerve. This way, only truly painful sensations register to the brain, instead of everything being interpreted as pain.
Ketamine infusions help people with chronic pain for an extended period of time — even as long as three months. A meta-analysis of available studies showed moderate quality evidence that ketamine improves pain at four weeks and beyond (Michelet, 2018.)
Ketamine has been FDA approved for use in anesthesia since 1970, but has only recently been studied for additional uses. The research continues to grow, as ketamine clinics have spread to major metropolitan areas around the country, treating patients with a variety of chronic pain conditions. Research has been done on patients with Lyme’s disease, post-herpetic and trigeminal neuralgia, migraines, fibromyalgia, and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), among others.
While there is a significant response for many patients, all of the research done to date cites a need for standardized research methods. Without a standardized approach to ketamine research, it’s difficult to obtain FDA approval for this drug that shows so much promise in relieving suffering.
Want more information about ketamine? Read here.