Antidepressants vs. Ketamine Therapy and Combination Therapy for Treating Depression

Antidepressants vs. Ketamine Therapy and Combination Therapy for Treating Depression

The best depression treatment is the one that works for you. Depression affects each individual in a unique way, so it comes as no surprise that there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment. Many depression sufferers are familiar with oral antidepressant medications because they are typically used as initial, “first-line” therapies for depression. But what other treatment options are available for those who haven’t found relief with oral antidepressants?


Antidepressants: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Antidepressants have played a key role in treating depression for many years. Designed to relieve the symptoms of depression and prevent them from returning, antidepressants are generally effective in moderate, severe, and chronic depression.

“Response” of a depressed patient to treatment is defined as at least a 50% reduction in depressive symptoms. About two thirds of patients treated for depression will respond to antidepressants to some extent, though this typically takes two to eight weeks to occur. The other third of patients will not respond to antidepressant treatment at all. Around 30% to 50% of patients treated with antidepressants experience full remission, but it can take anywhere from four to six weeks to many months to achieve.

While antidepressants can be effective, there are a number of potential downsides which may accompany this treatment, including:

  • Relief from symptoms takes weeks, if not months, to achieve
  • Unpleasant side effects, such as weight gain, insomnia, dry mouth, and reduced libido
  • Drug interactions
  • Seizures
  • Loss of effectiveness over time
  • Withdrawal reactions
  • Risk to fetus in pregnancy
  • Risk to infant while nursing
  • Mania in people with bipolar disorder
  • Increased risk of suicide or suicidal thoughts

Antidepressants provide substantial benefits for many in the short and long term.  However, the problems that can persist, such as intolerance, delayed therapeutic onset, limited effectiveness, and relapse issues, should be carefully considered before starting an antidepressant treatment plan.


Monotherapy vs. Combination Therapy

Studies show that antidepressants are most commonly used alone. Doctors often first suggest taking a drug that they consider to be effective and relatively well tolerated. If it doesn’t help as much as expected, they switch to a different medication within an antidepressant class or between drug classes. This is called monotherapy. 

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) emphasizes the need for combination therapy, which has been associated with significantly higher rates of improvement in depressive symptoms, increased quality of life, and better treatment compliance, especially when treatment is needed for longer than three months.

Combination therapies used alongside antidepressants include:

  • Adjunct Therapy: Augmenting treatment with another antidepressant
  • Psychotherapy: Interpersonal and cognitive behavioral therapies
  • SAMe (S-adenosyl-l-methionine): Prescription drug that helps produce and regulate hormones and maintain cell membranes
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT): Electric currents passed through the brain
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS): Stimulation of nerve cells using magnetic fields
  • Ketamine Therapy: Administering ketamine intravenously or intranasally.

Compare the pros and cons of the most popular depression treatments, along with their individual success rates, here.


Using Ketamine Therapy as Part of Your Combination Treatment

One type of antidepressant treatment that has been found to be particularly effective is Ketamine Infusion Therapy. When administered intravenously, ketamine has substantial antidepressant properties, providing much-needed relief for patients with depression, including those who have not responded to traditional treatment options. Ketamine Therapy can also be effective for those with mild depression who may not have symptoms that are serious enough to warrant the use of antidepressants and for people who do not want to take a pill daily or deal with the undesirable side effects of traditional antidepressants. 

Across a broad range of depression sufferers, ketamine works faster and is more effective at relieving symptoms than other treatment options. In addition, it’s safer and has no long-term side effects. The latest research reveals that ketamine works by increasing neuronal connections that are found to be depleted in patients with depression. The result is an impressive 83% success rate for the treatment of depression with Ketamine Infusion Therapy at Ketamine Clinics Los Angeles and a 70% success rate in most clinical research. 

Besides being effective on its own, Ketamine Therapy is known to enhance the impact of other depression treatments when incorporated as part of a customized combination treatment plan. Research shows that Ketamine Therapy promotes and augments the antidepressant effects of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It can also help encourage people to explore unprocessed trauma and grief, develop healthy coping skills, and improve interpersonal relationships through psychotherapy sessions. 

There are very few medications that have any known interaction with ketamine. When using Ketamine Therapy, some patients report becoming more receptive to conventional oral antidepressants. Other patients are able to reduce the dose or completely eliminate medications that don’t work and/or produce negative side effects. 

Another type of therapy involves administering ketamine through the nasal passages instead of intravenously. However, the ketamine-based nasal spray, SPRAVATO®, requires an accompanying oral antidepressant to qualify for treatment and has a lower overall success rate of about 40% when treating depression when compared to Ketamine Infusion Therapy.

Antidepressants have been the go-to treatment option for patients with depression for years. What causes depression is still a mystery, which is why prescribing medications often involves some trial and error. New depression therapies, such as Ketamine Therapy, are expanding the range of available treatment options. With higher success rates and fewer drawbacks, Ketamine Infusion Therapy is a step in the right direction when it comes to eliminating depression. Combining several treatments that work well together can help to achieve an even higher success rate and makes Ketamine Therapy a top contender for the best long-term depression treatment.

At Ketamine Clinics of Los Angeles, we’re here to help you find an effective treatment plan for your depression. If you’re interested in trying Ketamine Infusion Therapy, let us know what medications you are currently taking, and consult your prescribing physician before adjusting your dose or frequency.


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