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Should I Let My Child Take Ketamine for Depression?

Glass bottle with clear Ketamine and a syringe with a needle  

While the benefits of ketamine may seem like an obvious treatment for depressed teens, always consult with a doctor before beginning a new medicinal routine. Ketamine and depression are receiving a lot of attention in the medical community. This visibility is due to recent research demonstrating the ability of ketamine to rapidly reduce the symptoms of treatment-resistant depression for an extended period.

Teen depression statistics indicate that, since 2013, adolescent depression rates are up 47% for boys and 65% for girls. Depression in teenagers can be difficult to treat. Rapid onset of an antidepressant-like drug is important, especially for teens. Thus, some parents may believe that ketamine can be useful for the treatment of depression in adolescents and teenagers if used correctly.

Benefits of Ketamine Treatment for Depression in Teenagers

In recent years, the beneficial effects of ketamine for depression have been repeatedly demonstrated. Ketamine treatment for depression has been shown to be safe, fast and enduring in adults. Research in rodents suggests that these ketamine benefits are a result of changes in synaptic plasticity processes within the brain. That is to say, it influences how the brain responds to learning and change at a very basic level of cellular processing.

Although more research is needed, it is likely that ketamine will be just as efficient in adolescent populations. The currently available medications for teenage depression and anxiety are not effective for everyone. For instance, even if typical antidepressants do work for a teen, it takes weeks for them to work. During these few weeks, the risk of suicide is at its highest. Better treatment options like ketamine are needed as soon as possible.

Ketamine Addiction Risks

Although ketamine use in pediatrics seems promising, there is a caveat to what would seem like a miracle antidepressant drug. Nearly all of the studies on ketamine have involved acute use, whereas data on chronic use come largely from recreational use. Although people who use the drug recreationally and participants in a clinical study are not intaking nearly the same amount of ketamine, nor are they intaking it nearly as fast, it does beg the question whether there is the potential for ketamine addiction in those who use the drug for depression. Teen addiction to ketamine, in particular, could be a risk.

When Is Ketamine Use in Children Recommended?

So when might ketamine use in children be recommended? Ketamine use in teens is best saved for severe depression that does not respond well to other treatments. It is also recommended for the treatment of a suicidal teenager, because of how fast it works compared to conventional antidepressants.

Depression in teenagers is not only difficult to treat in itself, but it can also be compounded with the problem of substance abuse. If your teenager has co-occurring mental health and substance abuse problems, treatment is available. Contact Next Generation Village today to learn more about how evidence-based treatment can help your teen.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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