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Trippy depression treatment? Hopes and hype for ketamine
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Lauren Pestikas sits as she receives an infusion of the drug ketamine during a 45-minute session at an outpatient clinic in Chicago on July 25, 2018. Pestikas struggled with depression and anxiety and made several suicide attempts before starting ketamine treatments earlier in the year. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford)

CHICAGO (AP) — It was launched decades ago as an anesthetic for animals and people, became a potent battlefield pain reliever in Vietnam and morphed into the trippy club drug Special K.

Now the chameleon drug ketamine is finding new life as an unapproved treatment for depression and suicidal behavior. Clinics have opened around the United States promising instant relief with their “unique” doses of ketamine in IVs, sprays or pills. And desperate patients are shelling out thousands of dollars for treatment often not covered by health insurance, with scant evidence on long-term benefits and risks.

Chicago preschool teacher Lauren Pestikas long struggled with depression and anxiety and made several suicide attempts before trying ketamine earlier this year.

The price tag so far is about $3,000, but “it’s worth every dime and penny,” said the 36-year-old.

Pestikas said she feels much better for a few weeks after each treatment, but the effects wear off and she scrambles to find a way to pay for another one.

For now, ketamine has not received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating depression, though doctors can use it for that purpose.

Some studies show ketamine can provide relief within hours for tough-to-treat depression and suicidal behavior and clinics promising unproven benefits have popped up nationwide. But more research is needed to know long-term benefits and risks. (Oct. 31)

Ketamine has been around since the 1960s and is widely used as an anesthesia drug during surgery because it doesn’t suppress breathing. Compared to opioids such as morphine, ketamine isn’t as addictive and doesn’t cause breathing problems. And some studies have shown that ketamine can ease symptoms within hours for the toughest cases.

Its potential effects on depression were discovered in animal experiments in the late 1980s and early 1990s showing that glutamate, a brain chemical messenger, might play a role in depression, and that drugs including ketamine that target the glutamate pathway might work as antidepressants.

Conventional antidepressants like Prozac target serotonin, a different chemical messenger, and typically take weeks to months to kick in — a lag that can cause severely depressed patients to sink deeper into despair.

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A vial of ketamine, which is normally stored in a locked cabinet, on display in Chicago on July 25, 2018. AP Photo/Teresa Crawford)

Ketamine’s potential for almost immediate if temporary relief is what makes it so exciting, said Dr. Jennifer Vande Voort, a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist who has used ketamine to treat depression patients since February.

“We don’t have a lot of things that provide that kind of effect. What I worry about is that it gets so hyped up,” she said.

The strongest studies suggest it’s most useful and generally safe in providing short-term help for patients who have not benefited from antidepressants. That amounts to about one-third of the roughly 300 million people with depression worldwide.

“It truly has revolutionized the field,” changing scientists’ views on how depression affects the brain and showing that rapid relief is possible, said Yale University psychiatrist Dr. Gerard Sanacora, who has done research for or consulted with companies seeking to develop ketamine-based drugs.

But to become standard depression treatment, he said, much more needs to be known.

Last year, Sanacora co-authored an American Psychiatric Association task force review of ketamine treatment for mood disorders that noted the benefits but said “major gaps” remain in knowledge about long-term effectiveness and safety. Most studies have been small, done in research settings and not in the real world.

When delivered through an IV, ketamine can cause a rapid increase in heart rate and blood pressure that could be dangerous for some patients. Ketamine also can cause hallucinations that some patients find scary.

“There are some very real concerns,” Sanacora said. “We do know this drug can be abused, so we have to be very careful about how this is developed.”

Dr. Rahul Khare, an emergency medicine specialist in Chicago, first learned about ketamine’s other potential benefits a decade ago from a depressed and anxious patient he was preparing to sedate to fix a repeat dislocated shoulder.

“He said, ‘Doc, give me what I got last time. For about three weeks after I got it I felt so much better,’” Khare recalled.

Khare became intrigued and earlier this year began offering ketamine for severe depression at an outpatient clinic he opened a few years ago. He also joined the American Society for Ketamine Physicians, formed a year ago representing about 140 U.S. doctors, nurses, psychologists and others using ketamine for depression or other nonapproved uses.

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Dr. Rahul Khare poses for a portrait at his outpatient Chicago clinic on July 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford)

There are about 150 U.S. ketamine clinics, compared with about 20 three years ago, said society co-founder Dr. Megan Oxley.

Khare said the burgeoning field “is like a new frontier” where doctors gather at meetings and compare notes. He has treated about 50 patients with depression including Pestikas. They’re typically desperate for relief after failing to respond to other antidepressants. Some have lost jobs and relationships because of severe depression, and most find that ketamine allows them to function, Khare said.

Typical treatment at his clinic involves six 45-minute sessions over about two weeks, costing $550 each. Some insurers will pay about half of that, covering Khare’s office visit cost. Patients can receive “booster” treatments. They must sign a four-page consent form that says benefits may not be long-lasting, lists potential side effects, and in bold letters states that the treatment is not government-approved.

At a recent session, Pestikas’s seventh, she leaned back on a reclining white examining-room chair as a nurse hooked her up to a heart and blood pressure monitor. She grimaced as a needle was slipped into the top of her left palm. Khare reached up with a syringe to inject a small dose of ketamine into an IV bag hanging above the chair, then dimmed the lights, pulled the window curtains and asked if she had questions and was feeling OK.

“No questions, just grateful,” Pestikas replied, smiling.

Pestikas listened to music on her iPhone and watched psychedelic videos. She said it was like “a controlled acid trip” with pleasant hallucinations. The trip ends soon after the IV is removed, but Pestikas said she feels calm and relaxed the rest of the day, and that the mood boost can last weeks.

Studies suggest that a single IV dose of ketamine far smaller than used for sedation or partying can help many patients gain relief within about four hours and lasting nearly a week or so.

Exactly how ketamine works is unclear, but one idea is that by elevating glutamate levels, ketamine helps nerve cells re-establish connections that were disabled by depression, said ketamine expert Dr. Carlos Zarate, chief of experimental therapies at the National Institute of Mental Health.

A small Stanford University study published in August suggested that ketamine may help relieve depression by activating the brain’s opioid receptors.

Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Allergan are among drug companies developing ketamine-like drugs for depression. Janssen leads the effort with its nasal spray esketamine. The company filed a new drug application in September.

Meanwhile, dozens of studies are underway seeking to answer some of the unknowns about ketamine including whether repeat IV treatments work better for depression and if there’s a way to zero in on which patients are most likely to benefit.

Until there are answers, Zarate of the mental health institute said ketamine should be a last-resort treatment for depression after other methods have failed.

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Introduction

What comes to mind when you think of Ketamine? A drug of abuse? A horse tranquiliser? An anaesthetic agent? In reality it is all three. It usually has short-term hallucinogenic effects or causes a dissociative feeling (e.g. detachment from reality, sedation, or  inability to move). However, with frequent use over time it can cause permanent problems such as ‘ketamine bladder’, resulting in pain and difficulty passing urine.

What we already know

 

Ketamine’s effects are mainly mediated via NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor antagonism, although it is also an agonist at some opioid receptors and interacts with various other receptors, including noradrenaline, serotonin and muscarinic cholinergic receptors.

It is a class B illicit substance and was, in fact, upgraded from class C in June 2014 following a review of its harmful effects. Ketamine (either intramuscularly or intravenously) is licensed for use as an anaesthetic agent in children, young people and adults, but over the last few years interest has been growing in the role of Ketamine as an antidepressant agent. It is not currently licensed for this purpose.

http://acrossaday.com/?search=viagra-pfizer-online Areas of uncertainty

A study published in 2013 suggested that a single injected dose of Ketamine was associated with a rapid-onset antidepressant effect in patients with treatment-resistant depression (Murrough et al). The biggest challenge in terms of research with ketamine is that it remains tricky to compare against a placebo, given the fairly obvious side effects of taking a hallucinogenic drug, but this study compared Ketamine with Midazolam and this is probably the best comparator so far.

The following year, an open label study was published, which found similar antidepressant effects but a whole host of adverse effects were identified (Diamond et al), including anxiety and panic symptoms, increased suicidal ideation, vomiting, headaches and the anticipated feelings of detachment, confusion and dissociative symptoms.

There was a paucity of good quality information until, in 2015, a systematic review and meta-analysis of 21 studies  showed that single ketamine infusions produced a significant anti-depressant effect for up to seven days. Beyond this time, there was no evidence to suggest a prolonged effect.

What’s in the pipeline

There is some evidence to suggest that Ketamine may also work for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Another proposed use for Ketamine (currently being researched at the University of Manchester) is as an adjunct for Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), potentially minimizing the cognitive impairments experienced post-ECT.

Ketamine remains one of the most promising new treatments for depression, both unipolar and bipolar, but it is not without its problems. Requiring specialist referral and a stay in hospital overnight for a single dose clearly has financial and logistical implications far beyond those of antidepressant tablets with a stronger evidence base behind them. We also need more information about safety and adverse effects, before it can be introduced to a wider market.

References

Coyle, C. M. and Laws, K. R. (2015), The use of ketamine as an antidepressant: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Hum. Psychopharmacol Clin Exp. [Abstract]

Diamond PR, Farmery AD, Atkinson S, Haldar J, Williams N, Cowen PJ, Geddes JR and McShane R. Ketamine infusions for treatment resistant depression: a series of 28 patients treated weekly or twice weekly in an ECT clinic (PDF). J Psychopharmacol, 0269881114527361, first published on April 3, 2014. [PDF]

Murrough, J.W.; Iosifescu, D.V.; Chang, L.C.; Al Jurdi, R.K.; Green, C.E.; Perez, A.M. et al. (2013). Antidepressant efficacy of ketamine in treatment-resistant major depression; a two-site randomized controlled trial. Am J Psychiatry, 170, 1134-1142. [Abstract]

The antidepressant effects of ketamine are confirmed by a new systematic review and meta-analysis

shutterstock_18453376In recent times, few drugs have caused more excitement among clinical researchers than ketamine. It’s well known for its role in anaesthesia and veterinary surgery (“horse tranquilizer”), as well as its illicit use, but progress has been ongoing for about 15 years to repurpose it as an antidepressant.

As a consequence, many new studies are published every month that evaluate to what extent ketamine lives up to its promise as a new antidepressant drug (Aan Het Rot, Zarate, Charney, & Mathew, 2012). To make sense of the flood of new information, naturally intrigued mental elves clearly need researchers to provide timely updates of the current state of knowledge. To this end, Coyle and Laws (2015) have recently published an extensive systematic review and the first meta-analysis that summarises the latest, methodologically sound research.

The key questions of interest to these researchers were:

  • Does ketamine have an immediate effect in reducing depressive symptoms?
  • Are the antidepressant effects of ketamine sustained over time?
  • Are repeat infusions more effective in reducing depressive symptoms?
  • Do primary diagnosis and experimental design moderate the impact of ketamine on depressive symptoms?
  • Do men and women experience differences in the antidepressant effect of ketamine?

This review looked at how well the effects of ketamine are maintained over

This review looked at how well the effects of ketamine are maintained over 4 hours, 24 hours, 7 days and 12-14 days.

Methods

The authors followed PRISMA guidelines and scanned all relevant medical databases for studies assessing the antidepressant potential of ketamine in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder (BD). To evaluate possible methodological factors and design variables, the authors also specifically assessed whether studies were: repeat/single infusion, diagnosis, open-label/participant-blind infusion, pre-post/placebo-controlled design and patients’ sex.

Effect sizes were calculated either relative to placebo or relative to baseline, in case no control group was provided. To correct for bias in small studies, a Hedge’s g procedure with random effects was used. Statistical heterogeneity, publication bias and moderator variables were assessed to have an idea of other variables that might influence the reported antidepressant potential of ketamine. Statistical heterogeneity among studies was assessed using I² values, with values above 50% generally representing substantial heterogeneity.

Results

In total, 21 studies enrolling 437 patients receiving ketamine were identified that satisfied inclusion criteria:

  • 17 were single infusion studies and the majority reported data collected at 4h (11) and 24h (13) after ketamine treatment
  • 6 studies had follow-up for 7 days
  • 4 studies had follow-up for 12-14 days

In general, there are grounds to assume publication bias for single infusion studies at 4h and 24h.

Of the 21 included studies, 2 were judged to be at a high risk of bias, 13 medium risk and 6 low risk of bias.

  • In general, ketamine had a large statistical effect on depressive symptoms that was comparable across all time points
  • Effect sizes were significantly larger for repeat than single infusion at 4 h, 24 h and 7 days
  • For single infusion studies, effect sizes were large and significant at 4 h, 24 h and 7 days
  • The overall pooled effect sizes for single and repeated ketamine infusions found no difference at any time point, suggesting that the antidepressant effects of ketamine are maintained for at least 12-14 days

table3

Moderator analyses suggest that responsiveness to ketamine may vary according to diagnosis. Specifically, while ketamine produced moderate to large effects in both MDD and BD patients, the effect of a single infusion was significantly larger in MDD than BD after 24h. On the other hand, after 7 days, this pattern reversed and ketamine showed higher efficacy in BD patients. However, the small number of studies makes it tricky to draw any conclusions.

In addition, single-infusion pre-post comparisons did not differ in effect size estimation from placebo-controlled designs except for at 12-14 days, where only one study was available. In a similar vein, there were no effect size differences between single infusion studies with open-label and blinded infusions.

Of note, the meta-analysis found the percentage of males in the group was positively associated with ketamine’s antidepressant effects after 7 days, although this finding warrants replication with more data points.

There's huge room for improvement in the primary research, but this analysis shows ketamine in a promising light as an antidepressant.

There’s plenty of room for improvement in the primary research, but this meta-analysis shows ketamine in a promising light as an antidepressant.

Conclusions

The authors conclude:

Single ketamine infusions elicit a significant anti-depressant effect from 4h to 7days; the small number of studies at 12-14 days post infusion failed to reach significance. Results suggest a discrepancy in peak response time depending upon primary diagnosis – 24 h for MDD and 7 days for BD. The majority of published studies have used pre-post comparison; further placebo-controlled studies would help to clarify the effect of ketamine over time.

Limitations

This meta-analysis suffers from several limitations that are inherent in the available studies:

  • For one, there were only four studies that assessed the effect of repeated ketamine infusions, which is a shame given that maintenance of antidepressant effects is one of the key drawbacks of rapidly acting interventions
  • In addition, the authors note that their results suggest publication bias, which may be taken to indicate that several negative findings have not been published and thus could not be included in this meta-analysis
  • Also, more information about adverse effects would have been useful, especially to evaluate whether ketamine can be safely applied in a broader clinical context

Summary

This is the first meta-analysis to evaluate ketamine’s antidepressant effects. For single infusion specifically, ketamine exerts large antidepressant effects in MDD as well as BD patients that seem to last at least 7 days, while too few studies are available beyond this time point.

It’s noteworthy that the effect sizes did not differ between time points, which indicates that the effect of a single infusion remains relatively stable in the short-term. While repeated infusions were shown to provide higher effects than single infusions at least for the first week, more studies are needed to corroborate the supremacy of repeated treatment.

Before ketamine can become a clinically viable treatment option, however, this review makes it clear that more methodologically refined studies (especially RCTs with adequate placebo controls) need to be conducted. With this in mind, researchers should take these findings as an incitement to action!

High quality

High quality placebo controlled trials are needed to drive forward progress in this field.

Links

Primary paper

Coyle, C. M. and Laws, K. R. (2015), The use of ketamine as an antidepressant: a systematic review and meta-analysisHum. Psychopharmacol Clin Exp, doi: 10.1002/hup.2475. [PubMed abstract]

Other references

Aan Het Rot, M., Zarate, C. a, Charney, D. S., & Mathew, S. J. (2012). Ketamine for depression: where do we go from here? Biological Psychiatry72(7), 537–47. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.05.003

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Revisiting the Hallucinogenic Potential of Ketamine

 

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A Case Built on Current Research Findings

Ketamine has caused quite a stir in psychiatric practice. Sub-anesthetic administrations of ketamine have been shown to markedly improve symptoms of depression and anxiety.1 While the growing off-label use of ketamine speaks to the need for novel approaches to psychiatric care and treatment-resistant illness, it also presents an ethical dilemma, wherein widespread adoption has once again leaped ahead of scientific understanding.

The current literature suggests that therapeutic effects of ketamine involve modulation of glutamate neurotransmission, α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionic acid (AMPA) receptor potentiation, downstream influences on neurotrophic signaling cascades and neuroplasticity, and functional changes in assorted neural networks. Additional work is necessary to clarify the importance and reliability of these biological findings.

Another arc to the ketamine story dates back to a decades-old era of psychedelic research and search for medications with transformative power. Indeed, although primarily conceptualized today as a dissociative anesthetic, ketamine has also been classified more broadly as a hallucinogen. Hallucinogens function by various pharmacological mechanisms of action but exhibit similarities in their ability to occasion temporary but profound alterations of consciousness, involving acute changes in somatic, perceptual, cognitive, and affective processes.

Current biological theories involving ketamine’s antidepressant effect may be inseparable from these non-ordinary experiences of consciousness, but we can only know the answers to questions we ask. Here we examine findings from contemporary research that hint at the unexplored hallucinogenic potential of ketamine and considerations for future investigation.

There has been a resurgence of interest in hallucinogenic psychedelics (eg, psilocybin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), mescaline, N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT)) and entactogens (eg, 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine [MDMA]) in psychiatric research, which are hypothesized to achieve clinical benefit due to, in part, experiences of altered consciousness and fundamental shifts in mental frameworks.2

These drugs have been associated with cognitive states of enduring personal importance and have been compared with mystical experiences that might emerge over the ordinary course of life and carry sacred or spiritual meaning. Furthermore, these experiences may powerfully influence existential concepts of self, including moral values, self-identity, and purpose. There is converging evidence that these psychedelic effects are mediated in part by activity at 5HT-2A receptors. Ketamine may induce alterations in consciousness and personal frameworks similar to those achieved by serotonergic psychedelics while also sharing a common glutamatergic pathway of drug effect.3,4 However, there has been little investigation into how such changes might mediate the therapeutic potential of ketamine.

Preliminary data suggest that ketamine produces meaningful, transformative experiences that may help patients accept healthier values, behaviors, and beliefs related to abstinence from drugs and alcohol.5,6 Other evidence suggests that dose-related mystical-type experiences mediate the effects of ketamine on motivation to quit in cocaine-dependent research volunteers.7Few recent studies have examined whether ketamine’s hallucinogenic properties are implicated in antidepressant effects; however, psychiatric vulnerabilities to depression plausibly involve an existential dimension. This dimension includes depressive symptoms of hopelessness, guilt, and suicidality, which appear to be ketamine-sensitive.8

The evidence

Given the paucity of modern literature exploring the psychedelic and mystical properties of ketamine in depression, more widespread data on psychotomimetic and dissociative effects of ketamine provide some initial groundwork. Berman and collegeagues9 and Zarate and colleagues10 suggested that the antidepressant effects of ketamine (0.5 mg/kg over 40 min) were disconnected from ketamine-induced psychotomimetic symptoms. The antidepressant effects, measured by the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS), were significant even after positive symptoms on the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS) returned to baseline. However, it was also noted that initial changes in BPRS positive symptom scales from baseline trended to predict a greater decrease in HDRS scores within a day of treatment with ketamine.

A small study further demonstrated a substantial relationship between psychotomimetic effects 30 minutes after ketamine administration (0.54mg/kg over 30 min) as measured by BPRS and antidepressant effects in the following week.11 A larger study involving 108 patients found that dissociation measured by the Clinician Administered Dissociative States Scale (CADDS) at 40 minutes was associated with HDRS score improvement at 230 minutes and 7 days after infusion.12 Although no relationship between initial BPRS positive subscale scores and antidepressant effect was found, a correlation between CADSS and BPRS scores was found at 40 minutes postinfusion.

In a small study by Valentine and colleagues,13 the proposed correlation between ketamine-induced dissociation and antidepressant efficacy was not observed. However, a larger analysis found that greater intra-infusion dissociation as measured by CADDS was one of the strongest predictors of extended antidepressant response.14 Both of these studies utilized a single 0.5 mg/kg ketamine infusion delivered over 40 minutes.

Further investigation is needed, but there is an emerging rationale for a connection between the psychotomimetic or dissociative effects of ketamine and its antidepressant efficacy. Perhaps the experience of these effects simply un-blinds patients as to whether they are receiving ketamine or placebo in randomized trials; it may also be that such symptoms are only a “side effect” of ketamine’s mechanism of action. However, it is also worth considering that the psychotomimetic or dissociative effects associated with ketamine treatment are markers or mediators of subjective experiences of potential therapeutic value seen with other hallucinogenic agents.

Recommended dosing

The recommended doses of ketamine for anesthetic induction are typically 1 to 4.5mg/kg IV and 6.5 to 13 mg/kg IM, with alternate, off-label recommendations for 0.5 to 2 mg/kg IV and 4 to 10 mg/kg IM, primarily in the context of adjuvant drug use. For use in depression, ketamine is most commonly administered at a sub-anesthetic dose of 0.5mg/kg IV across 40 minutes.

Interestingly, in a study of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and anesthetic induction with either a near-anesthetic dose of IV ketamine (0.8mg/kg) alone, sub-anesthetic ketamine (0.5mg/kg) plus propofol (0.8mg/kg), or propofol alone (0.8mg/kg), predicted a more rapid antidepressant effect and a higher remission rate than propofol use. The near-anesthetic dose of ketamine was associated with superior antidepressant effects than the mixed, sub-anesthetic dose.15

In a study of ketamine alongside psychotherapy for heroin addiction, Krupitsky and colleagues6compared the effects of 2 doses of ketamine (0.2 and 2.0 mg/kg IM) and found that only the higher dose was associated with a “full psychedelic experience” as measured by the Hallucinogen Rating Scale (HRS). The lower dose was considered a “sub-psychedelic” active placebo, but was nonetheless associated with some positive drug effects: patients were still affected by their experiences and considered them useful and therapeutic. The high dose group ultimately experienced higher rates of abstinence, greater effect on emotional attitudes related to abstinence, and lower rates of relapse and drug craving than the low dose group. Both doses resulted in post-treatment reductions in measures of depression and anxiety; there were no significant differences between the groups.

Similarly, Dakwar and colleagues7 compared the effects of 0.41 mg/kg and 0.71 mg/kg doses of IV ketamine given to cocaine-dependent patients. Dose-dependent mystical-type effects as measured by Hood’s Mysticism Scale (HMS) were seen as well as a relationship between HMS scores and the motivation to quit cocaine 24 hours post-infusion.

A different study involving a lower dose of intramuscular (IM) ketamine did not generate the same mystical-type phenomena.16 Perhaps these results highlight the importance of calibrating dosing and delivery. Clements and colleagues17 demonstrated that ketamine had reduced bioavailability with IM administration compared with IV administration. Taken together, these findings support the idea that positive treatment outcomes for ketamine may be dose-dependent and its psychoactive effects are based on delivery parameters.

Limitation

One criticism of ketamine has been its short duration of antidepressant effect, with benefits peaking at 24 hours post-infusion and generally subsiding by 72 hours. The most promising approach to this challenge thus far seems to be the strategy of repeated-dose ketamine infusions, which have observed extended time-to-relapse and increased rates of antidepressant response.18

If ketamine’s therapeutic effect is indeed mediated by psychoactive experience, it may be that repeated dosing of ketamine improves outcomes by increasing opportunities for personally meaningful events to occur. One caveat is that some studies have shown repeated dosing to be associated with fewer dissociative symptoms over time—at first glance this suggests that the antidepressant value of serial ketamine administration might be independent of hallucinogenic effects.

While this requires further investigation, it is also important to consider other interpretations of that evidence: that acclimation to altered states of consciousness may contribute to recall bias, that experimental protocols that frame dissociative symptoms as a “side effect” or “adverse event” may lead to underreporting if overall patient experiences of ketamine are positive, or even that the benefit of repeated dosing may be less related to cumulative drug effect than other factors, such as repeated interactions with care providers or increased opportunities for reflection and synthesis.

One study of repeated infusions demonstrated that antidepressant response very early in the course of treatment strongly predicted subsequent response; conversely, a lack of rapid response was a poor prognostic indicator for improvement after additional infusions. Whether positive early responses to ketamine are mediated by psychological factors, biological susceptibility, or both: it is necessary to clarify these factors in shaping sustainable strategies for treatment.

A cautious approach also seems imperative given evidence that ketamine demonstrates agonist activity at μ-opioid receptors and dopaminergic effects that may confer acute relief of depressive symptoms but also greater risk for positive drug reinforcement and dependence. With further insight into psychological responses mediated by ketamine, it may be that a therapy-based framework for ketamine administration optimizes treatment efficacy and sustainability, while also minimizing unnecessary drug exposure, adverse effects of chronic use, and dependency risk.

Further study needed

In one study, long-term abstinence in persons who were substance dependent was achieved with Ketamine Psychedelic Therapy (KPT), which incorporates 1 or 2 sessions of ketamine-facilitated existential reappraisal into an existential psychotherapy.6 Additional exploration would be needed to determine which therapeutic approaches most beneficially augment ketamine treatment and minimize risks for harm. Nevertheless, a more holistic approach to ketamine as a treatment modality may be better suited to recreate the marked, persistent effects of MDMA in patients with PTSD. For example, in one study sustained symptom reductions were achieved with 12 weeks of psychotherapy but with limited MDMA exposures of only three 8-hour sessions.19

Another area that requires further investigation is how a patient’s past history might shape psychoactive responses. These personal and quite variable histories have been explored for some hallucinogenic agents but minimally for ketamine. The expectations and personal experiences of the individual user along with the external environment of use have been identified as critical factors in influencing subjective drug effects—coined “set” and “setting,” respectively—and are now considered well-established elements of human hallucinogen research.20

Therapies aimed at the pharmacological production of a transformative experience may depend on factors such as patient personality structure, preparation for treatment, emotional activation before drug intake, treatment context, and perceived quality of the experience. Given the unique psychological risks of hallucinogen administration, it is recommended that clinicians screen for personal or family histories of psychotic or other severe psychiatric disorders prior to treatment. Clinicians are also encouraged to facilitate careful patient preparation for sessions, provide a safe physical environment for treatment administration, and allow for interpersonal support during sessions. These and other insights from hallucinogenic research might valuably inform treatment protocols for ketamine administration.

Ketamine is uniquely poised to make a tremendous impact on psychiatric care, even redefining boundaries for patients with variations in depressive disorders that were once thought to be “treatment resistant.” Our synthesis of this emerging and old literature points to the unexplored hallucinogenic potential of ketamine. By further understanding the desirable psychoactive effects of ketamine, clinicians can build on initial treatment successes and maximize patient successes.

Future directions for research include:

• Further investigating the relationship between ketamine-induced psychotomimetic and dissociative effects and treatment efficacy

• Clarifying the connection between these effects and potentially desirable hallucinogenic experiences

• Exploring the therapeutic value of such elicited experiences

• Revisiting dosing strategies that account for existential phenomena and looking beyond dissociation as simply being an “adverse event”

• Incorporating psychotherapy-based frameworks into ongoing investigation

• Assessing set and setting factors that may shape treatment responses

Some answers and clues are likely to be found in the forgotten works of older psychedelic research. Agents like ketamine can exert their greatest therapeutic effect in the afterglow of profound alterations of consciousness, revealing a propensity for growth and healing that has not been evident to the suffering, depressed patient. Wherever the journey takes us, it is exactly the right time to bring together all the strands—brain and mind, old and new, caution and thrill—in assembling the unfinished story of ketamine.

 

References:

1. Feifel D. Breaking sad: unleashing the breakthrough potential of ketamine’s rapid antidepressant effects. Drug Dev Res. 2016;77;489-494.

2. Griffiths RR, Richards WA, McCann U, Jesse R. Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance. Psychopharmacol (Berl). 2006;187:268-283, 292.

3. Perry EB, Cramer JA, Cho HS, et al. Psychiatric safety of ketamine in psychopharmacology research. Psychopharmacol (Berl). 2007;192:253-260.

4. Vollenweider FX, Kometer M. The neurobiology of psychedelic drugs: implications for the treatment of mood disorders. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2010;11:642-651.

5. Jansen KLR. Ketamine: Dreams and Realities. Sarasota, FL: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies; 2001.

6. Krupitsky E, Burakov A, Romanova T, et al. Ketamine psychotherapy for heroin addiction: immediate effects and two-year follow-up. J Subst Abuse Treat. 2002;23:273-283.

7. Dakwar E, Levin F, Foltin RW, et al. The effects of sub-anesthetic ketamine infusions on motivation to quit and cue-induced craving in cocaine dependent research volunteers. Biol Psychiatry. 2014;76:40-46.

8. Mathew SJ, Shah A, Lapidus K, et al. Ketamine for treatment-resistant unipolar depression: current evidence. CNS Drugs. 2012;26:189-204.

9. Berman RM, Cappiello A, Anand A, et al. Antidepressant effects of ketamine in depressed patients. Biol Psychiatry. 2000;47:351-354.

10. Zarate CA, Singh JB, Carlson PJ, et al. A randomized trial of an N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist in treatment-resistant major depression. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2006;63:856-864.

11. Sos P, Kirova M, Novak T, et al. Relationship of ketamine’s antidepressant and psychotomimetic effects in unipolar depression. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2013;34:287-293.

12. Luckenbaugh DA, Niciu MJ, Ionescu DF, et al. Do the dissociative side effects of ketamine mediate its antidepressant effects? J Affect Disord. 2014;159:56-61.

13. Valentine GW, Mason GF, Gomez R, et al. The antidepressant effect of ketamine is not associated with changes in occipital amino acid neurotransmitter content as measured by [(1)H]-MRS. Psychiatry Res. 2011;191:122-127.

14. Pennybaker SJ, Niciu MJ, Luckenbaugh DA, Zarate CA. Symptomatology and predictors of antidepressant efficacy in extended responders to a single ketamine infusion. J Affect Disord. 2017;208:560-566.

15. Zhong X, He H, Zhang C, et al. Mood and neuropsychological effects of different doses of ketamine in electroconvulsive therapy for treatment-resistant depression. J Affect Disord. 2016;201:124-130.

16. Lofwall MR, Griffiths RR, Mintzer MZ. Cognitive and subjective acute dose effects of intramuscular ketamine in healthy adults. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2006;14:439-449.

17. Clements JA, Nimmo WS, Grant IS. Bioavailability, pharmacokinetics, and analgesic activity of ketamine in humans. J Pharma Sci. 1982;71:539-542.

18. Murrough JW, Perez AM, Pillemer S, et al. Rapid and longer-term antidepressant effects of repeated ketamine infusions in treatment-resistant major depression. Biol Psychiatry. 2013;74:250-256.

19. Mithoefer, M. C. et al. Durability of improvement in post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and absence of harmful effects or drug dependency after 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine-assisted psychotherapy: a prospective long-term follow-up study. J Psychopharmacol. 2013;27:28-39.

20. Leary T, Litwin GH, Metzner R. Reactions to psilocybin administered in a supportive environment. J Nerv Ment Dis. 1963;137:561-573.

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Ketamine

The drug Ketamine is considered a breakthrough treatment for depression and some other neuropsychiatric conditions. Below are excerpts from recent articles discussing this revolutionary treatment and the links to the full articles.

Ketamine For Depression: the Highs and Lows.

The Lancet Psychiatry. VOLUME 2, ISSUE 9, P783–784, SEPTEMBER 2015

Long used as an anaesthetic and analgesic, most people familiar with ketamine know of it for this purpose. Others know it as a party drug that can give users an out-of-body experience, leaving them completely disconnected from reality. Less well known is its growing off-label use in the USA for depression, in many cases when other options have been exhausted.

David Feifel, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, was one of the first clinicians to use ketamine off-label to treat depression at UCDS’s Center for Advanced Treatment of Mood and Anxiety Disorders, which he recently founded. “Currently approved medications for depression all have about the same, very limited efficacy. A large percentage of patients with depression do not get an adequate level of relief from these antidepressants even when they have tried several different ones and even when other drugs known to augment their effects are added to them”, Feifel tells The Lancet Psychiatry. “The stagnation in current antidepressant medication on the one hand, and the tremendous number of treatment-resistant patients, has propelled me to explore truly novel treatments like ketamine.”

Compelling published study results and case reports exist of patients’ depression—in some cases deeply entrenched depression that has lasted months or even years—alleviating within hours of use of ketamine. However, critics have warned that the drug has not been studied sufficiently (at least outside clinical trials), and also emphasized the cost. Patients can pay more than $1000 per session for treatment that must usually be repeated several times. That cost is rarely covered by the patient’s medical insurance.

Advocates of ketamine use in depression are excited because it has a different mechanism of action to standard antidepressants, which affect signalling by monoamine neurotransmitters such as serotonin, noradrenaline, or dopamine. Ketamine is thought to act by blocking N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors in the brain, which interact with the amino acid neurotransmitter glutamate.

Feifel states that he has patients who have been receiving ketamine treatments every 2–4 weeks for long periods, some for around 3 years, and has not yet seen any safety issues arise.

Pharmaceutical companies are entering this exciting arena by attempting to develop new drugs based on ketamine without similar side-effects. Feifel dismisses the notion that the dissociative so-called trip induced by ketamine is actually an important negative side-effect. “Although I have had a couple patients have unpleasant ‘trips’, it’s exceedingly rare, usually dose related, and very transitory due to ketamine’s rapid metabolism.” Feifel says that, more often than not, patients find the trip to be positive, or even spiritual, and believe it is an important component of the antidepressant effect they experience afterwards. “There is no doubt the dissociative effect represents a logistical issue, requiring monitoring—and this should be addressed in any approval given for ketamine”, he adds.

Feifel says that it is not for him, but for his patients to decide where the balance of risks and benefits lies in trying ketamine to treat their depression”One could make a compelling argument that it’s unethical to withhold ketamine treatments from someone who has chronic, severe treatment resistant depression. But I know this from the patients who tell me they would not be in this world right now if it were not for the ketamine.”

Feifel concludes that it is straightforward to talk to TRD patients about ketamine. “I tell them all the relevant information. The efficacy rates, time to onset of benefits, duration limitations, alternatives, lack of insurance coverage, and other information. My job is to make sure they understand the parameters of the treatment, not to decide whether they should do it.”

Full article: The Lancet

Ketamine for depression the highs and lows b

Onetime Party Drug Hailed as Miracle for Treating Severe Depression

Washington Post, Feb 2, 2016

Ketamine, popularly known as the psychedelic club drug Special K, has been around since the early 1960s. It is a staple anesthetic in emergency rooms, regularly used for children when they come in with broken bones and dislocated shoulders. It’s an important tool in burn centers and veterinary medicine, as well as a notorious date-rape drug, known for its power to quickly numb and render someone immobile. Since 2006, dozens of studies have reported that it can also reverse the kind of severe depression that traditional antidepressants often don’t touch.

Experts are calling it the most significant advance in mental health in more than half a century. They point to studies showing ketamine not only produces a rapid and robust antidepressant effect; it also puts a quick end to suicidal thinking.  “This is the next big thing in psychiatry,” says L. Alison McInnes, a San Francisco psychiatrist who over the past year has enrolled 58 severely depressed patients in Kaiser’s San Francisco clinic. The excitement stems from the fact that it’s working for patients who have spent years cycling through antidepressants, mood stabilizers and various therapies. “Psychiatry has run out of gas” in trying to help depressed patients for whom nothing has worked, she says. “There is a significant number of people who don’t respond to antidepressants, and we’ve had nothing to offer them other than cognitive behavior therapy, electroshock therapy and transcranial stimulation.”

Ketamine does, however, have one major limitation: Its relief is temporary. Clinical trials at NIMH have found that relapse usually occurs about a week after a single infusion.

A study published in the journal Science in 2010 suggested that ketamine restores brain function through a process called synaptogenesis. Scientists at Yale University found that ketamine not only improved depression-like behavior in rats but also promoted the growth of new synaptic connections between neurons in the brain.

Patients often describe a kind of lucid dreaming or dissociative state in which they lose track of time and feel separated from their bodies. Many enjoy it; some don’t. But studies at NIMH and elsewhere suggest that the psychedelic experience may play a small but significant role in the drug’s efficacy.

As a drug once known almost exclusively to anesthesiologists, ketamine now falls into a gray zone. As the use of ketamine looks likely to grow, many psychiatrists say that use of ketamine for depression should be left to them. “The bottom line is you’re treating depression,” says psychiatrist David Feifel, director of the Center for Advanced Treatment of Mood and Anxiety Disorders at the University of California at San Diego. “And this isn’t garden-variety depression. The people coming in for ketamine are people who have the toughest, potentially most dangerous depressions. I think it’s a disaster if anesthesiologists feel competent to monitor these patients.”

Full article: The Washington Post

Onetime party drug hailed as miracle for treating severe depression


A Ketamine intravenous drip being prepared. (Amarett Jans/Courtesy of Enrique Abreu)

February 1, 2016

It was November 2012 when Dennis Hartman, a Seattle business executive, managed to pull himself out of bed, force himself to shower for the first time in days and board a plane that would carry him across the country to a clinical trial at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda.

After a lifetime of profound depression, 25 years of therapy and cycling through 18 antidepressants and mood stabilizers, Hartman, then 46, had settled on a date and a plan to end it all. The clinical trial would be his last attempt at salvation.

For 40 minutes, he sat in a hospital room as an IV drip delivered ketamine through his system. Several more hours passed before it occurred to him that all his thoughts of suicide had evaporated.

“My life will always be divided into the time before that first infusion and the time after,” Hartman says today. “That sense of suffering and pain draining away. I was bewildered by the absence of pain.”

Ketamine could be speedy depression treatment

Ketamine is being used by researchers at The National Institutes of Health as a treatment for major depression. 

Ketamine, popularly known as the psychedelic club drug Special K, has been around since the early 1960s. It is a staple anesthetic in emergency rooms, regularly used for children when they come in with broken bones and dislocated shoulders. It’s an important tool in burn centers and veterinary medicine, as well as a notorious date-rape drug, known for its power to quickly numb and render someone immobile.

Since 2006, dozens of studies have reported that it can also reverse the kind of severe depression that traditional antidepressants often don’t touch. The momentum behind the drug has now reached the American Psychiatric Association, which, according to members of a ketamine task force, seems headed toward a tacit endorsement of the drug for treatment-resistant depression.

Experts are calling it the most significant advance in mental health in more than half a century. They point to studies showing ketamine not only produces a rapid and robust antidepressant effect; it also puts a quick end to suicidal thinking.

Traditional antidepressants and mood stabilizers, by comparison, can take weeks or months to work. In 2010, a major study published in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association, reported that drugs in a leading class of antidepressants were no better than placebos for most depression.

A growing number of academic medical centers, including Yale University, the University of California at San Diego, the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic, have begun offering ketamine treatments off-label for severe depression, as has Kaiser Permanente in Northern California.

The ‘next big thing’

“This is the next big thing in psychiatry,” says L. Alison McInnes, a San Francisco psychiatrist who over the past year has enrolled 58 severely depressed patients in Kaiser’s San Francisco clinic. She says her long-term success rate of 60 percent for people with treatment-resistant depression who try the drug has persuaded Kaiser to expand treatment to two other clinics in the Bay Area. The excitement stems from the fact that it’s working for patients who have spent years cycling through antidepressants, mood stabilizers and various therapies.

“Psychiatry has run out of gas” in trying to help depressed patients for whom nothing has worked, she says. “There is a significant number of people who don’t respond to antidepressants, and we’ve had nothing to offer them other than cognitive behavior therapy, electroshock therapy and transcranial stimulation.”

McInnes is a member of the APA’s ketamine task force, assigned to codify the protocol for how and when the drug will be given. She says she expects the APA to support the use of ketamine treatment early this year.

The guidelines, which follow the protocol used in the NIMH clinical trial involving Hartman, call for six IV drips over a two-week period. The dosage is very low, about a tenth of the amount used in anesthesia. And when it works, it does so within minutes or hours.

“It’s not subtle,” says Enrique Abreu, a Portland, Ore., anesthesiologist who began treating depressed patients with it in 2012. “It’s really obvious if it’s going to be effective.

“And the response rate is unbelievable. This drug is 75 percent effective, which means that three-quarters of my patients do well. Nothing in medicine has those kind of numbers.”

So far, there is no evidence of addiction at the low dose in which infusions are delivered. Ketamine does, however, have one major limitation: Its relief is temporary. Clinical trials at NIMH have found that relapse usually occurs about a week after a single infusion.

Ketamine works differently from traditional antidepressants, which target the brain’s serotonin and noradrenalin systems. It blocks N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA), a receptor in the brain that is activated by glutamate, a neurotransmitter.

In excessive quantities, glutamate becomes an excitotoxin, meaning that it overstimulates brain cells.

“Ketamine almost certainly modifies the function of synapses and circuits, turning certain circuits on and off,” explains Carlos Zarate Jr., NIMH’s chief of neurobiology and treatment of mood disorders, who has led the research on ketamine. “The result is a rapid antidepressant effect.”

Rapid effect

study published in the journal Science in 2010 suggested that ketamine restores brain function through a process called synaptogenesis. Scientists at Yale University found that ketamine not only improved depression-like behavior in rats but also promoted the growth of new synaptic connections between neurons in the brain.

mTOR-dependent synapse formation underlies the rapid antidepressant effects of NMDA antagonists.

Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy A Paradigm Shift in Psychiatric Research and Development

Psychedelics Promote Structural and Functional Neural Plasticity.

Even a low-dose infusion can cause intense hallucinations. Patients often describe a kind of lucid dreaming or dissociative state in which they lose track of time and feel separated from their bodies. Many enjoy it; some don’t. But studies at NIMH and elsewhere suggest that the psychedelic experience may play a small but significant role in the drug’s efficacy.

“It’s one of the things that’s really striking,” says Steven Levine, a Princeton, N.J., psychiatrist who estimates that he has treated 500 patients with ketamine since 2011. “With depression, people often feel very isolated and disconnected. Ketamine seems to leave something indelible behind. People use remarkably similar language to describe their experience: ‘a sense of connection to other people,’ ‘a greater sense of connection to the universe.’ ”

Although bladder problems and cognitive deficits have been reported among long-term ketamine abusers, none of these effects have been observed in low-dose clinical trials. In addition to depression, the drug is being studied for its effectiveness in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, extreme anxiety and Rett syndrome, a rare developmental disorder on the autism spectrum.

Booster treatments

The drug’s fleeting remission effect has led many patients to seek booster infusions. Hartman, for one, began his search before he even left his hospital room in Bethesda.

Four years ago, he couldn’t find a doctor in the Pacific Northwest willing to administer ketamine. “At the time, psychiatrists hovered between willful ignorance and outright opposition to it,” says Hartman, whose depression began creeping back a few weeks after his return to Seattle.

It took nine months before he found an anesthesiologist in New York who was treating patients with ketamine. Soon, he was flying back and forth across the country for bimonthly infusions.

Upon his request, he received the same dosage and routine he’d received in Bethesda: six infusions over two weeks. And with each return to New York, his relief seemed to last a little longer. These days, he says that his periods of remission between infusions often stretch to six months. He says he no longer takes any medication for depression besides ketamine.

“I don’t consider myself permanently cured, but now it’s something I can manage,” Hartman says, “like diabetes or arthritis. Before, it was completely unmanageable. It dominated my life and prevented me from functioning.”

In 2012 he helped found the Ketamine Advocacy Network, a group that vets ketamine clinics, advocates for insurance coverage and spreads the word about the drug.

And word has indeed spread. Ketamine clinics, typically operated by psychiatrists or anesthesiologists, are popping up in major cities around the country.

Levine, for one, is about to expand from New Jersey to Denver and Baltimore. Portland’s Abreu recently opened a second clinic in Seattle.

Depression is big business. An estimated 15.7 million adults in the United States experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2014, according to the NIMH.

“There’s a great unmet need in depression,” says Gerard Sanacora, director of the Yale Depression Research Program. “We think this is an extremely important treatment. The concern comes if people start using ketamine before CBT [cognitive behavioral therapy] or Prozac. Maybe someday it will be a first-line treatment. But we’re not there yet.”

Many unknowns

Sanacora says a lot more research is required. “It’s a medication that can have big changes in heart rate and blood pressure. There are so many unknowns, I’m not sure it should be used more widely till we understand its long-term benefits and risks.”

While a single dose of ketamine is cheaper than a $2 bottle of water, the cost to the consumer varies wildly, running anywhere between $500 and $1,500 per treatment. The drug itself is easily available in any pharmacy, and doctors are free to prescribe it — as with any medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration — for off-label use. Practitioners attribute the expense to medical monitoring of patients and IV equipment required during an infusion.

There is no registry for tracking the number of patients being treated with ketamine for depression, the frequency of those treatments, dosage levels, follow-up care and adverse effects.

“We clearly need more standardization in its use,” Zarate says. “We still don’t know what the proper dose should be. We need to do more studies. It still, in my opinion, should be used predominantly in a research setting or highly specialized clinic.”

As a drug once known almost exclusively to anesthesiologists, ketamine now falls into a gray zone.

“Most anesthesiologists don’t do mental health, and there’s no way a psychiatrist feels comfortable putting an IV in someone’s arm,” Abreu says.

It’s a drug, in other words, that practically demands collaboration. Instead, it has set off a turf war. As the use of ketamine looks likely to grow, many psychiatrists say that use of ketamine for depression should be left to them.

“The bottom line is you’re treating depression,” says psychiatrist David Feifel, director of the Center for Advanced Treatment of Mood and Anxiety Disorders at the University of California at San Diego. “And this isn’t garden-variety depression. The people coming in for ketamine are people who have the toughest, potentially most dangerous depressions. I think it’s a disaster if anesthesiologists feel competent to monitor these patients. Many of them have bipolar disorder and are in danger of becoming manic. My question [to anesthesiologists] is: ‘Do you feel comfortable that you can pick up mania?’ ”

But ketamine has flourished from the ground up and with little or no advertising. The demand has come primarily from patients and their families; Zarate, for instance, says he receives “at least 100 emails a day” from patients.

Nearly every one of them wants to know where they can get it.

 

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William Jamieson is only 23, but he’s already spent almost one-third of his life battling severe depression.

Once a top student and athlete with a large group of friends, the young Ottawa man fell into a depression at age 16 that he couldn’t shake.

“It got pretty bleak,” he says. “In terms of energy, I just couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t eat. I didn’t have the energy to eat. I was wasting away.”

“I kind of kept myself in the dark. That goes to how you see the world,” he adds.

He tried at least 10 medications and received electric shock therapy — but nothing worked.

Watching his son sink further into his depression left William’s father Charles desperate to help.

“There was nothing more they (the doctors) could do, and as a parent, that is not what you want to hear, because the depths of William’s depression were as dark and black as you can imagine,” Charles says.

Fearing for his son’s life, the elder Jamieson went online.

“I typed in Google: ‘breakthrough depression treatments,’ and ‘ketamine’ came up,” he says.

Though probably best known as the party drug “Special K,” ketamine has been used as an anesthetic and painkiller for decades. But in recent years, it’s been explored as a treatment for depression.

Researchers say the drug can lift depression and suicidal thoughts in patients with even one treatment.

Doctors at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre have been using intravenous ketamine on patients with treatment-resistant depression and say they are seeing promising results.

Ketamine isn’t approved by U.S. regulators to treat depression, but hundreds of private health clinics have been offering it off-label. Jamieson now travels from his home in Ottawa to New York City every six weeks to get infusion from anesthesiologist Dr. Glen Brooks.

The darkness began to lift two days after the first treatment, William says.

“It feels like there is a loosening of the fist that is inside of your head.”

His father Charles grows emotional thinking about that weekend.

“I say, ‘Will, how are you feeling?’ He says, ‘Dad, it is gone. The depression is gone. The colours are brighter.’ I will never forget those words. ‘The colour is brighter. The fog is gone,’” he says.

Dr. Brooks has used ketamine for 35 years to treat neuropathic pain. After reading research on using of ketamine for depression, he began to offer the drug to patients with long histories of post-traumatic stress disorder and other mood disorders, charging up to US$400 per infusion.

Many of his patients have tried multiple medications and electroshock therapy and have not responded.

“So this is generally more of a last stop than a first stop,” he explains.

He says the improvements are often rapid and dramatic.

“What patients report is a sense of calmness and wellbeing that comes over them,” he explains.

Dr. Brooks believes that for suicidal patients, “ketamine saves lives every day.”

“I don’t think anything is as effective as ketamine has been,” he says.

In Canada, many psychiatrists are excited to better understand how ketamine works in the brain, but others are urging patience until more is known about the drug’s possible side-effects, including elevated blood pressure, blurred vision, and bladder inflammation.

“We don’t know who is more prone to the side effects or indeed, the long-term consequences of the side effects,” says Dr. Sidney Kennedy, the Arthur Sommer Rotenberg Chair in Suicide and Depression Studies at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

But Dr. Brooks says patients should be able to access a drug that could save their lives.

“In my experience of treating over 1,500 patients, I see no reason for any patient to wait, especially if they are critically ill with their mood disorder,” he says.

Charles Jamieson thinks ketamine should be more widely available in medically supervised settings.  Until it is, he will pay for his son to get the drug in the U.S.

“I have got my son back and I know he will have the life that he wants to make. He has an opportunity that he would not have had without ketamine,” he says. “Without ketamine, it would have been a terrible, different story.”

 

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Each year, 13 to 14 million people in America suffer from major depression. Of those numbers who seek treatment, about 30-40% don’t get any better or recover through using the standard depression medications prescribed by healthcare professionals.

Untreated depression puts someone at a greater risk of alcohol and drug abuse, hospitalization and attempted suicide. However, there’s a growing body of research which shows there is a new reason to hope, and it’s the anesthesia drug ketamine.

Ketamine is a popular illicit party drug because it provides the user with hallucinogenic effects. The medication is used in only a handful of clinics around the United States, people who weren’t helped by standard psychiatric treatments are receiving a series of ketamine infusions to help ease the effects of their depression. Ketamine has also been used in emergency rooms to help curb suicidal thoughts, which means the drug is a potential lifesaver.

Ketamine is a fast-acting drug, the effects peak, often within hours, and healthcare providers who give it to a patient at a therapeutic dose say its side effects are brief and mild in most people. The drug hasn’t been studied for long-term safety and effectiveness and the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved it to treat depression.

Medical experts do not yet fully understand all the ways ketamine works, but it does work differently than antidepressants such as Zoloft, Prozac and Effexor. The way the drug works might explain why people who don’t respond to traditional treatment methods respond so well to ketamine.

It’s important to remember that no matter how successful ketamine may prove to be, one single treatment isn’t enough to cure depression. To successfully treat depression, a medical professional will need to address all aspects of a person’s disease from the biological, psychological to social and environmental angles.

A Brief History of Ketamine
Ketamine is an anesthetic that has been used on both humans and animals for over 52 years.  Unlike other anesthetics, it doesn’t depress patients’ breathing or circulatory systems and it is very fast-acting.

How Is Ketamine Used
Because of its effectiveness and safety when delivered appropriately, ketamine is being used more in the following ways: treating depression and other mood disorders and pain conditions including Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CPRS/RSD).  Leading institutions such as Yale University, The National Institute of Mental Health, and  Massachusetts General Hospital have completed research that demonstrates the efficacy and safety of ketamine infusion treatments for these conditions.

The Visit
The medicine is given very slowly over 40 minutes.  Most people can expect to be with us for about 90 minutes.  You will leave treatment without side effects and you should not experience side effects between treatments.​

In As Little As One Treatment
Ketamine treatments may free you from depression, OCD, PTSD, anxiety, CRPS/RSD, fibromyalgia & other chronic pain conditions.

Ketamine Infusion for Depression, Bipolar Disorder or PTSD?

Ketamine could be the bridge for somebody who is suicidal because if they are given the drug and it’s effective for 3 days, the person could be hooked up with outpatient resources, other medications and psychotherapy.

Not all cases of suicidal thoughts are linked to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder and alcohol and other substance abuse issues can also account for some suicides. Further research is needed to determine how ketamine can be utilized for treatment of depression and other psychiatric disorders.

Does Ketamine Infusion Work for Depression?

Social Anxiety and Ketamine:

Approximately one-third to one-half of all people with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) do not experience adequate clinical benefits from using the current treatment methods for SAD. These treatments include conventional approaches like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs or cognitive behavioral therapy. Failing to relieve anxiety in patients with social anxiety disorder is a source of distress, substantial morbidity and it decreases the quality of a person’s life over the long term.

Feeling shy or uncomfortable in certain public situations isn’t an indication of a social anxiety disorder, particularly if these emotions are present in young children. A person’s comfort level in social situations will vary and depend on the individual’s personality and life experiences. Some people are naturally reserved and other people are outgoing, some are a mixture of both.  In contrast to everyday nervousness, social anxiety disorder includes distress, avoidance and unease that interferes with one’s daily life, routine, work, school and other activities.

There’s been new evidence from neuroimaging and pharmacological studies which support the importance of glutamate abnormalities in the pathogenesis of social anxiety disorder. In a previous clinical study, an elevate glutamate to creatinine ratio was found in the anterior cortex of social anxiety disorder patients when compared with healthy control subjects.

Ketamine is a potent agonist of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor is a major glutamate receptor in the brain. The drug is normally used as an anesthetic because of its dissociative properties. In a multitude of controlled clinical studies, ketamine has proven to be an effective treatment for reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Ketamine has produced a rapid antidepressant effect in unipolar and bipolar depression and the effects peak 1-3 days following infusion and is observed long after the drug has been metabolized and excreted by the body.

The results of several studies involving ketamine infusion show the medication may have significant anxiolytic effects. For patients with major depressive disorders or social anxiety disorder, the drug has shown strong and significant reductions in co-morbid anxiety symptoms. If you want to find out more information about how ketamine infusion may work for you, please contact us at 703-844-0184 – NOVA Health Recovery

 

PTSD TREATMENT:

Ketamine is a drug that was developed more than 50 years ago to be used as anesthesia during surgery, and it has also been used as an illicit street drug. Recently, ketamine has been found to be a valuable and extremely effective treatment for depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD and certain pain disorders, like fibromyalgia.

Our Ketamine treatment center in Bowie MD offer infusions on an outpatient basis and following a consultation with medical staff it can be determined if the medication is appropriate and safe for a person. A patient using ketamine infusion therapy is monitored during the process by a clinical coordinator to ensure a smooth, supportive and successful treatment process.

Because the effects of a ketamine infusion are short-lived, patients will usually receive a series of infusions over a series of 2-3 weeks. Ketamine infusions for PTSD is an off-label use and it means the Food and Drug Administration has not approved the drug for this particular use. However, the drug’s safety and effectiveness have been demonstrated in multiple research studies and off-label prescribing is a common and necessary practice in the medical world.

Unlike most of the common antidepressant medications that may take weeks or months before a patient and doctor can even determine if it works, ketamine infusions yield positive results within hours or days. Many patients will know within the first few hours or days if ketamine is working for them or not. The most common experience when using ketamine infusions is no side effects between treatments, so it is a good option for those with treatment-resistant depression or those who have troublesome side effects from other medications commonly prescribed.

Ketamine Safety and Tolerability In Clinical Trials For Treatment-resistant Depression

Ketamine and Other NMDA Antagonists: Early Clinical Trials and Possible Mechanisms in Depression

Ketamine and Other NMDA Antagonists: Early Clinical Trials and Possible Mechanisms in DepressionA preliminary naturalistic study of low-dose ketamine for depression and suicide ideation in the emergency department

Ketamine for Depression: Where Do We Go from Here?

A Systematic Review of Ketamine for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

The Promise of Ketamine For Treatment-resistant Depression: Current Evidence and Future Directions

Ketamine-Induced Optimism: New Hope for the Development of Rapid-Acting Antidepressants

Antidepressant Efficacy of Ketamine in Treatment-Resistant Major Depression: A Two-Site Randomized Controlled Trial

Rapid and Longer-Term Antidepressant Effects of Repeated Ketamine Infusions in Treatment-Resistant Major Depression

Safety and Efficacy of Repeated-Dose Intravenous Ketamine for Treatment-Resistant Depression

NMDA receptor blockade at rest triggers rapid behavioural antidepressant responses

A review of ketamine in affective disorders:Current evidence of clinical efficacy,limitations of use and pre-clinical evidence on proposed mechanisms of action

Intravenous Ketamine for the Treatment of Mental Health Disorders: A Review of Clinical Effectiveness and Guidelines

Efficacy of Intravenous Ketamine for Treatment of Chronic Posttraumatic Stress Disorder​

Researchers find new ways of managing clinical and seasonal depression

Areas we Serve:

Maryland (MD):

Bethesda 20814 – Bethesda 20816 – Bethesda 20817 – Chevy Chase 20815 – Colesville 20904 – Cabin John 20815 – Glen Echo 20812 – Gaithersburg 20855 – Gaithersburg 20877- Gaithersburg 20878 – Gaithersburg 20879 – Garrett Park 20896 – Kensington 20895 – Montgomery Village 20886 – Olney 20830 – Olney 20832 – Potomac 20854 – Potomac 20859 – Rockville 20850 – Rockville 20852 – Rockville 20853 – Silver Spring 20903 – Silver Spring 20905 – Silver Spring 20906 – Silver Spring 20910 – Takoma Park 20912 – Wheaton 20902

 

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Fairfax, Va

2303 –  22307 – 22306 – 22309 – 22308 22311 – 22310 – 22312

22315 -22003 – 20120 – 22015 – 22027 20121 – 22031 –  20124

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20105    Aldie      Loudoun County 20106  Amissville            Culpeper County 20107 Arcola   Loudoun County

20108    Manassas            Manassas City 20109       Sudley Springs   Prince William County

20109    Manassas            Prince William County 20110       Manassas            Manassas City

20111    Manassas            Prince William County 20111       Manassas Park  Prince William County

20112    Manassas            Prince William County 20113       Manassas Park  Manassas Park City

20115    Marshall               Fauquier County 20116  Marshall               Fauquier County

20117    Middleburg        Loudoun County 20118  Middleburg        Loudoun County

20119    Catlett  Fauquier County – 20120 Sully Station    Fairfax County

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20122    Centreville          Fairfax County – 20124   Clifton   Fairfax County

20128    Orlean  Fauquier County -20129                Paeonian Springs             Loudoun County

20130    Paris      Clarke County

20131    Philomont           Loudoun County 20132  Purcellville          Loudoun County

20134    Hillsboro              Loudoun County 20134  Purcellville          Loudoun County

20135    Bluemont            Clarke County 20136       Bristow Prince William County

20137    Broad Run           Fauquier County 20138  Calverton            Fauquier County

20139    Casanova             Fauquier County 20140  Rectortown        Fauquier County

20141    Round Hill            Loudoun County 20142  Round Hill            Loudoun County

20143    Catharpin            Prince William County

20144    Delaplane            Fauquier County20146   Ashburn               Loudoun County

20147    Ashburn               Loudoun County 20148  Brambleton        Loudoun County

20148    Ashburn               Loudoun County 20151  Chantilly               Fairfax County

20151    Fairfax  Fairfax County 20152      South Riding       Loudoun County

20152    Chantilly               Loudoun County 20152  Fairfax  Loudoun County

20153    Chantilly               Fairfax County 20153      Fairfax  Fairfax County

20155    Gainesville          Prince William County 20156       Gainesville          Prince William County

20158    Hamilton              Loudoun County 20159  Hamilton              Loudoun County

20160    Lincoln  Loudoun County 20160  Purcellville          Loudoun County

20163    Sterling Loudoun County 20164  Sterling Loudoun County

20165    Potomac Falls    Loudoun County 20165  Sterling Loudoun County

20166    Dulles    Loudoun County 20166  Sterling Loudoun County

20167    Sterling Loudoun County 20168  Haymarket          Prince William County

20169    Haymarket          Prince William County 20170       Herndon              Fairfax County

20171    Oak Hill Fairfax County 20171      Herndon              Fairfax County

20172    Herndon              Fairfax County 20175      Leesburg             Loudoun County

20176    Lansdowne         Loudoun County 20176  Leesburg             Loudoun County

20177    Leesburg             Loudoun County 20178  Leesburg             Loudoun County

20180    Lovettsville         Loudoun County 20181  Nokesville           Prince William County

20182    Nokesville           Prince William County 20184       Upperville           Fauquier County

20185    Upperville           Fauquier County 20186  Warrenton          Fauquier County

20187    New Baltimore  Fauquier County 20187  Vint Hill Farms   Fauquier County 20187  Warrenton          Fauquier County

20188    Vint Hill Farms   Fauquier County 20188  Warrenton          Fauquier County

20190    Reston  Fairfax County 20190      Herndon              Fairfax County

20191    Reston  Fairfax County 20191      Herndon              Fairfax County

20194    Reston  Fairfax County 20194      Herndon              Fairfax County

20195    Reston  Fairfax County 20195      Herndon              Fairfax County

20197    Waterford           Loudoun County 20198  The Plains            Fauquier County

Loudon County:

Loudoun County, VA – Standard ZIP Codes

20105 | 20117 | 20120 | 20129 | 20130 | 20132 | 20135 | 20141 | 20147 | 20148 | 20152 | 20158 | 20164 | 20165 | 20166 | 20175 | 20176 | 20180 | 20184 | 20189 | 20197 | 22066

Ashburn, VA – Standard ZIP Codes
20147 20148
Leesburg, VA – Standard ZIP Codes
20175 20176
Sterling, VA – Standard ZIP Codes
20164 20165 20166

Waterford, VA 20197

Dulles, VA – Standard ZIP Codes
20166 20189
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20132
Chantilly, VA – Standard ZIP Codes
20151 20152

Mcclean, Va Zip codes: 220432204622066,221012210222207

 

KETAMINE | FAIRFAX | ALEXANDRIA | 703-844-0184| KETAMINE THERAPY | KETAMINE AS AN ANTI-DEPRESSANT – NIH -| Dr. Sendi | Ketamine Springfield, Va | Ketamine Loudon | Ketamine for depression | email@novahealthrecovery.com

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Here is an interesting piece regarding the rapid effects of Ketamine on reversing depression, in specific, making events more pleasurable through modulating the action of Glutamate in the brain.

This article was written by Dr. Zarate:

Ketamine and depression – NIH

Highlight: Ketamine: A New (and Faster) Path to Treating Depression

Two charts show the effect of ketamine or placebo on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale.

Left: Change in the 21-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) following ketamine or placebo treatment.
Right: Proportion of responders showing a 50 percent improvement on the HDRS following ketamine or placebo treatment.34

Source: Carlos Zarate, M.D., Experimental Therapeutics and Pathophysiology Branch, NIMH

The most commonly used antidepressants are largely variations on a theme; they increase the supply within synapses of a class of neurotransmitters believed to play a role in depression. While these drugs relieve depression for some, there is a weeks-long delay before they take effect, and some people with “treatment-resistant” depression do not respond at all.

The delay in effectiveness has suggested to scientists that the medication-induced changes in neurotransmitters are several steps away from processes more central to the root cause of depression. One possibility for a more proximal mechanism is glutamate, the primary excitatory, or activating, neurotransmitter in the brain. Preliminary studies suggested that inhibitors of glutamate could have antidepressant-like effects, and in a seminal clinical trial, the drug ketamine—which dampens glutamate signaling—lifted depression in as little as 2 hours in people with treatment-resistant depression.34

The discovery of rapidly acting antidepressants has transformed our expectations—we now look for treatments that will work in 6 hours rather than 6 weeks. But ketamine has some disadvantages; it has to be administered intravenously, the effects are transient, and it has side effects that require careful monitoring. However, results from clinical studies have confirmed the potential of the glutamate pathway as a target for the development of new antidepressants. Continuing research with ketamine has provided information on biomarkers that could be used to predict who will respond to treatment.35Clinical studies are also testing analogs of ketamine in an effort to develop glutamate inhibitors without ketamine’s side effects that can then be used in the clinic.36 Ketamine may also have potential for treating other mental illnesses; for example, a preliminary clinical trial reported that ketamine reduced the severity of symptoms in patients with PTSD. 37 Investigation of the role of glutamate signaling in other illnesses may provide the impetus to develop novel therapies based on this pathway.

One of the imperatives of clinical research going forward will be to demonstrate whether the ability of a compound to interact with a specific brain target is related to some measurable change in brain or behavioral activity that, in turn, can be associated with relief of symptoms. In a study of ketamine’s effects in patients in the depressive phase of bipolar disorder, ketamine restored pleasure-seeking behavior independent from and ahead of its other antidepressant effects. Within 40 minutes after a single infusion of ketamine, treatment-resistant depressed bipolar disorder patients experienced a reversal of a key symptom—loss of interest in pleasurable activities—which lasted up to 14 days.38 Brain scans traced the agent’s action to boosted activity in areas at the front and deep in the right hemisphere of the brain. This approach is consistent with the NIMH’s RDoC project, which calls for the study of functions—such as the ability to seek out and experience rewards—and their related brain systems that may identify subgroups of patients with common underlying dysfunctions that cut across traditional diagnostic categories.

The ketamine story shows that in some instances, a strong and repeatable clinical outcome stemming from a hypothesis about a specific molecular target (e.g., a glutamate receptor) can open up new arenas for basic research to explain the mechanisms of treatment response; basic studies can, in turn, provide data leading to improved treatments directed at that mechanism. A continuing focus on specific mechanisms will not only provide information on the potential of test compounds as depression medications, but will also help us understand which targets in the brain are worth aiming at in the quest for new therapies.

PET scan data superimposed on anatomical MRI

PET scans revealed that ketamine rapidly restored bipolar depressed patients’ ability to anticipate pleasurable experiences by boosting activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (yellow) and related circuitry. Picture shows PET scan data superimposed on anatomical MRI.38

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24 Hill, J., Inder, T., Neil, J., Dierker, D., Harwell, J., & Van Essen, D. (2010). Similar patterns of cortical expansion during human development and evolutionProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences107(29), 13135–13140. (PubMed ID: 20624964)

25 Hawrylycz, M. J., Lein, E. S., Guillozet-Bongaarts, A. L., Shen, E. H., Ng, L., Miller, J. A., … & Jones, A.R. (2012). An anatomically comprehensive atlas of the adult human brain transcriptomeNature,489(7416), 391–399. (PubMed ID: 22996553)

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28 Gulsuner, S., Walsh, T., Watts, A. C., Lee, M. K., Thornton, A. M., Casadei, S., … & McClellan, J. M. (2013). Spatial and temporal mapping of de novo mutations in schizophrenia to a fetal prefrontal cortical networkCell154(3), 518–529. (PubMed ID: 23911319)

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35 Cornwell, B. R., Salvadore, G., Furey, M., Marquardt, C. A., Brutsche, N. E., Grillon, C., & Zarate Jr, C. A. (2012). Synaptic potentiation is critical for rapid antidepressant response to ketamine in treatment-resistant major depressionBiological Psychiatry72(7), 555–561. (PubMed ID: 22521148)

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37 Feder, A., Parides, M. K., Murrough, J. W., Perez, A. M., Morgan, J. E., Saxena, S., … & Charney, D. S. (2014). Efficacy of intravenous ketamine for treatment of chronic posttraumatic stress disorder: A randomized clinical trialJAMA Psychiatry, 71(6), 681-688. (PubMed ID: 24740528)

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39 Smith, M., Saunders, R., Stuckhardt, L., & McGinnis, J. M. (Eds.). (2013). Best care at lower cost: The path to continuously learning health care in America. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. (PubMed ID: 24901184)

40 Chambers, D.A., Glasgow, R.E., & Stange, K.C. (2013). The dynamic sustainability framework: Addressing the paradox of sustainment amid ongoing change.Implementation Science, 8(1), 117. (PubMed ID: 24088228)

41 Ben-Zeev, D., Schueller, S. M., Begale, M., Duffecy, J., Kane, J. M., & Mohr, D. C. (2015). Strategies for mHealth research: Lessons from 3 mobile intervention studiesAdministration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 42(2), 157-167. (PubMed ID: 24824311)

42 Mohr, D. C., Burns, M. N., Schueller, S. M., Clarke, G., & Klinkman, M. (2013). Behavioral intervention technologies: Evidence review and recommendations for future research in mental healthGeneral Hospital Psychiatry,35(4), 332–338. (PubMed ID: 23664503)

43 Aitken, M., & Gauntlett, C. (2013). Patient apps for improved healthcare from novelty to mainstream.Parsippany, NJ: IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/strategic-planning-reports/highlights/index.shtml


I also threw in a reprint of the article from NIH regarding strategic principle #2 to find biomarkers of mental health disorders:

Highlight: GPS for the Brain? BrainSpan Atlas Offers Clues to Mental Illnesses

Image from BrainSpan Atlas shows the location and expression level of the gene TGIF1 in a brain from 21 weeks postconception.

The recently created BrainSpan Atlas of the Developing Human Brain incorporates gene activity or expression (left) along with anatomical reference atlases (right) and neuroimaging data (not shown) of the mid-gestational human brain. In this figure, the location and expression level of the gene TGIF1 is shown in a brain from 21 weeks postconception.

Source: Allen Institute for Brain Science

Technologies have come a long way in mapping the trajectory of mental illnesses. Early efforts provided information on anatomical changes that occur over the course of development. In a step that has been hailed as providing a “GPS for the brain,” the BrainSpan Atlas of the Developing Brain, a partnership among the Allen Institute for Brain Science, Yale University, the University of Southern California, and NIMH—has created a comprehensive 3-D brain blueprint.25 The Atlas details not only the anatomy of the brain’s underlying structures, but also exactly where and when particular genes are turned on and off during mid-pregnancy—a time during fetal brain development when slight variations can have significant long-term consequences, including heightened risk for autism or schizophrenia.26 Knowledge of the location and time when a particular gene is turned on can help us understand how genes are disrupted in mental illnesses, providing important clues to future treatment targets and early interventions. The Atlas resources are freely available to the public on the Allen Brain Atlas data portal. Already, the BrainSpan Atlas has been used to identify genetic networks relevant to autism and schizophrenia.27,28 In both of these studies, the fetal pattern of gene expression revealed relationships that could not be detected by studying gene expression in the adult brain. As most mental illnesses are neurodevelopmental, mapping where and when genes are expressed in the brain provides a fundamental atlas for charting risk.

Brain Atlas NIH