Ketamine now offered to patients with treatment-resistant depression

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DENVER — There are new options for people suffering from treatment-resistant depression. More clinics are offering ketamine, an anesthetic, that has also been abused in the party scene.

Julie Hersh is a patient at Actify, a Denver clinic offering IV infusions of ketamine. The 56-year-old has battled depression and bipolar disorder for decades, and she has taken numerous medications.

Last fall, Hersh hit another period when she did not want to live.

“I thought the depression was going to kill me because I couldn’t live like that any more. I had done everything,” she said.

That’s when her psychiatrist gave her a referral for a series of low-dose ketamine treatments. A registered nurse at Actify administered the drug and monitored Hersh throughout each session.

“Some of these layers of hurt,” Hersh said, “Were accessed through the ketamine and processed away.”

Hersh said she could feel the treatment working, although how it works is still unclear.

“We don’t know how ketamine works to create a healing property within the brain. It’s still being highly researched,” said Shantel Gallegos with Actify. But she says it is safe and has been administered thousands of times at Actify facilities.

Ketamine is FDA approved for anesthesia, but not to treat depression. It’s used off-label, which is a common and legal process.

Each infusion costs about $350 and it’s not given to people currently battling addiction.

Actify also offers a new product called Spravato, which was recently FDA approved for treatment-resistant depression. It’s a nasal spray that is administered in-clinic. It contains esketamine, a derivative of ketamine.

Hersh says she had good results with the infusions.

“I had joy this Christmas that I had not experienced for years,” she said.

“We are grateful,” her husband, David Hersh, added.

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