Ketamine Holds Promise in Derailing Veteran Suicide

A new study published in the November issue of the Annals of Clinical Psychiatry provides dramatic evidence that ketamine can be an effective treatment for combat related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans.

A new study published in the November issue of the Annals of Clinical Psychiatry provides dramatic evidence that ketamine can be an effective treatment for combat related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans. Ketamine is a time-tested medication that is receiving a significant amount of positive attention recently. It is proving itself to play a valuable role in the treatment of mental health conditions such as depression and PTSD. The study looked at 30 veterans who had debilitating PTSD due to combat experience. Psychological testing was done before and after a series of ketamine infusions that were delivered at escalating doses. The study was performed at Klarisana, which operates ketamine infusion centers in Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico. Tyler Schmidt, a nurse practitioner Klarisana and former Special Forces medic, summarizes the findings by saying, “we saw a 44% decrease in the average score on the PCL-5 which is psychological testing tool that shows the severity of PTSD symptoms in patients.The score decreased in 28 out of 30 veterans which has huge implications for preventing veteran suicide.”

Froy Cervantes, who is the Supervising Medic for Klarisana and a Marine Corps Veteran, served as the liaison for the veterans in the study. Cervantes said, “as an Afghanistan veteran, this study really affected me on a personal level. The VA reported in 2016 that the national veteran suicide rate was 30.1 per 100,000 veterans whereas the suicide rate in the general population was 17.5 per 100,000 people. It was great to be a part of something that might actually do something tangible to decrease the veteran suicide rate.”

Gerson Barahona, the Director of Operations for Klarisana adds, “one of the first studies showing that ketamine could be an effective treatment for PTSD was published by the US Army Institute of Surgical Research in 2008. Unfortunately, ketamine didn’t receive the research dollars or attention one might have expected, given the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The veteran suicide rate is the whole reason that Klarisana opened its first center in San Antonio, Texas. Our goal is not just to provide clinical treatment but to also advance medical knowledge regarding how ketamine can treat PTSD.”

Dr. John Huber PsyD, a forensic psychologist and member of the Klarisana Medical Advisory Board, further describes the implications of this study. He said, “one of the most significant aspects of this study is that we used much higher doses of ketamine than have been used previously in other studies. One of our hypotheses is that the ‘experiential’ effects of ketamine are not a side effect but rather an essential part of the treatment effect. While many studies use an arbitrary, and rather low, dose of 0.5 milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg) of body weight, our average dose on the sixth infusion was 1.94 mg/kg.”

Zackery A. Tedder, Licensed Psychological Associate and Klarisana advisor builds on this by saying, “this is really exciting because, the finding that we could safely produce such a robust treatment response at dramatically higher doses really challenges the old paradigm that the effect of ketamine is purely biochemical and otherwise unrelated to the non-ordinary state of consciousness and ego disruption that ketamine causes.” Tedder adds, “in our follow up study, we are repeating this protocol in paramedics who have developed PTSD from their careers in prehospital care. This time we are adding specific survey instruments that assess the role that the experiential or “psychedelic” aspect of ketamine produces. This is not surprising as it is the same effect that has received a lot of attention in the popular press such as with Michael Pollan’s book on the science of psychedelics. Our paramedic study will shed some interesting light on the role of the experiential aspect of ketamine.”

Carl J. Bonnett, MD, is the Medical Director for Klarisana and one of the study’s authors. Bonnett said, “ketamine has the potential to be an incredibly disruptive technology for the treatment of PTSD. It is exciting to be a part of something that could potentially have a positive effect on the suicide rate in this country. That being said, it is important to look at this in an evidence-based fashion. There are a number of clinicians who are flocking to the field of ketamine infusion therapy for the wrong reasons. We have clinicians in our own backyard in San Antonio who are making wild and completely unsubstantiated claims about ketamine. Some of these individuals are trying to pass off ‘proprietary blends’ of ketamine and other ingredients that have not been subject to scientific inquiry. Our goal at Klarisana has always been to practice evidence-based medicine and contribute to the field of ketamine therapy in a positive and constructive fashion.

Klarisana is based in San Antonio, Texas and operates clinics in Austin, Texas, Denver, Colorado, and Carlsbad, New Mexico. For questions about this study or for questions about the ongoing follow up study looking at the use of ketamine for PTSD in paramedics please contact Klarisana at or email [email protected].