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How Ketamine is Helping Patients With Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

If you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the last thing you want to do is put yourself in a situation where you feel vulnerable and have no control. The irony is that the latest treatment for PTSD was once a street drug called Special K that made people feel just that. The slang term did not live up to its “special” name; the dissociative drug made you feel disconnected from your surroundings. 

But scientific breakthroughs have found a dose and delivery system that control your reactions and may relieve your PTSD symptoms. There’s now great promise in using ketamine in small, medically monitored doses for treatment-resistant depression, PTSD, and more.

Dr. Glenn Harrison at The Rose Center for Integrative Health specializes in a multidisciplinary approach to medicine that brings you the best of several fields, such as primary care, addiction and recovery, HIV treatments, community medicine, and re-entry strategies. This broad perspective allows Dr. Harrison to see the big picture of your overall health and then focus on the most accurate diagnosis and treatment — or combination of treatments — possible. 

When it comes to PTSD, Dr. Harrison helps many patients throughout the greater Chicago area overcome their symptoms through integrated treatments, including talk therapy and other traditional medications that address depression and anxiety. But many of our patients find that the most effective treatment is ketamine therapy.

Traditional PTSD treatments

For years, drugs that alter your mood have been the traditional treatments for PTSD. For instance, antidepressants such as Zoloft™, Paxil™, and Prozac™ were the go-to medications to increase your serotonin levels. They typically take weeks to build up in your system and begin to help. And when they do, their help is often underwhelming.

How ketamine therapy works differently for PTSD

First, let’s address the controversy surrounding the use of a street drug in a legitimate medical therapy. Ketamine is a Schedule III drug, regulated and approved by the US Drug Enforcement Association only for medical use. It’s almost unrecognizable as the same drug club-goers called Special K in the 1990s.

Dr. Harrison administers this prescription medication as a nasal spray called Spravato™ in very small doses. The FDA approved the use of Spravato for treatment-resistant depression in March 2019.

Unlike the antidepressants that increase serotonin in your brain, Spravato subdues the level of glutamate, which is a stimulating neurotransmitter. The ketamine goes to work immediately, and most patients feel better within a few hours. You don’t need to take it daily — most patients take it only once a week for three weeks, then every other week for a few more. 

Although side effects are generally mild and include dizziness, relaxation, and nausea, if you experience any of these at all, they occur immediately following your treatment — while you’re still under our care — and they subside quickly. We do ask that you make arrangements with a friend or family member to give you a ride home after your treatment session.

Your PTSD on ketamine

Most of our patients feel like their PTSD has been calmed down significantly after undergoing ketamine therapy. In addition to addressing depression and anxiety, Spravato may also improve other PTSD symptoms like unwanted thoughts, fear, avoidance, and moodiness.

Because ketamine gives you a subtle distancing from your PTSD, it may allow you to participate in other treatments as well — such as exposure therapy, a type of cognitive behavioral therapy — helping you get the maximum benefit from every angle.


If you or a loved one has PTSD and other treatments haven’t brought relief, book an appointment online today to find out if you’re a good candidate for ketamine therapy.

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