Is Ketamine the Answer to Treating Depression Caused by Chronic Illness? | HMG
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Is Ketamine the Answer to Treating Depression Caused by Chronic Illness?

Is Ketamine the Answer to Treating Depression Caused by Chronic Illness?

Depression is a troubling condition that can drain the joy out of life and leave an individual feeling fatigued, helpless, and hopeless. One of the most prominent contributors of depression is chronic illness.

Sadly, standard treatment practice for depression does not fully acknowledge or address the connection between chronic illness and mental health. Fortunately, it may be possible to effectively treat depression while also improving elements of chronic illness.

Research suggests that ketamine therapy may prove to be a safe and effective approach to alleviating depression while also limiting multiple symptoms commonly cause by chronic illness.

What is Depression?

Depression is an exceptionally common mental health issue. It estimated that every year over 19 million Americans suffer from depression. Despite its frequency there are still many questions regarding the cause of depression and how best to treat.

Identifying Depression

Depression can manifest itself in many ways. Even though it is classified as a mental health disorder, depression can trigger physical irregularities in addition to disrupting psychological wellness. Familiarity with the many signs and symptoms of depression facilitates earlier recognition, treatment, and recovery.

Some of the most common physical symptoms of depression include:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia or reduced sleep quality
  • Loss of appetite or excessive consumption
  • Physical discomfort including muscle, joint, intestinal, or head pains
  • Weight loss or weight gain

Psychological or mood related issues associated with depression include:

  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Guilt
  • Irritability or anger
  • Loneliness
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Malaise
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

If left unattended, depression can severely damage mental wellbeing and contribute to long-term physical dysfunction. Therefore, if you regularly or even infrequently experience some or all of the above symptoms, it is essential that you seek out medical assistance and request a mental health assessment. However, diagnosis is only the first step. To effectively treat depression, the underlying cause must be identified and resolved.

Primary Causes of Depression

Over the years, scientists have identified many contributing factors of depression. Markers such as age, race, gender, lifestyle, and genetics may be used to roughly estimate the risk for developing depression. However, a far more accurate indicator of the potential for depression is the presence of chronic illness.

Common chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer, thyroid disorders, adrenal fatigue chronic pain, diabetes, sleep disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and Lyme disease are associated with greater risk of mental health disease and depression. In fact, studies suggest that the risk of developing a psychological disorder such as depression is twice as likely among those with chronic illness when compared to those without. These findings are further supported by frequent reports from chronically ill patients stating they are suffering from common telltale signs of depression. This is consistent with studies estimating that nearly one third of those with chronic illness experience symptoms associated with depression.

The Influence of Chronic Illness

There are several reasons why chronic disease may promote the occurrence of depression.

Some chronic conditions have a direct impact on how the brain functions. In these cases, as the condition worsens, neurological activity can become increasingly dysfunctional resulting in psychological disruptions. For example, a study conducted at the University of California, Berkley showed that chronic illness can negatively affect the hippocampus by limiting neuron production and increasing myelin. When these two substances fall out of balance, the hippocampus may malfunction resulting in neurological dysfunction, mood irregularities, and even depression.

The emotional and psychological stress of chronic illness can also contribute to the development of depression. Studies have found that patients with a new or recent diagnosis for chronic illness are likely to experience some degree of depression. The same can be said for an unexpected flare-up or sudden worsening of the condition. Typically, depressive symptoms triggered by these events dissipate after a short period. However, some patients may not bounce back and develop a diagnoseable mental condition requiring additional treatment.

Treating Depression While Contending with Chronic Illness

One of the major challenges with treating depression is that it is often linked to one or more underlying chronic illnesses. Because chronic disease tends to be exceptionally complex, even minor miscalculations in treatment can exacerbate the problem. Unfortunately, effective resolution of depression remains hindered by standardized treatment with antidepressants that have been proven time and again to produce serious side effects often resulting in a worsening of an individual’s condition. To effectively treat depression in the presence of chronic illness, a different approach must be taken.

Recently, a novel treatment involving ketamine has attracted notable attention. Ketamine is an NMDA receptor antagonist that has been used for many years as a general anesthetic. Recent research shows that even at low dose, ketamine used in conjunction with other therapies may improve depression. It has been confirmed that even at doses as low as 0.5 mg/kg, intravenous administration for a period of 40 minutes provides a notable antidepressant effect.

Ketamine may also relieve pain related to chronic illness. One study found that six of the eight participants suffering from chronic disease experienced notable pain relief when taking ketamine. Additionally, it has been found that ketamine may be effective as an alternative to opioids for managing pain.

Ask Your Doctor About Ketamine

Ketamine has shown to be a viable option for individuals dealing with both chronic illness and depression. In order to achieve optimal wellness, it is vital that both conditions be addressed.

At Holtorf Medical Group, our physicians are trained to provide you with cutting-edge testing and innovative treatments like Ketamine to find the answers you deserve and a treatment plan that is personalized to your specific condition. We’ve also partnered with a certified psychotherapist to further support you. If you have been diagnosed with a chronic illness, but aren’t receiving support for your mental health, call us at 877-508-1177 to see how we can help you!


1. National Institute of Mental Health. “Chronic Illness & Mental Health.”
2. Web MD. “Dealing With Chronic Illnesses and Depression.”
3. Martha McLaughlin. “How Does Chronic Illness Affect Mental Health?” The Oaks Treatment Center.

4. Gerard Sanacora, MD, PhD et al. “A Consensus Statement on the Use of Ketamine in the Treatment of Mood Disorders.” JAMA Psychiatry. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.0080

5. Lauretti GR et al. “Oral ketamine and transdermal nitroglycerin as analgesic adjuvants to oral morphine therapy for cancer pain management.” Anesthesiology. 1999 Jun;90(6):1528-33.

6. Berman RM et al. “Antidepressant effects of ketamine in depressed patients.” Psychiatry 2000 Feb 15;47(4):351-4.

7. Maurizio Fava et al. “Double-blind, placebo-controlled, dose-ranging trial of intravenous ketamine as adjunctive therapy in treatment-resistant depression (TRD).”

How HMG Has Helped Others: Patient Testimonial

I found my way to Dr. Lisa Hunt at Holtorf when I was so sick that I couldn’t walk, read, or hold my own head up. I went undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, dismissed and gaslit by doctors for many years. Dr. Hunt changed the course of my life at a time when I didn’t know if I could survive any longer. She believed me. She knew the right tests to order based on my symptoms. She had compassion and treated me immediately like I was important to her, like a family member. After years of doctors mistreating and ignoring me, implying that the deterioration of my body was somehow my fault or “a psychiatric problem”, and letting me slowly (and then quickly) wither away until I was unrecognizable to myself, it was hard to even comprehend this kind of care; it was a bigger relief than I can really put into words. 

I’m a complicated case – I went in with “mystery illness” and received multiple clear diagnoses that finally made sense and set me on the path to healing. Dr. Hunt has been there for me through the most terrifying and painful time of my life. I called so much in the first 6 months of treatment and she always got back to me the same day, answering my questions, validating my experience, calming my fears. Together we have forged a path through the wilderness of my complex case and I am finally getting back to living my life. 

I wouldn’t go anywhere else for Lyme treatment. HMG utilizes the most cutting edge therapies that help rehabilitate your body, instead of launching an all out attack with no concern to the damage done. You do not have to go through months or years of antibiotics that destroy your microbiome. There is a better way. Dr. Holtorf has battled late stage lyme, he knows the horrors, and that is why he has dedicated his life to finding the most effective and most humane treatments available. I have been treated with kindness, compassion, and competency by everyone there – doctors, nurses, staff. Dan always manages to work with my difficult, beat up veins, Marie is the warm, loving presence you want around when you’re having a rough day on your journey, Dr. Hunt is the doctor that will fight with you and for you to get the quality of life that you deserve. I still get little cheers from everyone there when they see me walking around the building, after a year in a wheelchair. These people (and the incredible community I’ve met while getting treatments in the IV room) have walked with me through the darkest journey of my life and helped me stay on the planet. 

If you have doctors who ignore, shame, gaslight or abandon you – walk away. It doesn’t have to be like that. I have seen the light and it is here. I really don’t even have the words to express my gratitude. Getting treated here has been a bridge back to life for me. – Sue R.

Read more reviews like this here!

Is Ketamine the Answer to Treating Depression Caused by Chronic Illness? was last modified: August 29th, 2019 by Holtorf Medical Group

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