Ketamine Intranasal for Rapid Relief of Pain and Depression


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Poorly managed pain can evolve into chronic disease of the nervous system

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Ketamine is an important analgesic, more important than opioids. It can dramatically reduce pain, and rapidly relieve depression and PTSD.  Please read my earlier posts here and here. And the NPR report here just after I posted this (skip to their last section). Yes, it is FDA approved and legal. One woman said:

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 ‘It was almost immediate, the sense of calmness and relaxation.

‘No more fogginess. No more heaviness. I feel like I’m a clean slate right now. I want to go home and see friends or, you know, go to the grocery store and cook the family dinner.’

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NPR again reports ketamine’s rapid relief of depression. A 28 year old man whose refractory depression began at age 15, after ketamine, says:

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‘I Wanted To Live Life’

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Stephens himself has vivid memories of the day he got ketamine. It was a Monday morning and he woke up feeling really bad, he says. His mood was still dark when doctors put in an IV and delivered the drug.”Monday afternoon I felt like a completely different person,” he says. “I woke up Tuesday morning and I said, ‘Wow, there’s stuff I want to do today.’ And I woke up Wednesday morning and Thursday morning and I actually wanted to do things. I wanted to live life.”.
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Since then, they treated him with Riluzole that is FDA approved for ALS and has one of the dirtiest side effect profiles I have ever seen in medicine with serious organ toxicity. Ketamine rarely causes mild transient side effects, usually none. It appears the concern is how ketamine is used on the street with potential for abuse. I do not see ketamine abuse in my patients, some of whom are on opioids for pain or Valium family medicines from their psychiatrist. All of those have a greater potential for abuse, also not occurring in my patients. Pain and/or depression can lead to suicide.
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About 18 months ago, researchers at Yale found a possible explanation for ketamine’s effectiveness. It seems to affect the glutamate system in a way that causes brain cells to form new connections.
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Researchers have long suspected that stress and depression weaken some connections among brain cells. Ketamine appears to reverse the process.

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It would be of interest to see a case report of the bladder problems they mention. Is this in a single drug addict who used many unknown medications on the street? Several physicians have infused IV ketamine for persons with pain for many years, in far higher doses than I prescribe, with no report of any but transient minor symptoms.

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David Barsook’s 2009 review, reference below, describes changes that cause memory loss and brain atrophy with chronic pain, in particular, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), and they also occur with chronic depression:

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With the onset of chronic pain (including CRPS) a number of changes in brain function occur in the human brain including but not limited to: (1) central sensitization ; (2) functional plasticity in chronic pain and in CRPS; (3) gray matter volume loss in CRPS ; (4) chemical alterations; and (5) altered modulatory controls. Such changes are thought to be in part a result of excitatory amino acid release in chronic pain. Excitatory amino acids are present throughout the brain and are normally involved in neural transmission but may contribute to altered function with excessive release producing increased influx of calcium and potentially neural death.

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Brain atrophy and memory loss has also been shown in chronic low back pain as well as in chronic depression.

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Barriers to management of chronic pain are many:

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Although opioids are effective for acute pain, effective treatment of chronic pain is often daunting, particularly neuropathic pain.

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Opioids have been shown to create pain causing imbalance in the glial cytokines that favor pain rather than relief of pain. Opioids carry the risk of opioid-induced hyperalgesia which is a severe pain sensitivity. They affect the brain and endocrine system. Opioids may fail to offer significant relief, fail to improve function, and risk misuse, abuse, diversion and death. Their costs are astronomic, insurance coverage is increasingly limited, the potential for complications may be life threatening in a hectic medical setting, side effects can be lethal, lack of physician training in use of opioids and alternatives to pain control lead to increasing deaths, addiction and diversion. It has become a national emergency and a trillion dollar war on drugs.

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Complications can be greatly reduced through use of a scrupulous history and physical examination, but reimbursement is directly proportional to the shortest time spent with a patient. Will that help assessment and care?

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Individuals may have dramatically different responses to opioid therapy; some may not tolerate any, and relief must be balanced with side effects that increase as the dose increases. Patient status may change and require IV, rectal or tube delivery instead of oral formulas; drug-drug interactions may require rapid changes, and disease of kidney, liver or brain may require modifications or stopping altogether. They may increase risk of falls and cause central sleep apnea with drop in oxygen because the brain fails to give a signal to breathe.

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Chronic pain can lead to loss of sleep, hopelessness, depression, anger and other mood disorders such as panic, anxiety, hypochondriasis and post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD]. Treatment of mood disorders are shown to profoundly reduce pain perception and/or ability to cope with pain.

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Ketamine is anti-inflammatory and can reduce the need for opioid use, thus reducing the pain and side effects caused by opioids.

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Nasal ketamine is more effective than oral ketamine for pain relief; oral dosing has no effect on depression.

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Nasal delivery of ketamine is now possible due to advances in metered nasal sprayers that deliver a precise dose. No needle is required, no IV access, no travel to a specialist needed.

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You can carry pain relief with you and use it as directed when it is needed.

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Ketamine is an NMDA antagonist: it antagonizes the NMDA receptor which plays a profound role in pain systems and centralization of pain.

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Ketamine is neuroprotective and it can help other disease states as noted by Barsook, 2009:

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Besides improvement in pain, “there may be lessons from other diseases that affect the brain; it is noteworthy that acute ketamine doses seem to reverse depression and ketamine decreased prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in soldiers receiving ketamine during their surgery for treatment of their burns. In addition ketamine attenuates post-operative cognitive dysfunction following cardiac surgery that has been known to produce significant changes in cognition. [emphasis mine] The data suggest that the drug can alter or prevent other conditions based on its NMDAR activity where other drugs NMDA receptor antagonists are perhaps not as effective in these or pain conditions. Lastly, NMDA antagonists have been used in degenerative disease (and pain may be considered a degenerative disease as defined by loss of gray matter volume, see above) with mixed effects perhaps relating to how they act on specific NMDA subtypes. Taken together, ketamine may act not only on sensory systems affecting pain intensity, but also on a constellation of brain regions that are involved in the pain phentype. [sic, phenotype]”

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Side Effects

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Ketamine is more frequently used in babies and children than in adults because high doses of ketamine can induce hallucinations in the adult. Importantly, it is used in high dose in adults for treatment of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

Low doses, cause little or no side effects in adults. If present, they are transient and often resolve in 20 minutes. Patient who respond to ketamine report good acceptance as they find the relief of pain and/or depression far outweighs any short term minimal discomfort.

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Pain care reform is urgently needed.

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Research funding for pain is less than half of one percent of the NIH budget. More research is needed, but research on low dose ketamine for treatment of pain and depression has gone on for twenty years.

The public health crisis of untreated pain, which often results in disability, parallels the country’s struggle to halt the cost of health care. The longer a person remains with untreated pain, the less likely they are to return to work or to be employable.

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Conclusion

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Pain control requires urgent attention. It is past time to put into practice the use of this valuable medication so people can get on with life instead of being mired in chronic pain that for many risks suicide and ensures continuing decades of disability. Academic studies are usually limited by defining a predetermined dose rather than clinically titrating to effect. Thus no surprise, they find no effect as every patient will have no response until they reach their dose. And that dose, in my experience, falls into a bell shaped curve. One size does not fit all. Some respond at very low dose, others require much more, and the majority fall between.

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In my experience prescribing ketamine for ten years, only a rare person has problems. Almost all find it has returned function or significantly relieved pain. Some have been able to entirely eliminate opioids that did nothing for their pain for decades, though they dutifully returned to the MD every month to chronicle that pain. Pain continued to be rated ten on a scale of ten; patient always compliant despite side effects of constipation and often depression. My patients find the benefits of nasal ketamine far outweigh the relief of oral ketamine and at much lower doses with fewer side effects.

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Further, while the pain relief may be short lived, some find it gets better with repeat dosing, and relief of depression may last one to two weeks with a single dose.

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References

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http://www.wjgnet.com/1007-9327/10/1028.asp  Ketamine suppresses intestinal NF-kappa B activation and proinflammatory cytokine in endotoxic rats.

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CONCLUSION: Ketamine can suppress endotoxin-induced production of proinflammatory cytokines such as TNF-a and IL-6 production in the intestine. This suppressive effect may act through inhibiting NF-kappa B.

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http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1080/J354v16n03_03  Ketamine as an Analgesic Parenteral, Oral, Rectal, Subcutaneous, Transdermal and Intranasal Administration

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Ketamine is a parenteral anesthetic agent that provides analgesic activity at sub-anesthetic doses. It is an N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist with opioid receptor activity. Controlled studies and case reports on ketamine demonstrate efficacy in neuropathic and nociceptive pain. Because ketamine is a phencyclidine analogue, it has some of the psychological adverse effects found with that hallucinogen, especially in adults. Therefore, ketamine is not routinely used as an anesthetic in adult patients. It is a frequently used veterinary anesthetic, and is used more frequently in children than in adults. The psychotomimetic effects have prompted the DEA to classify ketamine as a Schedule III Controlled Substance. A review of the literature documents the analgesic use of ketamine by anesthesiologists and pain specialists in patients who have been refractory to standard analgesic medication regimens. Most reports demonstrate no or mild psychotomimetic effects when ketamine is dosed at sub-anesthetic doses. Patients who respond to ketamine tend to demonstrate dramatic pain relief that obviates the desire to stop treatment due to psychotomimetic effects (including hallucinations and extracorporeal experiences). Ketamine is approved by the FDA for intravenous and intramuscular administration. Use of this drug by the oral, intranasal, transdermal, rectal, and subcutaneous routes has been reported with analgesic efficacy in treating nociceptive and neuropathic pain.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15109503  Safety and efficacy of intranasal ketamine for the treatment of breakthrough pain in patients with chronic pain: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study  Daniel Carr, et al, 2004
Crossover, 20 patients. Ketamine reduced breakthrough pain within 10min of dosing, lasting up to 60min
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15288418  Safety and efficacy of intranasal ketamine in a mixed population with chronic pain
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The intranasal route for ketamine administration has been applied only for pain of dressing changes in a single case study (Kulbe, 1998). In this patient, oxycodone and acetaminophen were ineffective to control pain during burn dressing changes in a 96-year-old woman cared for at home. She tolerated the burn dressing changes after three intranasal sprays of 0.1 ml each, in rapid succession, each containing 5 mg ketamine (15 mg total) (Kulbe, 1998).
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http://www.acutepainjournal.com/article/S1366-0071%2807%2900167-2/abstract  Safety and efficacy of intranasal ketamine for acute postoperative pain
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Ketamine delivered intranasally was well tolerated. Statistically significant analgesia, superior to placebo, was observed with the highest dose tested, 50 mg, over a 3 h period. Rapid onset of analgesia was reported (<10 min), and meaningful pain relief was achieved within 15 min of the 50 mg dose. The majority of adverse events were mild/weak and transient. No untoward effects were observed on vital signs, pulse oximetry, and nasal examination. At the doses tested, no significant dissociative effects were evident using the Side Effects Rating Scale for Dissociative Anaesthetics.
The safety profile following treatment with ketamine was comparable to that seen with placebo.
Although patients did report side effects of fatigue, dizziness and feelings of unreality more often following treatment with ketamine than following treatment with placebo, no patient reported hallucinations and the side effects were generally reported to be of mild or moderate severity, and transient. No serious adverse events were reported and the incidences of associated adverse events were comparable for ketamine and placebo. Although study medication was administered intranasally, nasal signs and symptoms were few and inconsequential. A distinctive taste, however, was reported more often following treatment with ketamine than following treatment with placebo.In conclusion this randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study, in 20 patients, has demonstrated that intranasal ketamine is safe and effective for BTP [breakthrough pain]. Our findings augment an early but promising literature documenting the effectiveness of nasal administration of a variety of opioids for pain management in adults (Dale et al., 2002) .
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~http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2875542/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2875542/  Ketamine and chronic pain – Going the distance, David Barsook, 2009

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This important paper covers essential points not mentioned by many, thus quoted at length below:

“Ketamine, brain function and therapeutic effect – neuroprotective or neurotoxic

With the onset of chronic pain (including CRPS) a number of changes in brain function occur in the human brain including but not limited to: (1) central sensitization ; (2) functional plasticity in chronic pain and in CRPS; (3) gray matter volume loss in CRPS ; (4) chemical alterations ; and (5) altered modulatory controls. Such changes are thought to be in part a result of excitatory amino acid release in chronic pain. Excitatory amino acids are present throughout the brain and are normally involved in neural transmission but may contribute to altered function with excessive release producing increased influx of calcium and potentially neural death. Here lies the conundrum the use of an agent that potentially deleteriously affect neurons that may already be compromised but may also have neuroprotective properties by mechanisms that include reducing phosphorylation of glutamate receptors resulting in decreased glutamatergic synaptic transmission and reduced potential excitotoxicity . Alternatively, ketamine may affect glia regulation of glutamate and inhibit glutamate release within glia. However, by whatever mechanism ketamine acts on CRPS pain, there does seem to be a dose/duration effect in that longer doses at levels tolerated by patients seem to prove more effective in terms of the duration of effects.

So what could be happening in the brain and what is required to alter brain systems and reverse the symptomatic state? Ketamine may diminish glutamate transmission and “resets” brain circuits, but it seems that a minimal dose and/or duration of treatment is required. Alternatively, ketamine may produce neurotoxicity and damage or produce a chemical lesion of affected neurons. These two issues are important to be understood in future trials. Reports from patients who have had anesthetic doses have included prolonged pain relief for many months. While the authors did not address issues such as the effect of dosing duration or repetitive dosing at say 6weeks, they did show a level of efficacy based on NNT that equals or betters most drug trials for this condition.”

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“Conclusions

As a community we have a major opportunity to define the efficacy and use of a drug that may offer more to CRPS (and perhaps other) patients than is currently available. This is clearly an opportunity that needs urgent attention and a number of questions remain to be answered. For example, is ketamine more effective in early stage disease? How does ketamine provide long-term effects? Further controlled trials evaluating dose, duration, anesthetic vs. non-anesthetic dosing are needed. Few of us really understand what it is like to suffer from a chronic pain condition such as CRPS. Ketamine therapy may be a way forward that can be brought into our clinical practice through further controlled studies that will allow for appropriate standards for use in patients.”

 

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice,
diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.
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Please understand that it is not legal for me to give medical advice without a consultation.

If you wish an appointment, please telephone my office or contact your local psychiatrist.

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For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!
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11 Responses to “Ketamine Intranasal for Rapid Relief of Pain and Depression”

  1. Gerard Skibba Says:

    Hello Dr Sajben, Your survey-review of low dose intranasal ketamine is spot-on. The depression relief is one of the best parts of the benefits provided by rational use of this medication. I feel that the low grade depression that is engendered by chronic pain is the major contributing cause of the malaise that inevitably develops with time.
    If the suffering is stopped early, many of the longer time-frame disabilities will not occur but if they have, they should be reversible. My own previous experiance with intranasal ketamie (50mg/ml) is that it first relieved the myocloni that seem to be a part of opioid pain control problem that I had.
    Please feel free to repost any parts of my previous emails to you.
    Thank You,
    Best Regards
    Gerard

  2. bryan Says:

    Hi Nancy, do you know of any Michigan psychiatrist that will prescribe nasal Ketamine?, other scripts have not helped with ptsd and damage from stress, I believe this drug could help, perhaps i could come see you

  3. Keith Says:

    This site lists doctors who use ketamine for pain management. Dr. Sajben is probably the only one on the list who uses intranasal ketamine.

    http://prof-de-rien.blogspot.com/2011/04/list-of-doctorsorganizations-providing.html

  4. BRENDA Says:

    I HAVE NEVER READ INFORMATION THAT KETAMINE IS AN ANTIINFLAMMATORY. I BELIEVE YOU MISWROTE.

    • Nancy Sajben MD Says:

      Personal communication with Linda Watkins, PhD, one of the world’s foremost glial scholars. She described ketamine’s action in the CNS and ultimately on glia.

      I was about to stop prescribing ketamine as it is short lasting and I see very good results with other medication, but she quickly said it is strongly anti-inflammatory. Thus I continue to prescribe ketamine and continue to focus on medications that are anti-inflammatory and analgesic, especially those that are longer lasting. Once these others take effect, patients need less and less ketamine, but they often continue to use ketamine for breakthrough pain.

  5. Jason Says:

    This is the best information I have ever found on Nasal Ketamine. I have suffered from SUNCT syndrome for over ten years. I have a supraorbital neurostimulator that helps. I have not been pain free in many many years. I have had four SPG nerve blocks with good and bad results. My Drs ran into a wall trying to help me with the pain. Over the years they just kept increasing the amount of Kadian and Oxycodone that I took along with other very strong narcotics. I hated them more than anything. They caused many other heath problems over the years. I have now been lucky enough to find a neurologist that prescribed Nasal Ketamine. Within four months I am 100% off of The Kadian. The Ketamine has controlled the frequency and duration of the attacks like nothing I have ever had. I am even happier that it is non-narcotic. I give myself a break of at least one day a week if not more. I know that the tolerance to it can grow very fast. I will not trade one problem for another. This paper was posted on a Cluster Headache Support Group on Facebook. There are so many people that suffer from TAC headaches. I hope that more people now talk to their own Drs about this. Because of the type of pain that a chronic headache that does not go away for years can cause, a medication with these possibilities can be a lifesaver for many. Thank you for your work.

  6. princess Says:

    Hi, I suffer from Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue syndrome which is kicking up depression because of constant pain and very poor quality of life. I take up to 40 mg of oxycodone for pain but don’t want to do this for the rest of my life.

    Just started with a new Dr.Chris Hatlesdad who is aware of Ketamine and has prescribed it IV, but when I told him about your article and others about the wonders of nasal Ketamine, he looked at me bizarre… I can only hope he will come around after I sent him great articles and links about it.

    Do you offer phone consultation. I am in Portland Oregon and miss La Jolla, I used to work at Torrey Pines Hospital. I would like to get a prescription for nasal Ketamine greatly. I’m tired of suffering

    Thank you in advance,

    Pj

  7. JO Says:

    Dear Dr. Sajben,

    I am living in Australia and I am suffering from military/combat related PTSD. I went through more or less effective in- and outpatient programs over the years. I am experiencing frequent episodes of severe depression for years and I understand that Ketamine treatment might help me. Since Ketamine treatment isn’t available in Australia at all, I’ve been wondering if it would be possible to be treated by you & a MD in the US. Provided that it would be possible, I would be most grateful if you could get in touch with me. In any case, thank you for your reply and I hope this message finds you well.

    JO


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