January 16, 2019 10:22 PM
More than 16 million Americans struggle with major depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Many are not helped by medication or therapy. And every year, one million Americans attempt suicide.
So mental health advocates say there is a great need for new treatment.
That’s what inspired Dr. Gregory Simelgor to start the Minnesota Ketamine Clinic in Woodbury. Studies have shown Ketamine can quickly help patients struggling with major depression.
The drug is FDA approved, but not for this use. And more study is needed on how long the effects can last.
But for patients who've been in therapy and taking antidepressants for years without success, more studies are finding it can provide relief.
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Simelgor said his patients see results in a day or two. For those on the verge of a suicide attempt, that is important.
He added that 85 percent of his patients do see improvement. Simelgor administers the drug through an IV infusion.
Patients usually receive around six treatments. He's quick to point out that he's not a psychologist, he's an anesthesiologist. And he encourages his patients to continue seeing a mental health professional.
One patient, 19-year-old Kyle Eason, said Ketamine made a big difference for him. He said “It's like the world becomes re-saturated in color. It’s like you notice the leaves and the wind against your face and everything becoming how it should be.”
Eason struggled with depression since middle school. But near the end of high school, he enrolled in a clinical trial using ketamine when nothing else worked. He said it helped so much that he started seeing Simelgor after the trial ended so he could continue the treatment.
Sue Abderholden with the National Alliance on Mental Illness said mental health advocates welcome new treatments, but she warned against looking for an instant solution.
Ketamine is still a relatively new treatment and it's not yet covered by insurance to treat depression. At the Minnesota Ketamine Clinic, patients pay $500 per infusion.
Simelgor hopes changes are made so patients can use insurance, because he believes more people who are suffering could find relief.
Mental health advocates stress that if anyone is struggling with thoughts of suicide, they should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Updated: January 16, 2019 10:22 PM
Created: January 16, 2019 04:21 PM
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