The Truth About Ketamine and Adolescent Mental Health

The Truth About Ketamine and Adolescent Mental Health

After a decline in the 1990s, the number of young people that commit suicide has been increasing every year. While no one can explain exactly why, many experts say adolescents and teens today probably face more pressures at home or school, worry about financial issues for their families, and use more alcohol and drugs. “This is a very dangerous time for our young people,” says Dr Alya Ahmad, ShaMynds Healing Center Pediatrician and Ketamine Assisted Therapy physician, “We’re seeing more anxiety and depression in children of all ages.there was a time when it was unheard of a 12 year old or even 10 year old to talk about deep depression or suicidality. s real and emerging into a crisis. Yet, more and more we are hearing and seeing the effects of depression in even younger children, while the rates of depression in adolescents is sky rocketing.”

HERE ARE SOME ALARMING FACTS:

Among high schoolers 9th to 12th grade in US (in 2020)

  • 17% have considered Suicide in last year
  • 14% had a suicide plan 
  • 8% had attempted 
  • 3% committed suicide 
  • Every 100 minutes a teen takes their own life
  • Only 30% of depressed adolescents are getting any form of treatment or evaluation
  • Female teens develop depression twice as often as males
  • Adolescents who suffer from chronic illnesses or other physical conditions are at risk.
  • Teens with a family history of depression or mental illness: between 20 to 50 percent of teens suffering from depression have a family member with depression or some other mental disorder.

According to www.suicide.org and teen and adolescent suicide the suicide death rate in 2020 was about 5500 deaths per year, this has increased to over 6500 in 2021. Call National Hopeline Network for Suicide Prevention at 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-784-2433. Recognizing the red flags could save a life.

In an article in the Portland Press Herald by Laura Bauer and Mara Rose Williams, experts say teens seem to feel more hopeless than in previous years. Tony Jurich, a professor of family studies and human services at Kansas State University, told the newspaper, “Teens think they are invincible, so when they feel psychological pain, they are more apt to feel overwhelmed by hopelessness and the belief that they have no control over their lives.” Jurich calls these feelings of hopelessness and helplessness “the Molotov cocktail that triggers teen suicide.” A new study led by Jean Twenge, a San Diego State University psychology professor, finds that five times as many high school and college students are dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues as youth of the same age did that were surveyed back during the era of the Great Depression. Twenge, who is also the author of Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled -and More Miserable Than Ever Before, analyzed the responses of over 77,000 college students surveyed from 1938 through 2007.

Can We Say That Teens Are Prepared for Today’s Life Challenges?

Some of the experts believe that we have raised our teens to have unrealistic expectations. Along with the messages from modern media sources that suggest that we should always feel good, they say many parents, educational systems, media and community haven’t taught their kids the kind of coping skills they need to survive in chaotic times.

Why are Today’s Teens So Stressed Out?

“In my opinion, it’s all of the above and more,” writes Therese J. Borchard, author of Beyond Blue“Most experts would agree with me that there is more stress today than in previous generations. Stress triggers depression and mood disorders, so that those who are predisposed to it by their creative wiring or genes are pretty much guaranteed some symptoms of depression at the confusing and difficult time of adolescence. I think modern lifestyles -lack of community and family support, less exercise, no casual and unstructured technology-free play, less sunshine and more computer factors into the equation.” Dr Alya Ahmad also wonders about the role of environmental factors such as diets of American processed fast foods and the possibility of increased exposure to toxins, poor gut health and micronutrient deficiencies that are not detected on routine lab work at your pediatrician or primary care doctor office. She speculates that even if our brains are like research subjects in the past, our hectic lifestyles, environmental toxins, and other challenges may increase the stress factors that contribute to depression, anxiety, PTSD and even OCD.

Intervention and Treatment

Current treatments available include SSRIs, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers and older generation anti-depressant medications. Therapy is also available to address coping, mindfulness and somatic based therapies. Yet, what we do know that when depression is treated, with even conventional treatments the response rate is about 60.6% with medication. The treatment benefit is even higher (71.0%) when medication (like Paxil) is combined with Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Sometimes just talking about depression, can induce 34.8% response – also known as Placebo effect. Therapy like CBT (even without medication) is also effective with a improvement in 43.2% of teenagers in the study.   

So ideally, when adolescents are treated appropriately with the right dose, and with therapy, conventional treatments with SSRI (of which only 2 medications out of 39 are FDA approved) do work. So what is the problem, why are rates so high? 

Well reasons for failure are high:

  1. Unable to get help – access to mental health therapies such as a therapist, primary care or psychiatrist is limited
  2. Medication dosing is not administered correctly
  3. Side effects are high and often interrupt treatment or reduce compliance
  4. Many teenagers don’t get help or do not have support or ways to get help because they may not recognize the seriousness of their condition or they may feel stigmatization is a barrier
  5. Finally it often takes 8-12 weeks for these medications to work. 

Warning Signs of Depression in Teens

In an article for World of Psychology, Borchard lists these common indicators of depression among teens:

  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Sluggishness (less active)
  • Substance abuse
  • Spending more time alone (this includes time alone from you as parents and time away from their regular friends)
  • Decrease in desire to do things they used to like to do (sports, activities, hobbies)
  • Physical ailments (headaches, appetite problems, sleeping problems)
  • Problems in school (falling grades, getting into trouble, not paying attention in class)
  • Talking about death or suicide (never to be taken lightly)
  • Not caring about appearance
  • Running away from home

There was a time, when it was unheard of a 12 year old or even a 10 year to talk about depression or suicidality. Yet, more and more we are hearing and seeing the effects of depression in even younger children, while the rates of depression in adolescents is sky rocketing. 

Suicide Facts: 

Among high schoolers 9th to 12th grade in US (in 2020)

  • 17% have considered Suicide in last year
  • 14% had a suicide plan 
  • 8% had attempted 
  • 3% committed suicide requiring medical attention

Suicide death rate in 2020 was about 5500 deaths per year, this has increased to over 6500 in 2021.

Yet what we do know that when depression is treated, with even conventional treatments the response rate is about 60.6% with medication. The treatment benefit is even higher (71.0%) when medication (like Paxil) is combined with Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). We also see a placebo effect of 34.8% response by even just bringing up the conversation of depression. Therapy like CBT (even without medication) is also effective with a improvement in 43.2% of teenagers in the study.   

So ideally, when adolescents are treated appropriately with the right dose, and with therapy, conventional treatments with SSRI (of which only 2 medications out of 39 are FDA approved) do work. So what is the problem, why are rates so high? 

Well reasons for failure are high:

  1. Unable to get help, 
  2. Medication dosing is not administered correctly
  3. Side effects are high
  4. Many teenagers don’t get help or do not have support or ways to get help
  5. Finally, it takes 8-12 weeks for these medications to work. 

What Depression Treatment and Interventions Are Available?

According to teendepression.org, 80 percent of teens with depression can be successfully treated if they seek the right help. I am part of that statistic. Teen depression doesn’t have to mean a lifetime of struggle, and it certainly doesn’t have to end in suicide.” Another exciting and growing option is Ketamine Assisted Therapy. This form of treatment with ketamine has shown that even a single dose can be effective in adolescents, says Dr. Alya Ahmad. Here are some more points about Ketamine to consider:

  1. Studies done at Yale University and Wilkinson et al, in a Meta analysis show that a single dose of Ketamine significantly reduces suicidal ideation within 24 hours and has a lasting effect up to 7 days. This is big as there does not appear to be any medicine (SSRI or others) that can have this kind of rapid reduction of suicidal thoughts and rumination. This becomes even more of an important consideration, says Dr Ahmad, when we realize that many of the SSRI’s have a black box warning, with an increased risk of suicide intention when starting treatment with conventional SSRI like Paxil and Lexapro. 
  2. In this same study, depression scores remain improved up-to 14 day after a single dose of IV (intravenous ) Ketamine when given to adolescents with minimal side effects. 
  3. Ketamine was also shown to be well tolerated. Thus, when it comes to suicide intentions, ketamine works faster, with greater response, is well tolerated, and comes with few and transient side effects. 

Help is Available at ShaMynds Healing Center

If you think an adolescent 14 years and above is struggling with the symptoms of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, self-harm behaviors, gender identity issues or an eating disorder call ShaMynds Healing Center, Sacramento today to learn more about how we can help work with you and your teen in helping them thrive at this critical juncture of their lives.

Call Us Now at 916-538-6498

Our personalized behavior holistic program is tailored to fit each family’s needs. We provide high value lab testing, psychotherapy and work with community partners in multi-levels of care to help you and your family overcome mental health challenges.  You can call or click on this link for a COMPLIMENTARY CALL. All calls are completely confidential!

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