Patients who have treatment-resistant mental health diagnoses like anxiety have a new therapeutic option. Ketamine for anxiety can help reduce debilitating symptoms and improve mental health and wellness.
In the United States, anxiety is the most diagnosed mental health disorder. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America , in 2020, more than forty (40) million Americans were coping with symptoms of anxiety. That is 18.1% of American adults over the age of eighteen (18) years.
Some researchers say that the number of Americans living with clinical anxiety is closer to fifty percent. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)  reported that patients could be diagnosed with one of three types and phases of anxiety:
- 43.5% of Americans have early-onset or very mild anxiety levels
- 33.7% of Americans have moderate anxiety
- 22.8% of people living in the U.S. have high to very high levels of anxiety
People who have unresolved or unmanaged symptoms of anxiety can experience problems with focus and concentration. It can also make it more challenging to regulate moods, which can jeopardize employment opportunities and personal relationships.
Conventional therapies for anxiety work for some people. But many Americans don’t find the relief they are looking for through traditional medicine. Ketamine has been legalized for off-label use for the treatment of many mental health disorders. A new and potentially more effective treatment plan that can help reduce the symptoms of clinical anxiety.
Anxiety and Drug Addiction
Anxiety cannot be cured, and it can be difficult to treat. For that reason, there is a higher-than-average rate of drug and alcohol abuse among people who suffer from have anxiety. Patients may use recreational drugs or alcohol to numb the symptoms they are experiencing.
Drug or alcohol abuse can make symptoms of anxiety worse. Recreational use of drugs and alcohol affect serotonin levels. And they also impair neurotransmitters in the brain. Scientists aren’t sure why, but some clinical studies suggest that it can worsen anxiety symptoms for some patients.
Physicians helping people with anxiety disorders often include drug rehabilitation into the patient’s treatment plan. Addressing existing drug or alcohol addictions happens first. That is because some prescription medications used for treating anxiety are contraindicated. And it can be dangerous to mix anxiety medications with alcohol or other recreational drugs.
What Causes Anxiety?
Researchers today aren’t sure what causes anxiety. Symptoms of anxiety can be triggered by emotional experiences, memories, and traumas. But scientists believe that people who develop anxiety have differences in brain chemistry—specifically, the areas of the brain that create and control the emotional and physical response to fear.
Some clinical studies suggest anxiety can be caused by early childhood trauma. And there can be a hereditary factor. In some families, there are higher than average rates of diagnosed anxiety.
Are There Different Types of Anxiety?
Clinical anxiety can be difficult to diagnose. And one of the reasons is that the patient or individual may not know that they have anxiety. Symptoms of anxiety can be different for everyone. You may have all the symptoms of anxiety. Or, you may only have one or two symptoms.
There are different types of diagnosable anxiety, and each variant can have unique symptoms and triggers that cause an anxiety attack. The medically recognized types of anxiety include:
- Mutism (usually diagnosed in children who have experienced severe trauma)
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Panic disorder
- Separation anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety disorder 
- Anxiety caused by drug abuse or misuse
Contrary to beliefs, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is not a type of anxiety. However, people who have ADHD are frequently diagnosed with clinical anxiety. Researchers are not sure which disorder develops first or if one causes the other to occur.
What Are the Common Symptoms of Anxiety?
Have you ever started worrying about something so much that it made you feel sick? Where you couldn’t sit and relax or slow down the racing thoughts in your head? People with anxiety are hypervigilant, which means they observe everything around them. They pay far more attention to stimuli around them than someone without an anxiety disorder.
Imagine that your brain is a radar system that sweeps your surroundings constantly for threats. Things that scare or upset you. Now, imagine that high-powered radar never shuts off. It can feel like living on ‘red alert’ every day of your life. That’s why many people with anxiety experience chronic fatigue.
Some of the common symptoms of anxiety include:
- Feelings of agitation
- Constant worrying
- Problems with concentration and focus
- Muscle tension
- Insomnia or restless sleep
- Panic attacks
Social withdrawal is also a common symptom for people living with anxiety. It is a way to control the environment and reduce stressful triggers. However, thethat need to withdraw to reduce anxiety triggers can also cause depression because of social isolation.
Can You Cure Anxiety?
Patients may learn how to cope with symptoms of anxiety. In some cases, it may be ten or twenty years before someone is willing to get help. And that is because there are stigmas about many mental health disorders. People can be afraid to be diagnosed or seek medical care because they feel that something is wrong with them.
A diagnosis of anxiety is the first step to improving your life. By acknowledging that you have a health condition that needs care, you can start working on solutions. Therapies today are highly effective at reducing many of the symptoms. And managing those symptoms can improve your quality of life.
Clinical anxiety does not go away without treatment. There is no cure for anxiety. But when you work with a physician who specializes in anxiety disorders, you can create a treatment plan. That’s a strategy that can involve different types of therapies to help reduce the frequency and severity of anxiety symptoms.
You can’t cure anxiety, but you can substantially improve your life by reducing the symptoms. When anxiety becomes manageable, you may sleep better, engage in enjoyable activities you love more often, feel less stress, and become more relaxed. Reducing anxiety symptoms and managing them better means getting back to the happy life you deserve.
What Medical Treatments Are Used to Reduce Anxiety Symptoms?
The first approach that physicians take when treating anxiety is medication and lifestyle choices. For example, did you know that eating a healthy balanced diet can reduce the risk of developing clinical anxiety?
A healthy diet, however, is usually not enough to treat symptoms of anxiety. However, changes that benefit gut health (like taking probiotics) can help. Lifestyle changes like reducing or eliminating alcohol and tobacco use and increasing daily exercise may help minimize symptoms of anxiety too.
Adding fitness activities can be beneficial to reduce and manage anxiety symptoms. Some studies suggest that yoga and other meditative stretching exercises can help. Other studies discuss rigorous physical activity daily to balance body hormones like dopamine, serotonin, estrogen, and testosterone.
Physicians generally use a combination of pharmacotherapy (prescription medications) and talk therapy (counseling or cognitive behavioral therapy). This two-pronged approach helps address the brain chemistry and gives patients training to improve the way they cope with stress and trauma triggers.
Health Problems Related to Chronic Anxiety
Many patients do not realize that if symptoms of chronic anxiety aren’t fixed, it can lead to other health problems. When someone has chronic anxiety, they also have a high level of stress hormone. Cortisol is the hormone that is also called the “fight or flight” hormone. It is meant to be released when we must run away from danger or defend ourselves.
The human body is not meant to operate on high levels of cortisol. The hormone is supposed to be used “as needed” and sparingly. But for people who have chronic anxiety, cortisol levels are generally high. And for a long period of time.
The health risks associated with chronic anxiety include:
- Impairment to the immune system
- Cardiovascular (heart) damage
- Loss of appetite and gastrointestinal upset
- Persistent muscle pain and spasms
Over time, untreated anxiety can also cause damage to the central nervous system. Your body’s communication system is wired to deal with an emergency occasionally. But anxiety keeps your CNS (central nervous system) on high alert almost all the time. This can cause damage to the receptors, neurons, and other parts of your nervous system.
While that might not sound like a big deal, damage to the CNS can also impact organ functioning, digestion, and your immune system. Chronic anxiety can increase the risk of other chronic diseases and may also contribute to developing clinical depression.
Do Psychedelics Help with Anxiety?
The use of psychedelic drugs for anxiety is not new. Ketamine has been legal for off-label use for decades. What that means is that in the United States, a physician has been able to prescribe ketamine treatments for patients if the physician felt that ketamine could improve symptom management.
In the United States, the legal use of ketamine as part of a mental health treatment plan is new. But doctors have been using it as anesthesia since the early 1960s. It was made by combining ketone with an amine, and then it was tested on volunteers. The sensation was described as ‘disconnected’ from their worries and from stress, combined with a relaxing floating experience.
How can psychedelics help a patient with anxiety? Johns Hopkins University recently received $17 million in funding to create America’s first “Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research”. If you have already tried psychedelic drug therapies like MDMA, ketamine, or psilocybin for anxiety relief, you can also participate in the Johns Hopkins online study .
While the mechanisms behind psychedelic drugs and their impact on the human brain are not 100% understood, many patients have reported benefits. And what is encouraging is that patients who get results from psychedelic therapies get results they were unable to achieve through other treatment methods.
Because of encouraging results with patients that have treatment-resistant anxiety or depression (TRD), some states have legalized ketamine. Therapies that a physician prescribes as part of an alternative medicine approach and doctor-supervised treatment plan.
Which Psychedelic Drug is Best for Anxiety?
Some psychiatric researchers believe that ketamine is the best choice for treating mental health disorders. And it can be very effective for patients looking for an alternative treatment for anxiety. Particularly patients at risk because they have severe anxiety that other medical treatments haven’t improved.
In some studies, new synaptic connections can appear in the brain after as little as 24 hours after a ketamine microdose or infusion. And something called dendritic growth occurs. This is essentially a phase of healing your nervous system and brain cells.
When physicians talk about keeping your brain active and young with ‘brain games,’ this is one of the mechanisms. Meeting and interacting with other intelligent people can also stimulate dendritic growth. And there are studies evaluating whether ketamine can be an effective treatment  for mental health disorders like depression caused by the Covid-19 health emergency. And for age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Conventional anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications (SSRI inhibitors, benzodiazepines, or SNRIs can also do this. But the changes can take from 6-12 weeks to appear. Ketamine does the job usually in 1-2 days by comparison. And that can provide better results and faster relief.
How Are Psychedelic Drugs Used in Psychotherapy?
There are a variety of different methods for a patient to have a ketamine treatment. In some states, there are ketamine clinics that have opened. This involves visiting a psychiatrist’s office and ingesting or receiving an infusion of ketamine while being supervised by a medical professional.
While under the influence of psychedelics like ketamine, the human brain can unpack fears or traumas that may have been compartmentalized. Buried in memory and locked behind doors in the human psyche or brain. Psychedelic alternative medicines can help the patient unlock the doors and start to pull out traumas and fears so that they can be evaluated.
Once the ketamine ‘trip’ is over, a patient will engage in a psychotherapeutic counseling session. Ketamine allows the cognitive brain to openly address the source of fears and anxiety. Speaking to a therapist after microdosing ketamine helps the patient to understand where the source of the anxiety is coming from.
Fear and anxieties can be confronted with the patient remaining in a non-threatening, comfortable, and relaxed state. With the help of a trained mental health practitioner, the patient can discuss the source of anxiety and develop new strategies to manage it more effectively.
With a proactive treatment plan, patients can reduce the impact that anxiety symptoms have on their daily lives. And ketamine is a new horizon of treatment for patients experiencing moderate to severe anxiety.
 “Understand Anxiety and Depression: Facts and Statistics,” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 2021.
 “Ketamine for Social Anxiety Disorder: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Crossover Trial,” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, 2021.
 “Research,” Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, 2021.
 “Have You Tried Psychedelics/MDMA to Help with Anxiety, Depression, Trauma or PTSD Symptoms?” Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, 2021.
 “Real-world effectiveness of repeated ketamine infusions for treatment-resistant depression during the COVID-19 pandemic”, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, 2021.