Desert Sands Ketamine brings cutting-edge treatment for depression, mood disorders to Southern Utah

Photo by pikselstock \ Bigstock, St. George News

CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — The treatment of clinical depression is a difficult undertaking. For people who have tried various medications and therapies and don’t know where else to turn, ketamine infusions may provide relief – and hope – at last. 

Dr. Eric Evans and Shannon Evans, owners of Desert Sands Medical Clinics, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

Anesthesiologist Dr. Eric Evans and his wife, Shannon – who is a nurse – bring 50 years of combined medical expertise to the new Desert Sands Ketamine Treatment Center, offering a lifeline to those living with treatment-resistant depression and other mood disorders. 

“We try to make it a very individualized approach to each patient and what their goals are,” Eric Evans said. “We’ve tried to foster a very accepting and caring place for people to come.” 

Exploring new frontiers

The fast-acting antidepressant effects of ketamine, better known as a surgical drug, were first demonstrated in small studies during the early 2000s. A research review published in Science magazine in 2012 referred to ketamine as “arguably the most important discovery in half a century” of depression research.

Evans routinely administered ketamine as a surgical anesthetic over the course of his career, but a year and a half ago, his brother asked him what he knew about it as an alternative treatment for depression. 


Interior of the Desert Sands Ketamine Treatment Center, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

At this point, Evans and his wife started researching with the idea of opening a ketamine treatment center in mind. They flew to clinics across the country to gather information and observe treatments, combining the best of what they saw to create an unparalleled patient experience.


Concentrating on treatment-resistant clinical depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and clinical anxiety, they began seeing patients at Desert Sands in early March. 

Understanding ketamine

While relatively new in treating depression, ketamine has been used – in significantly higher doses – by anesthesiologists for sedation and pain relief since the 1970s. On the therapeutic level, it works within an area of the brain called the amygdala, which processes moods and emotions in the conscious mind. 

Most antidepressants focus on boosting serotonin levels. However, Evans pointed to recent research conducted by Yale University indicating that clinical depression and other mood disorders are actually caused by shortages of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor.  

“Ketamine is really amazing at boosting that factor in people’s brains,” he said.  

Offering a better solution

Many of the patients who come to Desert Sands have already tried different pharmaceutical approaches to control their mood, Evans said. Those using antidepressants often describe their day-to-day life as wandering through a dull brain fog; although they’re no longer overwhelmed by negative emotions, they experience very few, if any, positive emotions.  

Furthermore, Prozac, Zoloft and other drugs used to treat depression are linked to a slew of side effects, he said, including headaches, nausea, drowsiness, weight gain and sexual dysfunction, and these antidepressants may actually increase suicidal ideation in certain individuals.

Evans said antidepressants typically have a success rate of about 40%, whereas the efficacy of ketamine is closer to 70%.

Some patients – or their family members – reach out to Desert Sands as a last resort when no other treatment or therapy has provided hope. For others, their depression was once under control but has deepened to the point where they’re struggling to function at work or in their home life. 

Providing relief and restoring hope

Ketamine treatments at Desert Sands are administered by IV infusion, a process that usually takes about 40 minutes. During that time, the recipient enters a trance-like state of altered reality. Evans said patients frequently describe having spiritual, out-of-body experiences and a feeling of being in touch with their inner self or a higher power. 

“People can describe really amazing insights into some of their problems, especially PTSD and that kind of thing,” he said. “Most patients feel better very quickly.” 

Because ketamine is rapidly metabolized by the body, the dreamlike effect wears off soon after the infusion stops. Patients feel completely back to normal within an hour or two, Evans said, but the brain-derived neurotrophic factor remains elevated anywhere from days to weeks afterward.

By comparison, people taking antidepressants typically don’t notice an improvement in their mood until the medication reaches maximum efficacy, which can take several weeks.  

Evans said he has observed overwhelmingly positive results among his patients over the past five months, perhaps as high as 90% efficacy. 

When establishing Desert Sands, Eric and Shannon Evans prioritized making treatments affordable and accessible for the local community. Their prices are less than half compared to any clinic in Las Vegas or Salt Lake City, he said, and they offer flexible evening hours to accommodate patients’ work schedules. 

With all of their kids grown and out of the house, their time and attention is devoted to the clinic, which Evans describes as a “real labor of love.” 

“This is something that’s been a passion for Shannon and I,” he said. “We’ve enjoyed watching patients come in and change their lives for the better.” 

Written by ALEXA MORGAN for St. George News

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