CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — Feeling downhearted this holiday season instead of merry and bright? You’re not alone, but it may be more than just the “winter blues.”
Dr. Eric Evans, owner of the Desert Sands Ketamine Treatment Center in St. George, said that mental health nationwide is being negatively impacted by a combination of key factors: the uncertainty caused by the ongoing pandemic, the stress of the holidays and seasonal affective disorder.
“All of that is compounded to aggravate both depression and anxiety,” Evans said. “There’s just so many factors with the situation that we’re finding ourselves in, from financial strain to changes in patterns and loss of relationships and social interactions.”
This year, a far greater number of people with mood disorders will spend the holidays isolated – both emotionally and physically – as a result of the pandemic. Evans said that many are struggling to cope with spending more time alone and losing social outlets. Some of his patients have expressed an underlying sense of fear about financial instability or the health consequences of becoming infected with the virus.
“There’s no question that COVID has played a big part in people’s mental health disorders,” he said.
Mood disorders like depression and anxiety are often exacerbated around Thanksgiving and Christmas, Evans said, adding that people with difficult family relationships may dread holiday gatherings, while others without close ties can feel lonely and excluded.
Additionally, people often experience worsening depression during the colder months. Possibly triggered by reduced sunlight, seasonal affective disorder is characterized by mood swings, feelings of hopelessness, fatigue and social withdrawal. Symptoms typically start in the fall and continue through the winter.
At Desert Sands Ketamine Treatment Center, Evans uses therapeutic doses of ketamine administered via IV infusion to provide rapid relief and lasting improvement for people living with clinical depression, clinical anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health disorders.
“Ketamine can help people feel more connected to others and more in the moment instead of anxiety-ridden about the future or the past,” he said. “It works in some very interesting ways to help people feel more peaceful and more grounded.”
Ketamine targets the amygdala, the area of the brain responsible for processing moods and emotions in the conscious mind. While most antidepressants focus on boosting serotonin levels, ketamine elevates a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Evans pointed to ongoing research at Yale University which indicates that depression and other mental health disorders are caused by a shortage of this protein.
Evans said patients enter a trance-like state of altered reality during ketamine treatment. Because the drug is rapidly metabolized by the body, the dissociative effects wear off soon after the infusion stops. However, the brain-derived neurotrophic factor remains elevated anywhere from days to weeks afterward.
Following the initial consultation, patients undergo infusions twice a week for up to three weeks. Evans said most are ready to move into the “maintenance phase” by that point, only requiring treatment once a month or once every other month to sustain their improved mood. Although some patients choose to wean off antidepressants once they achieve lasting results from infusion therapy, ketamine can be used safely in combination with a variety of medications for mood disorders.
“While those other medications can be a very useful part of the recipe for helping someone’s mental health, ketamine is a great additional tool because it works in a different way,” he said. “It’s another way of attacking the problem.”
Evans said he was inspired to create Desert Sands alongside his wife, an acute pain nurse, as a way to offer help and hope to those suffering from depression. Treating patients with ketamine has proven to be the most rewarding experience of his nearly 30-year medical career.
“It really can change their lives for the better; we’re seeing people change their relationships with their spouses, with their children,” he said. “It’s rewarding beyond what I could explain in words. I’ve never been as excited about doing something in medicine.”
Written by ALEXA MORGAN for St. George News
• S P O N S O R E D C O N T E N T •
- Desert Sands Ketamine Treatment Center | Address: 346 E. 600 South, St. George | Telephone: 435-522-5190 | Email: [email protected] | Website.
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