Courtesy Lauren Gletner
Lauren Gletner had hit rock bottom. A high school secretary in Martinsburg, West Virginia, the 51-year-old had battled debilitating depression since her early twenties. Yet over the last few years, the profound sadness that left her feeling hopeless and unable to get out of bed had become much worse. She had begun self-medicating with alcohol and had even attempted suicide. “I tried every prescription drug out there, and the side effects were intolerable,” she says. “I was in therapy, but because my depression was the result of a chemical imbalance, it didn’t help.”
Psych experts point out that depression affects more than 16 million Americans, and that about a third experience the treatment-resistant kind Gletner was battling. “I felt guilty for my depression—I had no reason to be depressed. I was embarrassed and filled with shame about my suicide attempt. It was an awful place to be.” Learn more about the 9 types of depression you didn’t know you could have.
Then one evening, Gletner saw a news segment about ketamine infusions, a new treatment that can rapidly lift treatment-resistant depression. Ketamine is an anesthetic that also has an illicit reputation as a party drug, thanks to its hallucinogenic effects. Patients typically get a once-weekly dose of ketamine for depression through an IV (an off-label use for the anesthetic form) or a nasal mist (which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in March 2019), according to Harvard Medical School. As Gletner researched it, she saw the potential—finally—for relief from her debilitating illness. “In the week before I made an appointment for a consultation about ketamine, I couldn’t get out of bed to go to work to a job I love. I couldn’t go with my husband to pick up our son from the airport. That’s just not me,” she says. These are the 8 hidden signs of depression everyone should know.
Gletner met with Brian Lerner, MD, at Actify Neurotherapies and began ketamine infusions shortly after. The results were undeniable. “It worked immediately. As soon as I finished the first infusion, I felt better and like I finally found something that worked,” says Gletner.
The positive improvements snowballed, and Gletner began making other positive life changes as well. She started putting a greater effort into her self-care, turning to healthier eating habits and exercise. “My brain is healed, and I don’t want anything to compromise that.” She returned to Dr. Lerner’s office for a total of seven infusions over 14 weeks. Her last infusion was in July 2018, and she continues to monitor her need for more.
Ketamine for depression is not yet approved by the FDA, and studies to determine its effectiveness and side effects are ongoing. However, in cases like Gletner’s, the results are life-changing. “I won’t hesitate at all to go back,” she says. “No one is ever cured of depression, but I have the tools in place to manage it.” Next, watch out for the 10 silent signs you might need antidepressants.