Treatment-resistant depression is exactly what it sounds like: depression that doesn’t improve, even after trying several treatments. Of the more than 16 million adults suffering with depression in the United States, one third of those people experience treatment-resistant symptoms: feelings of sadness or loneliness, trouble sleeping, lethargy and fatigue, and even suicidal thoughts or ideation.

For a physician to diagnose a patient with treatment-resistant depression, they must have tried at least two different depression treatments to no avail. Each treatment must have been adequately explored, meaning the treatments were each given at least six weeks to take effect. That is a long time to suffer…

Researchers are still unclear as to why some patients respond to traditional first-line depression treatments and others don’t. Recently, artificial intelligence has been used to determine the most appropriate depression medication for a patient based on neurological testing, though that technology is far from being ready for the masses. Other studies have focused in on treatment-resistant depression, and there are four new findings that we think you should know about:

1. Age, gender and presence of pre-existing conditions may make you more susceptible.

Researchers have observed that women and senior citizens are more vulnerable to developing treatment-resistant depression than others. Also, patients also suffering from thyroid conditions, chronic pain, substance abuse, eating disorders, or sleep disorders are more prone to treatment-resistant depression.

2. There are more causes of depression than we think…and that might have something to do with whether depression medications work.

For a long time, researchers have believed that depression is caused by a deficiency of specific neurotransmitters in the brain—specifically serotonin and norepinephrine. However, recent research indicates that depression may also be caused by inflammation in the brain. Since most antidepressant medications are designed to increase the brain’s production of neurotransmitters, those whose depression is caused by inflammation or another cause would not respond to traditional medications.

3. If you have treatment-resistant depression, there are established methods to help you manage it.

“Treatment-resistant” is not synonymous with “no hope.” In 2012, Patient Preference & Adherence published an article outlining five guidelines for treating stubborn cases of depression: optimization, switching, combination, augmentation and somatic therapies.

Optimization simply means giving your current treatment more time to start working, or increasing your dose.

Switching to a different medication—or testing a combination of two or more medications—is also an option. Augmentation refers to the addition of medications that were designed to treat other conditions, but that may support the treatments currently being deployed. Many treatment-resistant cases of depression respond well to ketamine infusions. In fact, 70% of patients see an improvement in their depressive symptoms, sometimes in as few as 1-2 hours post-infusion.

Somatic therapies are more holistic depression treatments, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation or electroconvulsive therapy. These therapies can be 70-80% effective for depressed patients.

4. Researchers are working diligently to develop new, effective medications.

Inspired by the success of ketamine in treating depression by acting on different pathways in the brain, researchers at several pharmacological organizations are fast underway developing new medications for treatment-resistant strains of depression. If nothing is working for you now, try to hold onto hope…a new, effective treatment could become available soon!

Tahoe Ketamine offers ketamine infusions for the treatment of depression and chronic pain, two conditions which often feed into each other. If you or a loved one is suffering from a case of stubborn depression, I encourage you to learn more about ketamine and find out if you are a candidate. Ketamine is safe, fast-acting, non-addictive and available right here in Lake Tahoe, CA. Request a free consultation to learn more.