The doors to Depression Recovery Centers in Scottsdale only opened to the public last week, but staff has been doing patient trials for months.
Ketamine is a surgical anesthetic used since the 1960's. It is also known by the street name Special K and taken as an illegal drug popular with the club scene.
In much smaller doses, the drug is being heralded as a breakthrough in the treatment of bipolar disorder and other types of depression.
"It really is as effective as the research indicates," says patient Andrea Shirley.
For 20 years, Shirley has suffered from chronic pain and depression after being involved in a bad car accident. The medicine she was taking was not doing her any good.
"I was really researching to try to find something to get me back on track," said Shirley.
"Our patients come with very little hope for the next treatment because their hope has been beaten down so many times by things that haven't worked," says clinic owner Gerald Gaines.
Gaines opened the Ketamine clinic to offer people new hope, including himself.
"I was one of those people who kept it to myself," said Gaines. "I didn't tell my family I suffered from depression. I didn't tell my employer I suffered from depression."
Simplistically, Ketamine works by helping to bridge the gaps between neurons in the brain so information runs more smoothly. The drug specifically targets the part of the brain dealing with emotional health.
In just an hour, patients report feeling a whole lot better.
"It was a little hard to believe initially that it could be that dramatic, that fast," said Shirley.
The Scottsdale clinic is among only eight in the country offering this type of service.
The cost is $750 per treatment. Initially, a patient will do sessions once every three or four days for the first two weeks. After that, they'll go every two months.
"Ketamine from every test that's been done nationally is shown to work for people with depression," said Gaines.
"I feel a lot more clear in my thinking, I feel just a tremendous relief," said Shirley. "I just feel really normal, good and happy, healthy."
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