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COVID-19 and PTSD

As the new Coronavirus Disease 2019 or COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the human population, the focus is on containing the spread. As a society, we have to be socially responsible and continue social distancing. This is key to flattening the curve.

Despite our precautions, we continue to watch as the virus infects person after person, indiscriminately whether it is a family member, a friend, a stranger, a coworker, an adult, a child, or a celebrity.

Just recently, return to school is being pushed back further and further, quite possibly be done for the rest of the academic year. In addition, hospitals are being filled with more and more patients with bilateral pneumonia, fevers, cough, etc. On top of the health implications, it is also devastating to our financial futures. How long will it take to recover from such an enormous economic blow, if ever? Businesses are closed, people are being laid off, the stock market precipitously fell from record highs just about a month ago, and retirement accounts are devastated. But what other consequences will we see as a result of this pandemic?

Based on a recent article on CNBC, there could be “long-lasting emotional trauma on an unprecedented global scale.”1 Post-traumatic stress disorder is a very likely outcome at the end of this unfortunate journey. The sheer amount of stress, illness, and death will affect people of all walks of life – whether you have a loved one pass away from COVID-19 complications and are unable to have a funeral because of social distancing or you see your patients dying in the ICU due to the virus or you have to choose who gets a ventilator and who does not as in certain hospitals in Italy. These anxieties and choices will haunt people even after the world begins to heal.

According to the Mayo Clinic2, post-traumatic stress disorder affects people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.

PTSD Symptoms can include:

When these symptoms interfere with everyday tasks, then you have developed post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. The National Institute of Mental Health3 states that PTSD can develop after a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. Events caused by this pandemic would qualify. Loved ones are getting sick. Several are unfortunately not surviving. Healthcare workers on the front lines can develop feelings of anxiety because of worry about becoming infected as they willingly expose themselves to COVID-19 daily, let alone the more severe and devastating choices some have had to make, for example in Italy, those having to decide which sick patient gets a ventilator and which does not.

Unfortunately, with recent events with this COVID-19 pandemic, cases of post-traumatic stress disorder are inevitably going to rise. Prior to the current pandemic, according to the National Center for PTSD4, approximately 60% of men and 50% of women will have experienced at least one trauma in their lives. In any given year, about 8 million adults will have PTSD.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, these numbers will rise. Knowing this, how do we help?

Treatment for PTSD typically consists of medications and trauma-focused psychotherapies5. These therapies can include:

In addition to the above, other treatment modalities must be reviewed. Sometimes the above treatments are not enough. Ketamine has been shown to be helpful for the treatment of refractory depression and suicide. It has also been shown to be an effective treatment for PTSD. According to a review article6 in 2019, ketamine has shown near-complete resolution of PTSD symptoms over the short term and improvement is relatively immediate and lasts longer than the half-life of ketamine itself. According to psychiatryadvisor.com7, several studies have shown ketamine’s benefits in the acute treatment of PTSD. One study showed that ketamine infusions rapidly and significantly reduced PTSD symptoms compared to midazolam. Another study showed that ketamine given immediately after a traumatic event prevented the enhancement of passive avoidance learning in mice. A case study of a child with

PTSD showed remission from behavioral dysregulation after receiving ketamine.

There is mounting evidence that ketamine infusions can help with the acute treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder but unfortunately are underutilized. With increasing numbers of PTSD cases due to the COVID-19 pandemic,

ketamine should be considered in conjunction with psychotherapy and discussions with your healthcare provider.

StriIVeM Wellness & Ketamine Clinics

At StrIVeMD Wellness & Ketamine, we offer intravenous ketamine infusions for the treatment of PTSD, refractory depression, OCD, etc. The evidence is there. If you suffer from one of these conditions, contact us to see if you are a good candidate. You will be monitored by a board-certified anesthesiologist throughout your infusion, safety being of paramount importance. Whether it is with us and/or psychotherapy, if you have some of the above symptoms, please reach out for help.

References

  1. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/27/coronavirus-pandemic-could-inflict-long-lasting-emotional-trauma-ptsd.html
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967
  3. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml
  4. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/common/common_adults.asp
  5. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand_tx/tx_basics.asp
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6457782/
  7. https://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/home/topics/anxiety/ketamine-a-promising-novel-therapy-for-anxiety-and-ptsd/

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