For one NC veteran, ketamine offers a treatment breakthrough

Equipment and drugs used to administer a ketamine treatment. (CBS North Carolina)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Grace Shields travels from Davidson County to Raleigh several times a month. Those trips have been life changing, she said.

“I felt like me again for the first time in 20 years,” Shields said.

Shields has dealt with depression for years and also developed post traumatic stress disorder while serving in the Marine Corps.

“I’ve been on 30 different types of medications, antidepressants, all kinds of things the VA will give you,” she said.

She is now taking part in a breakthrough therapy that uses ketamine.

Dr. Andrew Klise, a psychiatrist, said most people who come to the Ketamine Treatment Centers share a similar story.

“They have been through six or seven antidepressants,” said Klise. “They have been through multiple years of therapy, and they are still not getting better.”

Before being used as a breakthrough treatment for severe depression, ketamine was known as a party drug, popular for causing hallucinations.

So far, the FDA has only approved the drug’s use as an anesthetic, not as a treatment.

Klise is working to change that. He said the drug has a 70 percent success rate and can help erase the fog and lack of joy those suffering with severe mental health conditions often feel.

“No other medicine works on receptors that ketamine works on, and because of this it affects depression in a totally different way,” he said.

The treatment calls for several doses of the drug in a two week period with additional doses as needed. For Shields, the results were immediate.

“Afterwards, I remember standing up and being like, I’m not crying,” she said.

“I’ve seen it change lives,” Klise said. “I’ve seen people all over the country completely desperate with a plan to kill themselves.”

Shields holds a job now for the first time in 15 years. She wants the VA to open up its own ketamine center to help others who are suffering.

“I just felt normal,” she said. “It didn’t give me any super powers, it just made me feel like me.”

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