What is Ketamine?
Ketamine is a drug that started as an anesthetic used on battlefields and in operating rooms2. In recent years, ketamine has evolved from being used as an anesthetic to treat depression and can even help dull the pain caused by neuropathy. It comes in many forms, including pills and injections, but here we are going to focus primarily on topical ketamine as it is an emerging form of pain relief from peripheral neuropathy1.
It is important to note that ketamine can be addictive, so it is crucial to check with your doctor so they can help you weigh the risks and benefits of incorporating it into your treatment plan1. They can help you determine the appropriate dosage or suggest alternatives if they determine topical ketamine is not suitable for your health care needs.
Ketamine and Neuropathy
According to an article published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, ketamine helps minimize neuropathic pain by acting as a numbing agent3. It does this by rerouting or blocking pain signals starting at your nerves from getting to the brain, making it so that you do not feel the pain caused by your neuropathy. Topical ketamine prevents the pain signals in the area where you applied the cream from getting to the brain.
The use of ketamine to treat chronic pain is still up for debate, as some studies in which ketamine was used for pain showed inconclusive results about whether the patient’s pain was reduced compared to a placebo5. That same study did however mention the intensity of the pain was reduced, so if you are looking for a new pain relief option for your neuropathy pain ketamine may be worth a try.
Things to Consider Before Trying Ketamine
While topical ketamine appears to be safe, it comes with a set of risks. Some adverse effects of topical ketamine involve dermatological effects, like skin irritation, pruritic plaque, and allergic reactions4. Recreationally consumed ketamine can act as a psychotropic drug, as is said to be able to produce hallucinations and other mind-altering effects¹. We have also discussed how ketamine can be addictive, which is something to consider if you are prone to addiction.
Having a conversation with your doctor regarding your medical history and any concerns you have ahead of time is a good way to move forward. Topical ketamine is a prescription drug, so you need to approach them if you want to pursue ketamine as a method of pain management1.
- CAMH. (n.d.). 20147 Ketamine. Retrieved July 2, 2021, from https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-illness-and-addiction-index/ketamine
- Harvard Health. (2019, May 22). Ketamine for major depression: New tool, new questions. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/ketamine-for-major-depression-new-tool-new-questions-2019052216673
- Niesters, M., Martini, C., & Dahan, A. (2014). Ketamine for chronic pain: risks and benefits. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 77(2), 357–367. https://doi.org/10.1111/bcp.12094
- Rabi, J. (2015, August 11). Is Topical Ketamine Ready For Prime Time? Practical Pain Management. https://www.practicalpainmanagement.com/treatments/pharmacological/non-opioids/topical-ketamine-ready-prime-time
- Shteamer, J. W., Callaway, M. A., Patel, P., & Singh, V. (2019). How effective is ketamine in the management of chronic neuropathic pain? Pain Management, 9(6), 517–519. https://doi.org/10.2217/pmt-2019-0032
Natalie was a Student Writer for the Calgary Neuropathy Association and has now completed her degree and is in the working world.