Obsessions are defined as intrusive, recurrent thoughts that are distressing, such as the fear of germs or contamination. Compulsions are behaviors that people feel compelled to perform to alleviate an obsessive thought. Excessive handwashing, checking rituals, and counting are examples.
Traditional first line treatment of OCD includes SSRI medications, such as Prozac, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). However, treatment is only effective in a small minority of patients. Medications are associated with unwanted adverse side effects, and the response to CBT can be limited. Residual symptoms usually continue to affect patients, with high relapse rates being common.
Some have advocated for the use of brain surgery (Deep Brain Stimulation) to treat severe cases of OCD. However, ketamine is a promising option which is non-invasive, safer, and better tolerated. Multiple research trials are currently underway to study the use of Ketamine for OCD.
Ketamine can treat co-morbid depression which is found in 30-50% of OCD patients.
In one study, rapid relief of OCD symptoms was seen in 50% of participants after a single ketamine infusion.
Ketamine has been shown to treat symptoms of OCD through its effects on Glutaminergic transmission in the brain.