Healthy Tahoe: Treating depression and chronic pain |

Healthy Tahoe: Treating depression and chronic pain

Wes Irwin, MD
Wes Irwin

According to the Center for Disease Control about 20% of people in the U.S. experience chronic pain, and the U.S. is also one of the most depressed countries in the world. It makes sense that those who suffer from chronic pain are likely to experience depression, but many people are surprised to learn that one of the symptoms of depression is physical pain … which can become chronic if left untreated.

It’s a classic chicken or the egg story, but how exactly is our mental health connected to our physical health?

As humans, we can elicit a stress response in our bodies with our thoughts alone. Our mental health influences our immune system, the functioning of our vital organs, our susceptibility to disease, our relationships, and quite literally the biological makeup of our brain. We tend to think of our brain and body as two separate entities, but neuroscience tells us that we have the power to influence our thoughts, which then influence our brain and body. The mind-body connection has moved beyond “woo-woo banter” to become part of mainstream science.

As depression, anxiety, stress and even chronic pain is exacerbated—especially in this post-COVID world—it is critical to look beyond the traditional modalities of treating these disorders. Physical and emotional pain go hand-in-hand, so when we begin to heal one, the other begins to heal as well.

Traditionally, physicians treat depression with antidepressants and pain with painkillers. However, where antidepressants are only about 40% effective, where does that leave these dual-diagnosis patients?

An alternative treatment that addresses the symptoms of both depression and chronic pain is ketamine. Ketamine, administered via IV infusion, is a highly effective treatment for chronic pain and depression that can alleviate pain symptoms for as long as 6 months after the initial series of infusions. It is 70% effective for patients, far surpassing traditional use of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) which are the most commonly prescribed form of antidepressants. The relief from ketamine comes fast and, typically, improvements are noticeable with just 1-3 infusions.


Our staff will gladly answer any questions you may have about ketamine infusion therapy, or any of the holistic treatments or wellness services that we offer. We look forward to helping you with chronic pain or depression…and becoming the best possible version of yourself

Dr. Wes Irwin is the owner of Tahoe Ketamine in South Lake Tahoe.

Family Health

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