Ketamine clinic opens in Aspen with aim to fight severe depression

As ketamine continues to see an increase in acceptance by the medical community, two local doctors have opened a clinic at Aspen Valley Hospital to administer the drug to patients with severe depression and other conditions.

An anesthesiologist with privileges at local hospitals for more than two decades, Dr. Giora Hahn is well-versed in ketamine and the science behind it. He and Dr. Craig Bushong recently launched Aspen Comprehensive Health Interventions, the first ketamine-infusion clinic in the mid- to upper-Roaring Fork Valley.

“The one thing that started the process in my head was American Psychiatric Society released a report talking about what is happening with ketamine infusion, and that kind of started the wheels turning in my head,” Hahn said during an interview at the clinic this week. “This is something I would be perfect at offering, being an anesthesiologist who has used ketamine.”

The hospital, which is the leaseholder for the clinic, ultimately agreed. CEO David Ressler and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eric Stahl said the proposal was vetted by physicians while the hospital’s board of directors also was made aware of it.

“We understand that (ketamine) is demonstrating effective results, and we know there’s a population in Aspen that it will help,” Ressler said.

Stahl said “all of the physicians are in favor of this. And I think it’s becoming more and more accepted. The FDA is fast-tracking this use to the general public because they’ve seen compelling evidence for its effectiveness.”

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Ketamine was discovered in the 1960s and approved in the United States in 1970. It was used in the Vietnam War as an anesthetic for Americans soldiers injured in the battlefield. Also a hallucinogenic, the drug gained popularity in the club scene as a recreational drug in the 1990s, earning such street names as “Special K,” “horse tranquilizer” and “cat Valium.”

While it is not FDA-approved as an…

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