Background and objectives: Trauma memories lay at the core in etiopathogenesis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Using pharmacological and cognitive behavioral treatments that specifically target trauma memories can improve the outcome. Ketamine has been shown to rapidly improve symptoms in PTSD and comorbid depression, but unfortunately these effects are short-lived. Trauma Interventions using Mindfulness Based Extinction and Reconsolidation (TIMBER) psychotherapy is a type of mindfulness based cognitive behavioral therapy that targets the trauma memories. TIMBER psychotherapy in combination with (R,S)-ketamine are increasingly used to treat PTSD and comorbid depression. This study aims to determine if the combination of (R,S)-ketamine chemotherapy and TIMBER psychotherapy would produce a positive synergistic response in patients with PTSD.
Design: This is a randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over clinical study.
Methods: Because response to ketamine alone is short-lived, this study combined TIMBER with a single infusion of 0.5 mg/kg (R,S)-ketamine to sustain its therapeutic effects. Ten patients with chronic and refractory PTSD were randomly assigned to two groups (n = 5 each): TIMBER-K group patients received ketamine infusion in combination with 12 TIMBER sessions (3 sessions in the first week followed by 9 sessions conducted on a weekly basis) and TIMBER-P group patients received placebo (normal saline infusion) in combination with 12 TIMBER sessions. The patients in the TIMBER-P group were switched to those in the TIMBER-K group after they experienced a sustained relapse.
Outcome measures: PTSD Checklist (PCL), Clinician Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-IV (CAPS), the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (Ham-D-17, clinician rated), Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI), and Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) at baseline and 8 hours after infusion were used to investigate if ketamine selectively affected trauma memories leaving the general memory intact. The mindfulness interventions in TIMBER were personalized based on subject’s scores on Assessment Scale for Mindfulness Interventions which was administered at baseline, and after 5 sessions and 9 sessions (completion) of TIMBER. In this study, scores on CAPS and PCL scales were the primary outcome measures.
Results: In the acute phase trial ( first 3 months after infusion), nine out of 10 subjects showed robust response in primary outcome measures (PCL and CAPS scores for PTSD) and in the secondary outcome measures (Ham-D-17 and Beck Anxiety Inventory for depression and anxiety respectively) with a sustained response of 31.78 ± 18.29 days. The TIMBER-K group had a more sustained response (33 ± 22.98 days) compared to the TIMBER-P group (25 ± 16.8 days, P = 0.545). After switch from TIMBER-P group to TIMBER-K, patients experienced significantly prolonged response (49 vs. 25 days, P = 0.028). There were no intolerable side effects or dropouts during the 18-month follow-up period.
Conclusion: TIMBER psychotherapy augmented with low dose (R,S)-ketamine prolongs the therapeutic effects of the later and may be a valuable treatment option for PTSD.
Pradhan, B. K., Wainer, I. W., Moaddel, R., Torjman, M. C., Goldberg, M., Sabia, M., … & Pumariega, A. J. (2017). Trauma Interventions using Mindfulness Based Extinction and Reconsolidation (TIMBER) psychotherapy prolong the therapeutic effects of single ketamine infusion on post-traumatic stress disorder and comorbid depression: a pilot randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover clinical trial. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Trials: Nervous System Diseases, 2(3), 80. 10.4103/2542-3932.211589