Even if you’ve never taken drugs, you’ve probably heard of ketamine.
Around since the 1960s, it is popularly known as a psychedelic club drug (nicknamed Special K), despite being used in a range of environments.
You’ll find it in emergency rooms being used as an aesthetic, particularly for kids with breaks and dislocations. It’s also used in veterinary clinics as a tranquilliser and even in burn clinics. It also became notorious for its use as a date-rape drug with an ability to quickly numb someone and get them immobile.
However, since 2006, numerous studies have uncovered something entirely unexpected about ketamine: it has the ability to reverse severe depression.
In fact, dozens of studies have suggested that ketamine can reverse depression in a way that traditional anti-depressants simply don’t. These results have been gaining traction in the world of medical studies for some time, and now, the American Psychiatric Association looks to be about to endorse ketamine as an option for treatment-resistant depression.
This is such an incredible step forward for severe depressives that it’s almost difficult to put into words. The experts are suggesting that using ketamine to treat depression could represent the most important progression in the mental health sector in more than 50 years. In particular, they’re focused on the studies that show ketamine not only gives the user a quick and stable anti-depressant option, but also ends suicidal thinking.
In comparing ketamine to traditional anti-depressants and mood stabilisers, it’s easy to see why the drug offers a much better option. The drugs that are currently available to people suffering with depression can take weeks or even months to work, and for many people, even these anti-depressants have very little effect on their serious depression. More and more academic medical centres are choosing to offer ketamine treatments for severe depression in the United States now, including Yale University, the University of California, the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic. It looks like a new day for depression sufferers.
What The Doctors Say
Doctors who are currently using ketamine to treat their patients are overwhelmingly positive about the potential of the drug to improve people’s lives. L. Alison McInnes, a psychiatrist from San Francisco who has put 58 several depressed patients through a ketamine trial believes that it’s the next big thing in the industry. With a success rate of 60% among those with treatment-resistant depression, ketamine is already blowing many other drugs out of the water. She says that ketamine offers hope to severely depressed patients who don’t have results with traditional anti-depressants, and that it’s positive that psychiatry now has something more to offer these people.
Dosages and Effects
The dosage of ketamine for treating depression is very low, about one tenth of the amount used when the drug used for anaesthesia. However, as Enrique Abreu, an anesthesiologist, notes, the effect is obvious very quickly:
“It’s not subtle,” he says. “It’s really obvious if it’s going to be effective and the response rate is unbelievable. This drug is 75 percent effective, which means that three-quarters of my patients do well. Nothing in medicine has those kind of numbers.”
Perhaps the reason for this is that ketamine works differently to traditional anti-depressants. Instead of targeting the brain’s serotonin and noradrenalin systems, ketamine blocks NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate), a receptor in the brain that is activated by glutamate. When there is a lot of glutamate in the brain, it becomes excitotoxins, overstimulating brain cells.
What are the risks?
In ketamine abusers, there have been a number of cases of bladder problems and cognitive deficits, but in the low dosages that are being used to treat depression, none of this has been observed. The only thing that has been observed thus far on the negative size is that the effects of the ketamine are only temporary. Clinical trials have found that depressive relapses happen within a week or so of the initial transfusion, meaning that patients need regular doses to stay on the mend.
Patients who are on ketamine call these ‘booster treatments’ and it’s often quite a journey to seek them out. Many are flying all over the country on a regular basis to find a doctor to prescribe and monitor their treatments, but as ketamine becomes more accepted, they hope that it will also be easier to access. Some patients have noted that the more they are treated with ketamine, the longer the periods are before relapse, indicating that a build-up in the system could allow even severe depressives to live a totally normal life.