Researchers Test Ketamine as Potential Antidepressant
> 8/9/2006 10:01:08 AM

In a surprising and potentially significant study, scientists report largely positive results when using a popular anaesthetic and recreational drug called ketamine as a rapid treatment for depression. While most traditional antidepressants take several weeks to establish a lasting presence in the bloodstream and begin effectively regulating symptoms, patients in the new study by the National Institute of Mental Health responded to the ketamine in as little as two hours. The study's seventeen subjects were severely depressed individuals for whom previous traditional treatments failed. Among those who received one intravenous dose of ketamine, 71% reported feeling significantly better the next day, and 35% still reported benefits one week later.

Initially developed as an alternate form of anaesthesia for people and animals in the 1960's, ketamine is famously known as a horse tranquilizer. Because of its sedative properties and side effects that include hallucination and out-of-body experiences, the drug gained popularity as a psychedelic in the same family as PCP and LSD. It maintains a sizable presence in club culture, often used to magnify the effects of other drugs.

Ketamine works by blocking the brain protein known as the NMDA receptor. NMDA is essential in regulating levels of glutamate, a chemical that enhances electrical activity in the brain. Imbalances in this substance are known to contribute to depression. Because it acts near the end of the series of chemical events that help regulate mood, ketamine does not require the trickle down time neccessary for the activation of antidepressants like SSRIs, which aim to regulate the reactions that form the beginnings, or roots, of the larger cycle.

Researchers caution that, because of its disorienting side effects and the possibility of euphoria and addiction in higher doses, an altered version of the drug should be developed for further use and study. The potential for direct pharmaceutical consumption is distant, but researchers hope to isolate the beneficial elements of the drug and use them to develop more effective medications. One possibility involves using fast acting ketamine derivatives as introductory elements in larger, long term treatment programs. Perhaps the most significant component of this study is the implication that alternate forms of antidepressants can and should be explored. National Institute of Health Director Elias A. Zerhouni summarizes:

"The public health implications of being able to treat major depression this quickly would be enormous. These new findings demonstrate the importance of developing new classes of antidepressants that are not simply variations of existing medications."


My son is very allergic to this (discovered after a sudden pnumothorax episode) but due to it's history I get strange, considering looks when they ask me "Is he allergic to any medications?" and I say "ketamine".
Posted by: That Girl 8/15/2006 11:55:12 AM

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