For people suffering from treatment-resistant depression, ketamine known in the drug world at “Special K” can provide immediate relief for their symptoms. The discovery of its anti-depressant properties has been called “arguably the most important discovery in half a century” of depressive research. The drug “rapidly spurs the growth of new synapses, the connections between brain cells, and is associated with reversal of the atrophy caused by chronic stress.”
Now in the largest controlled study of ketamine to date, Dr. John Crystal professor of psychiatry at Yale has confirmed those assumptions. The study administered a single small intravenous (IV) dose of Ketamine to patients with severe depression. Within one day 64% of patients reported fewer symptoms and the results outweighed those given midazolam, an asethic drug used as the control. Only 28% of patients using midazolam reported any sort of improvement.
Krystal to Time Healthland,
“This is the first direct evidence that the antidepressant effects of ketamine are specific, increasing our confidence in importance of this clinical observations.”
Around 7% of adults suffer from severe depression, while 1 in 10 youth will face the disorder at some point during their teenage years. Symptoms can include thoughts of suicide while antidepressants typically take seven weeks or more for a response. On average 20% of patients do not respond to regular forms of treatment. Having to wait that amount of time can be incredibly destructive. This is pushing ketamine as well as other drugs to be tested as a way to provide immediate treatment for severe depression.
The results were presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, but the treatment is still considered to be highly experimental at this time. While some physicians are already carrying out the procedure in the United States, there is not enough evidence to launch a national treatment program. The study is helping expand ketamine’s antidepressant benefits from just a proof of concept.
Ketamine has been linked to the rave and club scene ever since its psychedelic properties were discovered. Used recreationally the drug creates a state of dissociative anesthesia where the user may experience hallucinatory “out of body” effects. If users take too much, they go into what’s been labeled the “K Hole” where they become completely disconnected with their physical body, unable to move and experience complete disorientation.
In 2008, the United Nations Office on Crimes and Drugs issues a press release calling it “the most abused drug in Hong Kong” while its popularity was spreading out through the rest of the world. The Guardian also covered the adverse effects of the drug included incontinence and urine infections. Users become hooked on the drug because “When you start using K it’s very attractive, it’s cheap and the effects are strong.”
Ketamine may have a high risk for abuse, but this is no different than other prescriptions like opioids or benzodiazepines. Hopefully its antidepressive effects can be studied further and used to help people in need.