Fighting Depression with Ketamine

Ketamine — known on the party scene as Special K — has recently been hailed by scientists and researchers as a possible breakthrough in the treatment of depression which has been resistant to other depression treatments. Ketamine is a class C drug and is typically abused for is hallucinogenic effects.

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine’s primary (and legitimate) use is as a veterinary anesthetic, although it has been approved for use in both animals and humans. Ketamine is generally used as an equine tranquilizer during horse surgeries, however it grew rapidly in popularity when users discovered it produced the same type of effects as PCP. Ketamine is also known to be used by sexual predators who want to incapacitate their chosen victims. Ketamine is sold on the street as a colorless, odorless liquid, or a white powder. Ketamine’s lack of noticeable smell makes it virtually undetectable when mixed into a drink.

How is Ketamine Abused?

Teens and young adults are the major abusers of ketamine, with ¾ of the emergency room visits due to the drug being among those between the ages of 12 and 25. At least 3% of high school students admit to using ketamine at least once in the past year. Ketamine can be mixed with beverages, or added to smoke-able materials such as marijuana. In its powder form the drug is snorted, or it can be pressed into tablet, often in combination with other drugs such as ecstasy. Ketamine users will have distorted perceptions as well as impaired judgment and coordination for as much as 24 hours following ingestion of the drug. The recreational use of ketamine has been associated with amnesia, high blood pressure, potentially fatal respiratory problems, and impaired motor function.

The Potential of Ketamine in the Treatment of Depression

The “downside” of ketamine comes from illegal and off-label usage; in its properly prescribed form, ketamine has a solid history of safe use both as an anesthesia and an analgesic. More recently, study participants who have tried many different treatments for depression and had success with none, were given IV doses of ketamine. The majority of the test subjects received almost immediate (within 2 hours) lessening of their depressive symptoms. The effects lasted between three days and a week, however nearly all patients experienced a depressive relapse at 2 weeks following the ketamine injection.

How Does Ketamine Treat Depression?

Researchers believe that a dose of IV ketamine blocks the mood-regulating receptors in the brain, thus giving near-immediate relief of long-term, severe depression. When used in non-prescription settings, ketamine shuts down the thalamus, causing the user to lose their survival instincts and emotional responses. Used in prescription-strength, however, significant benefits can be found for those who are long-term sufferers of depression and have been unable to find relief in any medication or treatment currently available.

Ketamine’s Other Uses

Ketamine is not the only banned drug which has been found to have major therapeutic benefits in humans. Servicemen who fought in Iraq have been given Ecstasy to lessen the trauma experienced during war, while scientist have used LSD for quite some time in the treatment of severe anxiety and OCD. In high doses, ketamine can cause frightening hallucinations as showcased by the neuroscientist John Lilly, who experimented on himself in the seventies by injecting ketamine to ease his migraines. It was determined that Lilly probably took enough ketamine over a period of years to anesthetize a large whale, but the more disturbing side of his ketamine usage was that he became quite convinced he was speaking to aliens and was a visitor to earth from the year 3001. The fact is, almost any prescription drug has the potential for misuse and resulting safety concerns.

Will Ketamine Become Mainstream in the Treatment of Depression?

Ketamine has never been patented, meaning the chemical formulations are available to anyone. Presently Dr. Husseini Manji of Johnson and Johnson, along with his colleague, Dr. Zarate have applied for patent application on behalf of the American government for ketamine use in treating depression. With its image as a party drug, it may be a hard sell for doctors to convince their long-time depression sufferers to give ketamine a try.

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