Apparently it’s the newest breakthrough in depression research in that we may have been thinking about depression the totally wrong way. An article published in Biological Psychiatry tested nine patients with depression by injecting Ketamine and watching what happened (of course, they had an idea of what would happen from various other studies).
Ketamine is still somewhat used as an anesthetic in humans, especially those suffering from neuropathic pain. As a college student, however, when I think of Ketamine, I think of Special K, or that club drug that only the expert partiers use. Why anyone would want to abuse such a drug is beyond me, as it is often boiled down and snorted, or injected intravenously. But you know what.. to each his own because I try not to judge.
It was 2000 when the article was published. They selected nine patients with depression who ranged in ages from 23 to 57 years. It had been researched that Ketamine may play some role in relieving symptoms of depression, but in 2000, the IRB approved the study that involved researchers administering the drug through an IV for 40 minutes with a control group receiving a saline solution. The results of the study showed that after receiving low-doses of the Ketamine solution, patients showed a profound decrease in their symptoms of depression after only hours, but seen even objectively seen after three days. One patient says that after his treatment, he could suddenly see the hues of colors more profoundly. The “fog” that he’d been in was suddenly lifted after his administration of the drug.
Our current understanding and treatment of depression primarily involves serotonin manipulation by inhibiting the reuptake to increase the chance for interaction within the brain. Though these effects can be seen immediately in the brain, it generally takes about two weeks to see noticeable effects in patients. Seeing such effects from ketamine in such a short amount of time after injectionmay lead to some hints that we may have been thinking about depression in the wrong way.
So why is it important? Think about it: we haven’t made any significant advancements in research for major depressive disorder since fifty years ago when SSRI’s (serotonin-selective reuptake inhibitors) first came about. SSRI’s have shown to be pretty effective for those in which it actually works, but there’s still a large portion of the population that show no significant improvement after taking SSRI’s. So what do we have to offer for them? ..besides SSRI’s, we can try manipulating other neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine. We can administer electroconvulsive therapy for more extreme cases..but other than that, there’s not much more as far as medicine goes. But hopefully that’s about to change.
Ketamine could possible lead to a new angle when it comes to researching depression. Not only could it possible add to another treatment to those who don’t benefit from our typical treatments for depression, it could also change the way we think about the disorder and provide insight into a whole new world of treatments.
It seems as though Ketamine has the unique ability to restore damaged synapses affected by the stress hormone cortisol. After taking a low dose of the drug, patients often have “restored vision”, unclouded thoughts, and increased happiness.
There are limitations, however. The affects of the low doses of Ketamine last at most about ten days. If you give patients larger doses they’ll enter a state of psychosis similar to those partiers who abuse the drug. And if Ketamine was sold, it would have a high potential of abuse from said population of drug abusers.
Current research is trying to mimic the drugs effects to be administered to the general population to hopefully provide relief to those sufferers that don’t benefit from typical treatments.
Here are some more links if you’re interested in the topic.