Treating severe depression is a difficult project- one that often yields few positive results, even with the use of strong prescription drugs. But a new page is turning in mental health, as researchers have found that Ketamine, what has been called the psychedelic club drug can be a powerful game-changer for those suffering from major depression, when used under supervision.
According to a report in the Washington Post, experts are labeling it the most significant advancement in mental health developments in more than 50 years.
Ketamine has built an ominous reputation since the 1960s, when it was first labeled the ‘date rape drug’. It has the power to quickly numb a person who takes it, and render the body incapable of moving.
These chemical powers can also been used for good, however. Ketamine has been used as a staple anesthetic in emergency rooms on children being treated for broken bones and dislocated shoulders, in burn centers and also with animals in veterinary clinics, presumably for immobilizing patients temporarily so that they can be treated and worked on by professionals.
And now, the National Institutes of Health is now using Ketamine to treat major depression.
Says L. Alison McInnes, a San Francisco psychiatrist who works with depressed patients, “There is a significant number of people who don’t respond to antidepressants, and we’ve had nothing to offer them other than cognitive behavior therapy, electroshock therapy and transcranial stimulation.”
Ketamine’s powers to reverse severe depression are impressive. Since 2006, multiple studies have found that it reverses overpowering negative thinking and puts a rapid end to suicidal thinking in sufferers, which normally can take weeks or months for other traditional antidepressants to do. Patients who have been cycling unsuccessfully through antidepressants, mood stabilizers and other various therapies can at times find relief within minutes or hours, studies reveal.
“It’s not subtle,” said Enrique Abreu, a Portland, Ore., anesthesiologist to the Washington Post who began treating depressed patients with it in 2012. “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.”
Ketamine works differently from traditional antidepressants, which target the brain’s serotonin and noradrenalin systems. Ketamine blocks N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA), a receptor in the brain that is activated by glutamate, a neurotransmitter.
To read more about the ongoing developments, click here.