“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.”
As rightly mentioned in the above quote, it is quite a formidable task to identify and treat depression. With major depression (major depressive disorder (MDD) or clinical depression) being one of the most common mental disorders in the United States, a number of scientists and experts have been toiling hard to explore different treatment techniques, ranging from drugs to experiential therapies..
Considering the fact that an estimated 16.2 million American adults aged 18 or older, representing roughly 6.7 percent of the total population in that age group, have had at least one major depressive episode (MDE) in the past year, it has become the need of the hour to find effective solutions.
Traditionally, depression has been treated using antidepressants. When Prozac hit the market in 1987 and Zoloft and Paxil in the 1990s, many physicians started relying on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to treat their patients. By targeting the release of serotonin, these drugs have been successful in ensuring relatively speedy and effective treatment to patients suffering from moderate to severe depression.
Though SSRIs improved experience within six to eight weeks, they inflict some unwelcome side effects that might outweigh the benefits and not all patients succeed in responding to them. For this reason, medical practitioners and experts continued their search for new treatments. In an effort to find a treatment different from the standard treatment comprising talk therapy and antidepressants, they came up with ketamine as a treatment for depression. As in the case of magic mushrooms and other psychedelics, the role of ketamine in depression treatment is being seen with immense apprehension.
Since ketamine is not only an animal tranquilizer that has a high potential for abuse and addiction with dangerous side effects, the use of such a drug in treatment can cause many problems. A large number of the ketamine medicines sold on the streets and in raves and clubs for recreational purpose are usually stolen and diverted from veterinary hospitals or pharmacies. Besides its popular street name ‘Special K,’ it is also referred to as Cat Valium, Cat Tranquilizer, K, Super K, Vitamin K, Kit Kat, Purple, Jet, etc. In the light of its repercussion, ketamine was reclassified as a controlled substance in 1999 in the U.S.
Side effects undermine the effectiveness of ketamine in reducing depression
Some studies show that ketamine in low doses through the intravenous route has the potential to reduce suicidal depression in a matter of hours compared to other antidepressants that often take long to produce a response. Apparently, it is especially promising to patients who have been unresponsive to other treatments so far.
A recent study reinforces ketamine’s role as an antidepressant. Researchers at Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at University of California San Diego sifted through the FDA Adverse Effect Reporting System (FAERS) database for determining the severity of depression symptoms in patients taking ketamine for pain.
After sifting through the medical records entered in FAERS between 2004 and 2016, researchers found 41,337 patients taking ketamine. The study found that the incidence of depression dropped by 67 percent (error margin was less than 2 percent) among patients taking ketamine than those taking other pain medications.
While other antidepressants work by shifting the balance of brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, ketamine changes the way brain cells communicate with each other. Reportedly, ketamine blocks the protein N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor in the brain, which activates the initial antidepressant reaction. Ketamine also acts on opioid receptors and other brain receptors and thereby affects both pain and depression.
Depression is treatable
Despite the above-mentioned benefits, there are still many unanswered questions about ketamine. Although it has proven successful in a few small studies, there haven’t been large-scale trials to prove the efficacy and safety of ketamine. Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved ketamine as an animal tranquilizer, it has not been recognized as an antidepressant due to its dangerous repercussions. Besides, every transfusion is expensive, costing between $600 and $750 a pop and is not covered by insurance.
If you or your loved one is suffering from depression or any other mental disorder, contact the Depression Treatment Helpline to get information about the various rehab centers for depression in the U.S. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-619-7729 or chat online to know about one of the best depression help centers.