Ketamine may help treat depression, determine scientists

Ketamine may help treat depression, determine scientists

Major depression, also known as major depressive disorder (MDD) or clinical depression, is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) survey, an estimated 16.2 million American adults aged 18 or older had at least one major depressive episode in the past year, representing roughly 6.7 percent of the total population.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), this silent disease has the capacity to disrupt daily life to such an extent that one out of four adults suffering from MDD seriously contemplate ending their life.

Traditionally, depression has been treated with antidepressants. Considering the increased problem of depression, a number of highly targeted class of antidepressants, such as Prozac (1987), Zoloft (1991) and Paxil (1992) were produced. Moreover, many physicians started relying on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to treat their patients. As the name suggests, SSRIs target the release of serotonin, a natural mood stabilizer produced by nerve cells, which helps people suffering from depression in sleeping, eating and digesting.

As such, SSRIs offer relatively speedy and effective treatment to patients suffering from moderate to severe depression, with improvements experienced within six to eight weeks. However, SSRIs cause some unwelcome side effects that might outweigh the benefits and not all patients respond to it.

For this reason, scientists came up with ketamine as a solution to treat depression. However, it should concern one to know that ketamine is not only an animal tranquilizer found in veterinary hospitals and pet clinics but also a highly addictive drug that has the potential for abuse and inflict dangerous side effects.

Most of the ketamine found on the streets and in raves and clubs ware stolen and diverted from veterinary hospitals or pharmacies. One of the popular street names of ketamine is ‘Special K’ and is also referred to by other names, such as Cat Valium, Cat Tranquilizer, K, Super K, Vitamin K, Kit Kat, Purple, Jet, etc. The Federal Controlled Substances Act reclassified Ketamine as a Schedule III controlled substance in 1999.

Ketamine treatment has the potential to reduce depression drastically

While the drug is considered too problematic to be used as the mainstream treatment, some studies have highlighted that ketamine in low doses through the intravenous route has the potential to reduce suicidal depression. Compared to other antidepressants that often take a few weeks to show effects, ketamine shows results in a matter of few hours. 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 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Adverse Effect Reporting System (FAERS) database for analyzing the incidence of depression symptoms in patients taking ketamine for pain.

Interestingly, the researchers found that the incidence of depression symptoms among more than 41,000 patients who took ketamine dropped by 50 percent (error margin was less than 2 percent) compared to the patients who took other pain medications.

The scientists from UT Southwestern Medical Center have identified a key protein that helps to activate ketamine’s rapid antidepressant effects in the brain. 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.

One of the studies shows that ketamine blocks the protein N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor in the brain and this activates the initial antidepressant reaction. Moreover, ketamine acts on opioid receptors and other brain receptors and thereby affects both pain and depression.

Recovery road map

Despite the above findings, 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. Though approved by the FDA as an animal tranquilizer, it has not been officially sanctioned for use as an antidepressant.  Irrespective of the kind of medication used for treating depression, it is essential for a person going through depressive symptoms to consult an expert.

If you or your loved one is suffering from depression or any other mental health 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 with our representatives to know about one of the best depression help centers.