Score another big victory for an ostracized drug that appears to have legitimate medical, therapeutic benefits.
We already know the wonders of medical marijuana. And researchers have recently discovered how useful psychedelics can be in treating PTSD and end-of-life conditions.
Now, ketamine for depression may be showing lots of promise.
That’s right, Special K, the drug you take when you want to have fun, could be the way to help people who are psychologically unable to.
Man, who’d have thunk it. From The Washington Post:
Ketamine, popularly known as the psychedelic club drug Special K, has been around since the early 1960s. It is a staple anesthetic in emergency rooms, regularly used for children when they come in with broken bones and dislocated shoulders. It’s an important tool in burn centers and veterinary medicine, as well as a notorious date-rape drug, known for its power to quickly numb and render someone immobile.
Since 2006, dozens of studies have reported that it can also reverse the kind of severe depression that traditional antidepressants often don’t touch. The momentum behind the drug has now reached the American Psychiatric Association, which, according to members of a ketamine task force, seems headed toward a tacit endorsement of the drug for treatment-resistant depression.
This isn’t just some radical faction of shrinks who want to have the right to help clients get down. No, some are calling the use of ketamine one of the biggest scientific breakthroughs for treating depression possibly ever.
Experts are calling it the most significant advance in mental health in more than half a century. They point to studies showing ketamine not only produces a rapid and robust antidepressant effect; it also puts a quick end to suicidal thinking.
Ketamine has several wonderful factors going for it. Not only is it fast acting, eliminating thoughts of suicide in a single dosage, it has a unique ability to help the brain restore lost function and grow new synapses, something called synaptogenesis.
And it doesn’t hurt that it makes you trip.
Even a low-dose infusion can cause intense hallucinations. Patients often describe a kind of lucid dreaming or dissociative state in which they lose track of time and feel separated from their bodies. Many enjoy it; some don’t. But studies at NIMH and elsewhere suggest that the psychedelic experience may play a small but significant role in the drug’s efficacy.
“It’s one of the things that’s really striking,” says Steven Levine, a Princeton, N.J., psychiatrist who estimates that he has treated 500 patients with ketamine since 2011. “With depression, people often feel very isolated and disconnected. Ketamine seems to leave something indelible behind. People use remarkably similar language to describe their experience: ‘a sense of connection to other people,’ ‘a greater sense of connection to the universe.’
Dope as fuck! Trippin’s great. And the current beauty of ketamine is that, unlike other illicit drugs, psychologists are free to prescribe it right now. However, the newness of the treatment is causing some confusion.
The drug itself is easily available in any pharmacy, and doctors are free to prescribe it — as with any medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration — for off-label use. Practitioners attribute the expense to medical monitoring of patients and IV equipment required during an infusion.
“We clearly need more standardization in its use,” [Carlos Zarate Jr., NIMH’s chief of neurobiology and treatment of mood disorder] says. “We still don’t know what the proper dose should be. We need to do more studies. It still, in my opinion, should be used predominantly in a research setting or highly specialized clinic.”
As a drug once known almost exclusively to anesthesiologists, ketamine now falls into a gray zone.
“Most anesthesiologists don’t do mental health, and there’s no way a psychiatrist feels comfortable putting an IV in someone’s arm,” Abreu says.
Let’s hope this gets resolved. It would be awesome to have a great, fast, reliable way to help people suffering from depression.
Read the whole story at The Washington Post