R is for Recent Research

Researchers are always looking for new antidepressants since current methods are not putting all individuals with depression in remission. Approximately one third of patients with depression are resistant to current treatments. A recent proposal has been Ketamine aka Special K. Its mood altering properties are often enjoyed by club goers. Yes, it’s most commonly known as a street drug, but before you rule it out, note that is has been used in medicine safely for over 40 years! Veterinarians use Ketamine as a tranquilizer for cats and horses. Doctors use it in anesthesia during surgery. In fact, even dentists use it because it doesn’t have cardiac or respiratory effects. This is why dentists are able to put you under, without having all the equipment that a hospital has. Ketamine is commonly used in third world countries where medical monitoring equipment is in short supply. Something else that makes Ketamine safe is it’s half-life. This is how long the drug stays active in the body. Ketamine has a half-life of 3 hours, which is not long enough to cause any neurotoxicity. This is great, but it also means that the antidepressant effects will wear off as well.

A recent study showed that 71% of treatment-resistant bipolar sufferers responded to Ketamine. The primary side effects were mild dissociative symptoms, but this was only reported during infusion (first 40min.). A UK study found that participants who responded to Ketamine found relief within days after infusion. Days?! Can you imagine a treatment where you didn’t have wait a month or more just to find out if it works!? The same study reported the beneficial effects of Ketamine to last anywhere between 25 days and 8 months. A third study found Ketamine in the form of a nasal spray to be just as potent as intravenous administration. Researchers are also hoping that Ketamine could be a substitute for electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) which is usually used for those with treatment resistant depression. ECT has had some positive results, but memory loss has been reported as a side effect. This doesn’t happen with Ketamine.

Much of what we currently know about Ketamine is from its use in anesthesia. So we know a one-time dose has no detrimental effects, but what about long-term usage? It may be that the ability of the brain to process the drug decreases over time. Studies on Ketamine-dependent individuals show changes in white matter in the brain.

Ketamine has potential. I think it would be great if it were available as a medical rescue for people who come to the ER in crisis, but it has a long way to go before it’s ready for the market.

red rose

R is for Red Rose too!

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Debi O'Neille, writing against the wind
    Apr 21, 2014 @ 12:15:28

    To me, Special K, until I read your blog, was simply a breakfast cereal. Great post, great research. I just signed in as a follower via email. It’s nice to meet you.
    Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com


  2. RZT
    Apr 21, 2014 @ 15:19:39

    I have to say I know nothing about this drug. . . . .


  3. Ibim
    Apr 21, 2014 @ 19:22:46

    To the contrary, ketamine absolutely is “ready for the market”. The number of doctors who offer this treatment clinically is growing rapidly. See the Ketamine Advocacy Website (ketaminenetwork.org) for a directory of these doctors, as well as an FAQ about the treatment, and a discussion forum where ketamine depression patients share their stories. I am one such patient myself. My 30-plus years of depression did not respond to dozens of meds, hundreds of psychotherapy sessions, meditation, mindfulness, acupuncture, or anything else. I volunteered for a study at the National Institutes of Health where I received a ketamine infusion, and within hours 100% of my symptoms vanished. You cannot imagine the sensation when decades of suffering drain away rapidly. The relief lasted about two weeks before I began to slowly relapse For the past two years I’ve been getting an infusion roughly every two months, and feel alive and happy for the first time in my adult life. There are many more like me, and our numbers are swelling. The occasional news story about ketamine focuses on the research. But I’m still waiting for the national media to jump on this story, told from the perspective of actual patients whose lives have literally been saved by this treatment.


    • somberscribbler
      Apr 21, 2014 @ 19:28:00

      Wow! Thank you for commenting! It’s really great to hear about first-hand experience. I’ll definitely check out the site you recommended. Do you know if any longer term studies have been conducted yet?


  4. C.E. Darrell
    Apr 21, 2014 @ 19:24:18

    Hmm, definitely sounds like a strong potential. Here’s hoping researchers can better refine its qualities and get it out to people where it can be helpful! πŸ™‚


  5. Ibim
    Apr 22, 2014 @ 04:33:48

    Long term studies on safety and efficacy of repeated ketamine infusions for depression have not been conducted, and probably never will be. Ketamine is an old drug whose patent expired decades ago. It is manufactured generically and is very cheap (the dose used in a typical infusion costs under $5). This means it’s not able to produce much profit, even if millions of depression sufferers seek ketamine infusions. So the research is focused on understanding ketamine’s mechanism of action, in the hopes of developing similar drugs that mimic its effect. Those drugs would be patentable, with the potential for truly blockbuster profits. As a result, there is no translational research being conducted to develop clinical protocols for ketamine depression therapy. This thread has a more in-depth discussion of the topic: http://www.ketamineadvocacynetwork.org/forums/topic/why-wont-insurance-cover-ketamine-for-depression.

    But there’s a simpler way to look at the question of long-term safety. Remember, we’re talking about treatment-resistant patients, who have suffered for years or decades, and who have already tried many other treatments without relief. Those who caution against clinical use of ketamine for depression commonly focus on the lack of long-term studies for safety. But treatment-resistant sufferers like me are more interested in the well-established consequences of NOT using ketamine: living a life of misery that can hardly be called “living” at all, and 38,000 suicides per year in the US alone.


  6. Birgit
    Apr 22, 2014 @ 22:19:49

    I have never heard of the drug but it sounds so promising and for people who live with depression and for the families and friends who see their loved ones suffer, it might be a great way to go and try it. Too bad for some people who did not have this opportunity to try it


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