a sad and depressed woman crying

Major depression can be very hard to treat. Antidepressant medication can take several weeks to kick in, and not everyone responds favorably to current drugs. An anesthetic called ketamine that has been on the market since the early 1970s has been used experimentally to alleviate depression in patients who don’t respond to other therapy. The results are sometimes evident within hours of intravenous administration.

A new study in the journal Nature gives some hint of how the drug may be working. The research in mice found that the behavioral effects of a single dose of ketamine could be measured within half an hour. They lasted about a week. Studies of the rodents’ brains showed that the treated mice had increased levels of brain-derived nerve-growth factor. This discovery may lead to better antidepressant medications that work faster and more effectively than existing drugs.

[Nature, online June 15, 2011]

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  1. PD

    Yes, Ketamine is “Special K,” a club drug. However, current clinical trials are medically conducted and safe (or “safe-ish”). I am not suggesting that anyone go out and grab a horse tranquilizer like Ketamine and start ingesting it. Of course that would be extremely dangerous and could also produce nasty side effects like hallucinations, etc. I am urging greater STUDY of drugs like this and scopolamine that appear to target the glutamate system to reduce depression quickly.
    Of course many clinical trials will likely take place among the poverty stricken denizens of nations in Latin America and Africa, where regulation of medical testing isn’t a “problem.”
    Let’s here it for Big Capitalism! First it drives us to the brink of insanity, then Big Pharma steps in and makes billions abating our symptoms. Don’t spank me, now. Studies have found that depressives have a much more realistic sense of what’s going on around us than others do. No wonder we’re cheesin’ for a horse tranquilizer.

  2. lb

    Thanks you, thank you, thank you Lisamarie, ga, and pd for your comments. I have suffered with depression (dystymia) since childhood. I have not heard of this clinical trial with Ketamine, but am so very interested. Wish I could be a part of it. Lisamarie, I do remember quite clearly the one day in my life that I did not feel the cloud and heaviness hanging over my head….I also thought to my self: this is what it feels like to be happy! I want that feeling back!!!
    I definitely want to hear more on this topic!!!! I pray there is hope for all of us that struggle on a daily basis with depression. A special thanks to my good friends, Mike and Welody for sharing this info with me.

  3. lisamarie

    I participated in two clinical trials of Ketamine. The infusion was not very pleasant, but hours afterwards my depression was lifted in a way I cannot explain well. It was as though someone carefully cleaned, polished and rejuvenated every cell in my brain. It was not a feeling of being “high” at all. It was completely different than anything I had ever experienced in my entire life.
    Unfortunately it only lasted a few days. And then it went away and the return to life as I had always known it was horrible. They tell you upfront it is a clinical trial and the drug is not available for depression treatment, YET. But Mount Sinai Hospital where I took part in the experiments, is working towards an approval for use of ketamine in some form for depression. It is a legal, FDA approved medication which any MD can write a prescription for. But finding someone to administer it is close to impossible. Cruel actually.
    I have felt more close to suicide at times since finding out how some other part of the population feels everyday. I hope they hurry. Oh if you are wealthy you can find a physician you can pay cash to, who will help out. But too bad for those of us on Medicare and Medicaid.

  4. ga

    I’m sorry doctor, but I agree with pd on this one. Psychologists have always tried to lay blame on our parents and have been crucified for doing so. Now you all are trying to tell us we bring it on ourselves???? Some ailments, maybe but not all. We live in a world with too many chemicals in our foods, drinks, personal care items….. you name it. I don’t know how any of us are healthy.

  5. pd

    I do not think most psychologists would agree that “imaging” is the most valuable method for helping people with physical or emotional problems. If that was so, then most psychologists would incorporate visualization into their practices, and they do not. You maintain here that physical problems are born in the mind. Tell that to people with MS or MD or cancer or ALS or RA.
    I can tell you that even mental health issues often have physical, even hereditary physical origins. I have seen the structural differences in brains on PET scans and MRIs. To take people’s money and then point the finger at the person who just handed you the check is convenient — for you! If you fail to dig out those pesky subconscious tricksters that are fusing spines, wrecking retinas and destroying pancreas, you can just blame the patient. While I agree that we often make our illnesses worse with anxiety and bad habits, I find your glib celebration of transpersonal psychology as the answer to all problems very, very troubling. “We ourselves are the self-destructors.” Really? That notion will last until YOU get sick.

  6. Dr. Paula Strong

    Psychologists have known for a long time that visualizations or imaging is the most valuable method of helping people with physical/emotional problems. Therapists, including myself, contend that medicines help the physical body, but are temporary bandaids to the subconscious realities that exist in a persons psyche. The most effective methods I have found are in transpersonal psychology where the person is safety guided to realms of the subconscious to see what illusions and archetypes the amazing expansive mind has created in order to survive.
    With our own minds we create the illnesses we have now or have had in the past. One illness is replaced by another until we reveal why we have created them. Once exposed, we can find the peace within the mind and heart and spirit. We ourselves are the self-destructors. The only way we can achieve freedom from the pains, illnesses and hurts is to learn about ourselves on a very deep and constant level. Know Thyself is an ancient adage. And To Thine Own Self be True, which means the truth to heal lies within ourselves.
    The only way to learn is to go within. Therein lie all of the answers and transpersonal psychologists do the job.

  7. prk

    This is a very dangerous drug just like LSD! It can make you hallucinate!
    As a young woman a psychiatrist gave me LSD & it almost ruined my life!
    BEWARE & do your homework!
    I would not go anywhere near a drug like this as a senior citizen now.

  8. Paul43

    I would like to here more about this.

  9. pd

    One of the problems with postings like this is that it mentions, but does not emphasize that for those of us who have not gotten relief from SSRIs, MAO inhibitors and the like, KETAMINE IS SIMPLY NOT AVAILABLE. As the posting says, This discovery MAY lead to better antidepressant medications that work faster and more effectively than existing drugs.”
    MAY. MAY. WHEN? WHEN? Maybe when many of us have grown old in our terrible sadness and died. This is so discouraging and depressing. There is something out there that MAY help but who knows if it will be available to any of us who so desperately need it.

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