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article imageKetamine provides hope for treatment of clinical depression

By Tim Sandle     Apr 6, 2017 in Health
York - New research into the drug ketamine shows it can be used to treat some cases of depression where existing medications have not been successful. This has led some to call for the drug to be rolled out.
Ketamine, discovered back in 1962, is used as an anesthetic. It also carries an unsavory reputation as an illegal party drug. Ketamine is marketed under different brand names, such as Ketalar. Its primary clinical use is for starting and maintaining anesthesia. The drug, injected intravenously or intramuscularly, triggers a trance-like state and provides pain relief, and sedation. The drug can also be used for the treatment of chronic pain. The effects are rapid, although relatively short lasting (around 25 minutes). The drug carries side effects including psychological reactions.
Ketamine’s use as a recreational drug has been linked to many deaths globally. In the U.K., for example, 90 deaths as a result of people taking the drug for non-clinical use were recorded between the years 2005 to 2013.
The new association between ketamine and reducing the effects of depression arise from a clinical trial. The trial, underway since 2011, is led by Dr Rupert McShane. The trial has consisted of 101 people with depression. Each of the subjects did not respond to existing medication for depression. Of the 101 subjects, 42 of them have responded well to the ketamine in that the severity of their depression has fallen.
Commenting on the trial, Dr McShane told the BBC that the drug should be approved and rolled out to allow medics to treat certain forms of depression, to provide a different pharmacological alternative to other licensed drugs. This should come with a caveat, which the scientist explains: “We think that patients' treatment should be in specialist centers and formally tracked in national or international registries.”
The researcher adds: “This will help us to pick up any safety or abuse problems with longer term use and narrow down what dose, frequency, route and durations of treatment works best.” The doctor adds a warning that the levels used in the trial are controlled and much lower doses than people use when taking the drug illegally for recreational purposes. He also warns about the dangers for any person with depression considering self-medicating.
The new research into ketamine has been published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry, under the title “Ketamine treatment for depression: opportunities for clinical innovation and ethical foresight.” It is likely that further research will be needed before ketamine becomes a recognized psychiatric medication.
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