Drug Info

Ketamine: The Miracle Depression Drug?

Cropped SingleCare logo By | April 29, 2016

Early research suggests that the anaesthetic and recreational party drug has huge potential as a treatment for severe and prolonged depression.

People suffering from a lifetime of depressive symptoms are finally finding relief in an unlikely source. Ketamine, also known as Special K, is a tranquilizer and psychedelic club drug commonly used in emergency rooms, burn centers, and veterinary clinics for its numbing properties. Now, as more and more doctors are turning to ketamine to treat extreme depression, the drug is gaining a different kind of notoriety in the medical world.

“The Most Significant Advance in Mental Health”

Over the past decade, many studies have found that ketamine is effective against cases of depression that have otherwise been resistant to traditional antidepressants and therapy, according to the Washington Post. The relief is almost instantaneous, and has been shown to cut short suicidal thinking. Doses are typically delivered at a clinic through six IV drips over a two-week period, and in amounts that are just one-tenth of the dosage used in anesthesia.

San Francisco psychiatrist L. Alison McInnes is calling ketamine “the next big thing in psychiatry,” as medical centers like Yale University, the University of California at San Diego, and the Mayo Clinic adopt the drug for off-label use to treat severe depression.

Dr. McInnes has enrolled 58 patients in Kaiser Permanente’s clinic in San Francisco, and has seen a long-term success rate of 60%. Enrique Abreu, an anesthesiologist in Portland, Oregon, who administers ketamine to depressed patients, claims the drug is 75% effective, an extremely high success rate for any pharmaceutical treatment.

Ketamine has a long way to go before it becomes a first-line treatment option, and much research still needs to be conducted, especially since it can induce significant changes in heart rate and blood pressure. Nonetheless, these early results are promising, and serve as a testament to the medical field’s ability to find innovation in the unlikeliest of places.

Other Drugs

Ketamine is not alone in its potential as an effective party-drug-turned-medication. Researchers found that mushrooms containing the psychoactive ingredient psilocybin may enhance recall, as well as treat depressive symptoms, as Live Science explains. MDMA — more commonly known as ecstasy — could be an effective treatment against PTSD, and a study found that a modified version of MDMA was 100 times more effective at destroying cancer cells than its original form — particularly against leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma.

Even the hallucinogen LSD has the potential to prevent alcoholics from relapsing during treatment, giving patients a newfound appreciation of the problem and motivation to address it. And of course, marijuana has been making headlines over the past few years not only for its gradual legalization, but also for its use as a pain medication, appetite stimulator in HIV/AIDS patients, and as a preventative measure against PTSD and seizures.

Future Potential

All these clinical studies of recreational drugs are only just scratching the surface. While you should never go out on the street and try to get your hands on any of these drugs, it’s nonetheless important to understand and even debate the public health implications of their heavily regulated, medicinal use.

In the meantime, consulting professional healthcare providers is a must when you’re exploring any treatment options — and SingleCare members have a broad range of affordable options at their fingertips. Search the massive online database for psychiatrists, dentists, and everything in between, paying only for the treatments you use, all at similar or lower rates than those insurance companies negotiate themselves.

(Main image credit: alexsokolov/Thinkstock)