Ketamine. It’s been used as an animal tranquilizer and an illicit party drug, but now it might be the future of depression treatment. The drug is a medication mainly used to start and maintain anesthesia. It sedates users and induces a trance-like state that provides pain relief and memory loss.
It was discovered in 1962 and first tested in humans in 1964. Shortly after its U.S. Approval in 1970, it was used as surgical anesthesia in the Vietnam War. Recreational use of ketamine was documented in the early 1970s.
It is frequently used as a club drug, because it interacts with other sedatives like alcohol, opioids, and barbiturates. Ketamine can be injected as a solution, or cooked down to form a snortable powder. It also sometimes comes in pill form
Recently, ketamine has been tested as a rapid-acting antidepressant in cases of treatment-resistant depression in bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. It is administered intravenously, at doses less than those used in anesthesia.
Studies show that it produces a rapid and sustained reduction in symptoms of depression in some people. Researchers aren’t sure how ketamine eases depression. One theory suggests it aids the regrowth of connections between brain cells involved in mood. But it isn’t widely FDA approved for depression treatment yet; experimental use is still ongoing. However, the FDA did approve two ketamine based drugs for “therapy status,” which means that it is fast tracked for mass approval.
On Wed MD, Gerard Sanacora, MD, PhG, Director of the Depression Research Program at Yale University states “It is potentially the most exciting development in my lifetime for the treatment of mood disorders, but there is still a way to go before this is ready for prime time.” A few years from now, ketamine may become the gold standard in treating depression.