Using ketamine to fight depression

January 31, 2013 2:01:49 PM PST
Imagine finding a new, life changing use for a dangerous street drug, one that has been known for destroying lives.

Now, an experimental treatment could hold life changing promises.

What's exciting about this drug is that it works fast.

Most anti-depressants that we use now take about a month to kick in.

But the studies so far show this one starts to work the very same day.

You may know it as the club drug, Special K, but now researchers say ketamine is a promising new treatment option for depression.

About half the patients get about 50% better with one dose of ketamine," said Dr. John Mann with NYS Psychiatric Institute.

And that one dose works in just a few hours. Ketamine targets a chemical in the brain called glutamate and unlike most antidepressants which target serotonin. Dr. John Mann is overseeing three ketamine studies at the Columbia Psychiatric Institute.

"This may be a medication that works faster and 2 it may work in some patients who have not had much success in getting better with regular treatments," he adds.

Todd Landua is one of those patients, he's battled depression for 4 years.

"Basically I felt fear, sadness or nothing- that was it," he said.

He took part in the new clinical trial, and says after he got ketamine, he felt an immediate difference.

"I was recovering memories that had been very painful for me but the pain was completely gone," adds Todd.

But although it's fast acting, it's not necessarily long lasting. So far they found the benefits of one dose last about a week.

That could mean needing frequent IV infusions of ketamine, until there's a better way like a pill. And in large doses, ketamine can cause dangerous symptoms of psychosis, but Dr. Mann says they are working to find the lowest dose possible that works, but with the fewest side effects.

The studies at Columbia are scheduled to go until 2017.


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