A club drug or something with medicinal values? Ketamine gets a rep for being a drug that many take for recreational use. Consequently, many are quick to dismiss the values that ketamine holds. Although it’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration since 1970, it is yet to be approved as a label usage drug.
So what exactly prompted doctors to explore ketamine as a means of treating depression? Doctors have long been curious of the effects that ketamine takes as an anesthetic. Some tests have resulted in patients who would “start smiling or laughing” under the effects of ketamine. This advanced the curiosity of doctors in wondering if perhaps ketamine could be used on patients suffering from depression. Studies on ketamine have been performed since the early 2000s. Researchers still continue to discover new findings that support the use of this drug.
Additionally, other drugs that are already used to treat patients with depression seem to be useless. Some of these drugs include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and multiple-receptor antidepressants. Around 37% of these users have experienced full remission. This further indicates the need to find another solution besides SSRIs and multiple-receptor antidepressants.
With the studies conducted, the data collected offers supporting evidence for the use of ketamine. Since ketamine is a NMDA receptor antagonist, it targets glutamate absorption which helps raise serotonin levels. Glutamate is commonly related to excitability. Many researchers believe this is the reason why the human brain can metabolize the ketamine. This allows for new neural pathways which will help restore functions affected by depression. The main takeaway is the science behind ketamine is what ultimately helps patients with depression rather than the ‘experience’ it induces.
It should be noted that ketamine is a dissociation anesthetic. This means that users may experience an ‘out of body’ experience instead of the achieving a euphoric hallucinatory state. Needless to say, the latter is where administrators would want their patients to get to however, if patients feel the former, nurses will be ready to help. Once the nurses are notified of the ‘bad trip’, they will be able to stop the infusion and in some cases add a counteractive drug.
Professor and executive vice chair Asim Shah of Baylor College of Medicine says he expects an intranasal version of ketamine to be approved by the FDA as soon as next year. The intranasal version, known as esketamine, will help assist patients without having to worry about falling into the ‘K-hole’ or a ‘bad trip’ and even allows for the possibility to let patients receive treatment in the comfort of their home. Given the positive feedback from both patients and researcher’s results, patients with severe depression may have some good news to look forward to.