Ketamine is a commonly known as a psychedelic drug that’s used in clubs. The drug is often referred to as “Special K” or as “horse tranquilizer,” it has been around since the 1960s and is used in emergency rooms and burn centers as an anesthesia. In the past decade, studies have shown ketamine can reverse untreatable depression symptoms and diminishes suicidal ideations, within minutes or hours of being administered.
A team of scientific researchers who received funding from the National Institute of Health (NIH), recently discovered why ketamine may be beneficial as a rapid antidepressant.
In the August 2010 issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers reported people in a small study who had untreatable bipolar disorder depression experienced relief in as little as 40 minutes after being given an intravenous infusion of ketamine. Eighteen of the subjects in the study had been treated unsuccessfully with at least one antidepressant medication and a mood stabilizer; the average number of medications they had taken without success was seven. Within 40 minutes, 9 of the 16 people in the study had at least a 50 percent reduction in symptoms and 2 of 16 had full remission and became symptom-free. The response to ketamine lasted an average of one week.
In a small 2006 study done by the NIH, one of the first to look at ketamine for depression treatment, 18 treatment-resistant, depressed patients were randomly picked to receive either a single ketamine infusion or a placebo. The symptoms of depression improve in one day in 71% of those who received ketamine and 29% of those patients were symptom-free within 24 hours.
In a more recent study in May of 2016, Nature, a scientific journal, researchers reported a chemical byproduct or metabolite is created as the body breaks down ketamine. This byproduct reversed depression-like symptoms in mice without triggering any anesthetic, dissociative or addictive side effects from ketamine.