Ketamine To Be Tested As Treatment For Severe Depression

Tis the week for street drugs to wind their way into psychiatric research labs…

The ABC News (1/31, Katrandjian) “Medical Unit” blog reports, “Ketamine, a prescription drug that has been used as an anesthetic for decades and gained popularity on the street as ‘Special K,’ is being tested in Houston as a quick fix to severe depression.” Scientists “at the Neuro Psychiatric Center next to Ben Taub General Hospital are testing one infusion of ketamine for its short-term effects in treating depression.” Should the results of that study be successful, “a second study will administer ketamine three times a week to patients to test the drug’s long-term effects.” The piece also points out that the Food and Drug Administration has not approved ketamine as a treatment for depression.
The NPR (1/30, Hamilton) “Shots” blog, as well as its “Morning Edition” program, reported that “traditional antidepressants…work on a group of chemical messengers in the brain called the serotonin system.” In contrast, ketamine appears to activate “a different chemical system in the brain — the glutamate system. Researcher Ron Duman at Yale thinks ketamine rapidly increases the communication among existing neurons by creating new connections,” a more rapid “process than waiting for new neurons to form.” The New York Observer (1/31, Grant) also covers the story.