Ketamine 'exciting' depression treatment
Apr 04 2014
The first stage of a new clinical trial has shown that the illegal substance ketamine could be used to treat patients who suffer from depression.
Doctors who conducted the research said that the illegal party drug is an "exciting" and "dramatic" find and has opened up a new line for investigation. During the tests, some patients that had suffered with depression for decades had their symptoms disappear within hours of taking small doses of the drug.
The small trial, which included 28 people, found that the benefits could last for months, according to the study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
A team at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust gave patients small doses of ketamine over 40 minutes on up to six occasions. Eight showed improvements in their levels of depression, while four of them improved to such a degree that they were no longer classed as depressed. Some of the participants responded to the treatment in as little as six hours after the first dose of ketamine.
Lead researcher Dr Rupert McShane said: "It really is dramatic for some people, it's the sort of thing really that makes it worth doing psychiatry, it's a really wonderful thing to see.
He added: "[The patients] say 'ah this is how I used to think' and the relatives say 'we've got x back'."
Although some patients relapsed within days, others found they were still benefitting for around three months following the treatment and have since had additional doses of ketamine. However, although the trial opens up new lines for research, there were some serious side-effects from the study including one patient who had the brain's blood supply interrupted.
Antidepressants, such as prozac, and behavioural therapies help some patients, but a significant proportion remain resistant to any form of treatment.
Dr McShane said: "It is exciting, but it's not about to be a routine treatment as where we need to be going is maintaining the response... it's not about to replace prozac."
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