News / Health

Street Drug Rapidly Eases Depression Symptoms

FILE - This is a vial of the animal tranquilizing drug ketamine hydrochloride, better known in the drug culture as "Special K."
FILE - This is a vial of the animal tranquilizing drug ketamine hydrochloride, better known in the drug culture as "Special K."
Jessica Berman
Ketamine, a hallucinogen called "Special K" by drug abusers, is an animal tranquillizer that has shown promising results at lifting the dark veil of depression in those for whom other treatments, including antidepressants and psychotherapy, have not helped. Ketamine only works for a short period of time and researchers are looking for ways to extend its beneficial effects.

In one of the latest trials of ketamine carried out in Britain, low doses of the tranquilizer showed remarkable benefit in easing symptoms in a small percentage of 28 patients with serious depression.

The study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, was led by psychiatrist Rupert McShane of Oxford University. Ketamine was given by IV injection in patients who were already on another antidepressant.

McShane says eight patients responded to the treatment, three of whom said they felt better almost immediately after a single infusion

“Typically by about six hours, people are saying, 'Gosh, I am feeling like a weight is lifted from me. I can think more freely.' That is in those who responded,” he said.

Among those who responded, the benefit lasted between one and six months.  McShane notes the British trial was designed to test the safety of repeated doses, not the drug's effectiveness.  

In the United States, where a half dozen larger trials of the anesthetic have been conducted, experts say ketamine has proved to be on average 60 percent effective in rapidly easing treatment-resistant depression.

U.S. National Institute of Mental Health experimental therapeutics chief Carlos Zarate says there are 30 types of antidepressant drugs on the market, but they do not relieve all of the symptoms of depression, which include extreme fatigue, sadness or inability to concentrate.

“And in addition, the incidences of depression and suicide have not dramatically changed over the years despite these treatments," he said. "And the other major factor [is] it often takes several weeks or months for the full effects to take place.”

Zarate says only about one-third of patients get a complete remission on one antidepressant. Many more require two or more trials of different drugs to ease symptoms.

Most of the antidepressants target the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. Zarate says they work rapidly to improve the connections among the brain chemicals.  

He says ketamine works directly on a neurotransmitter called glutamate, which is the ultimate target of other drugs.

“And so people have argued if you go more directly to this receptor of glutamate, NMDA, would you bring about a more rapid antidepressant effect," he said. "And the answer is yes, you can get what takes about a couple of hours with ketamine [which] would take approximately six weeks with our standard antidepressants.”

Research is now focused on the dosage of ketamine that can be administered safely, the goal of the British study, and trying to design longer lasting drugs that work like ketamine directly on the glutamate receptor.

You May Like

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Bowdean Mcnowski from: Canada
April 22, 2014 12:34 PM
Who wrote this article? a 10 year old?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid