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
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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

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