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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

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