First discovered in 1956, and synthesized by Calvin L. Stevens in 1962, ketamine is a US FDA approved medication, and has been used since its approval in 1970 as a highly effective anesthetic.
The further discovery of its anti-depressive action and the benefits it offers when used as a therapeutic agent for affective disorders has been described as “the single most important advance in the treatment of depression in over 50 years”.
Hundreds of millions of people are thought be affected by depression, according to the World Health Organization [WHO]. If the intensity of the disorder is severe enough, and it lasts long enough, depression can transform into a dangerous health condition. It can lead to:
A major barrier to the effective treatment of depression and related disorders has been the lack of successful procedures and medication. Certainly, there are measures which can be taken to help patients deal and to mitigate the symptoms, such as psychological treatments including behavioural action, interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and/or anti-depressant medication such as tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
However, there has never been an all-encompassing cure for the problem, and while we may still be some distance from one, everything researchers have been learning about ketamine in recent years has given rise to a new hope.
Most treatments for depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts—such as those mentioned in the previous section—can, and usually do, take several weeks or even months before they take any noticeable effect. Additionally, some patients have to undergo a range of different treatment and medication procedures before they find any relief from their condition.
Research has shown how ketamine therapy, on the other hand, can rapidly and significantly reduce suicidal ideation, and help relieve some of the most serious consequences and symptoms of affective disorders. Ketamine has also proven an effective treatment for cases where patients suffer from a combination of depression and anxiety.
Such results, and more have sparked considerable interest and excitement in researchers for the potential of ketamine therapy. NMDA receptor antagonists for depression are being vigorously studied, and the entire field of anti-depressant research and development has shifted toward a significant new direction.
Ketamine targets NMDA receptors in the brain. Once it is bonded to these receptors, ketamine has been observed to rapidly and substantially increase the amount of glutamate [a neurotransmitter] present in the spaces between neurons. This process leads to the activation of the AMPA receptor, which in conjunction with the blockade of NMDA receptors, help enhance the communication between neurons.
Ketamine and depression
New research, and a growing body of studies and evidence, has shown ketamine therapy to be particularly effective when used in the treatment for mood disorders, such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], and treatment-resistant depression as well as suicidal ideation.
In cases with major depression and treatment-resistant bipolar, even single doses of ketamine have been seen to cause rapid anti-depressant effects. Astonishingly, researchers also noticed an acute reduction in suicidal ideation.
While further investigation is definitely required, and through rigorous research methods, ketamine therapy has really come to the fore for researchers and scientists as an increasingly viable weapon against depression and related affective disorders.
Ketamine and PTSD
PTSD patients were observed to display reduced symptom severity when treated with ketamine as compared to midazolam, and it has been suggested that ketamine could prove to be effective in inducing stress resilience which, in turn, could help prevent the development of PTSD.
The United States Food and Drug Administration [FDA] has recently approved the use of intranasal ketamine, and it represents a crucial breakthrough in the field of psychiatry—and the treatment of conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and obsessive-compulsive disorder [OCD]. Patients can now look forward to a vastly enhanced quality of life which is certain to get even better as further advances in ketamine treatments/therapy are made across the years to come.
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