Ketamine, a drug with its fair share of recreational users, is also a controversial hit when it comes to treating severe depression. The drug is finding increased use in some clinics as a way to deal with treatment-resistant depression, giving patients a possible solution to the damaging condition. Ketamine itself isn’t without its own side-effects, though, and that has led some to investigate how its anti-depressant qualities come about, potentially opening the door for new treatments with less side effects.
According to a study coming from the journal Nature, ketamine kicks off its anti-depressant effect by blocking the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors, otherwise known as NMDA receptors. This blocking effect triggers the anti-depressant quality that some experience, which is then extended over a longer duration thanks to a metabolite resulting from the body’s own metabolizing of ketamine.
Unfortunately, ketamine can also cause memory loss, which is thought to perhaps also result from the blocking of NMDA receptors; the same could also be true of the hallucinations some users may experience. Still, clinics report success stabilizing massively depressed and suicidal individuals very rapidly with the drug — in some case it only takes a handful of hours — and so many patients are willing to deal with the side-effects regardless.
The massive interest in the drug as a therapeutical solution for treatment-resistant depression has resulted in an increased number of studies into the drug. Big questions still linger about ketamine, though, including whether some types of administration are better than others, whether it is possible to get the anti-depressant effects while eliminating or greatly reducing the side effects, how long the anti-depressant effects last, and whether efficacy can be maintained over a long period of treatment.
You can read the full study here.