Can a Club Drug be used to treat Depression?

Research has found that those suffering from severe depression could benefit from being prescribed Ketamine. Used by doctors for decades as an anesthetic, Ketamine has also become a popular illegal club drug.Depression comes in many forms. For some people it comes as a result of stress or a traumatic event. Others can be trapped in a cycle of depression, their mood fluctuating from great highs to crippling lows in what is now classified as bi-polar disorder (historically known as manic depression). The good news for sufferers comes from the fact that many high profile people from all walks of life have begun to speak openly about how they have struggled throughout their careers with depression. The basic message has been, “you are not alone, seek help”. Bringing to light just how common depression is in society has allowed many people the confidence to not struggle in silence and to seek treatment in order to return balance to their lives.


Despite the increased awareness of mental health disorders there still exists a fundamental problem. What is the best way to help those who are suffering? Most people have heard of prescription antidepressant drugs such as Prozac, which can be effective for some people. The problem with such antidepressant drugs are that they take a few weeks before they begin to bring about positive change in the patient and during those weeks there can be a risk of heightened suicidal tendencies. Even then, studies have shown that drugs such as Prozac are effective in less than half of the people who use them (figures show that roughly 30%-40% of those prescribed antidepressants experience an improvement, which is only slightly above the rates of improvement for people who are issued placebos).

There could be help for depression sufferers, although it comes from an unlikely and potentially controversial source. Researchers are beginning to use Ketamine, also known as the club drug special K, in clinical studies as a potential treatment for severe depression. Used as an anesthetic by doctors and veterinarians for many years, in recent history Ketamine has also become a popular club drug. Currently the UK government classifies Ketamine as a class C drug alongside anabolic steroids and diazepam. These ketamine trials are only for people who have not found relief from other, more orthodox, treatments.

Why is ketamine being considered as a possible treatment for Depression? Clinical studies recently undertaken in the USA have shown that people who suffer from major depression or bi-polar disorder experience an almost instant improvement in their mood when prescribed Ketamine. It should be noted that these are sufferers who have tried drugs such as Prozac and not found any relief. Asim Shah, a psychiatrist and professor at Baylor College of Medicine said, "Once the patient takes ketamine, it causes euphoria and a rapid antidepressant effect within two hours". Compared to other antidepressants that can take weeks to kick in, ketamine could be used in the short term, or when other treatments fail.

While scientists understand how Ketamine interacts with the brain, they are currently unsure exactly how this interaction brings about the positive effect of reducing depressive symptoms. As it stands further clinical trials are planned to investigate the viability of Ketamine to become a widely used treatment for those suffering with depression. Doctors expect that if the trials are successful, we could see ketamine prescribed for depression within a few years. Of course it must be emphasized that although ketamine and other antidepressants can alleviate the symptoms of depression, they do not address the underlying causes. Therapy is an integral part of correctly treating not only depression, but most mental health disorders. If you are currently suffering, please seek help as soon as possible. Finally, after reading this article please do not try and self medicate, speak to a professional for advice.

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