Listening to Ketamine

The fast-acting drug offers a new way to treat depression and fathom its origins. Recent approval of a nasal spray promises to expand access, but much remains unknown about long-term use and the potential for abuse.

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Shelley Barnes
Can We Stop Suicides?

After her suicide attempt, Louise’s psychiatrist suggested she try ketamine. She agreed, and received an infusion intravenously. Within hours, her sense of well-being improved. The hospital discharged her. Back home, she discovered that going to the market was no longer a “herculean task.” Getting her car washed wasn’t an insurmountable chore. “Life was better,” she said. “Life was doable.”

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I tried ketamine to treat my depression. Within a day, I felt relief.

As a journalist who covers health and medicine, I had read about the success of experimental trials that used ketamine to treat depression. My therapists had recommended extreme treatments like electroshock therapy, a procedure that frightened me due to reports of memory loss from those who had undergone it, but had never mentioned this. But I was getting desperate for a serious intervention.

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Ketamine-Induced Dissociative Symptoms Predict Antidepressant Response

Increased dissociative symptoms associated with ketamine infusion treatment can predict a greater antidepressant effect in individuals with major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder. In fact, specific properties of ketamine-induced dissociation (such as depersonalization and derealization) can uniquely predict the antidepressant response, according to a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

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Psychedelic drugs appear to fundamentally reorganize the brain — and they're starting to turn into approved treatments

Like a May shower, the studies on psychedelic drugs' potential therapeutic benefits came — first as a sprinkle, then a steady downpour. Between 2012 and 2017, the papers abounded. One, published in 2016, suggested that magic mushrooms might alleviate anxiety in cancer patients; another in 2017 indicated that ecstasy could help veterans cope with PTSD symptoms; and one in 2012 hinted that ketamine might curb major depression.

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Getting the Inside Dope on Ketamine’s Mysterious Ability to Rapidly Relieve Depression

Ketamine has been called the biggest thing to happen to psychiatry in 50 years, due to its uniquely rapid and sustained antidepressant effects. It improves symptoms in as little as 30 minutes, compared with weeks or even months for existing antidepressants, and is effective even for the roughly one third of patients with so-called treatment-resistant depression.

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Ketamine Effective At Treating Depression

Researchers at Mayo Clinic have found that the general anesthetic, Ketamine, is very effective at treating depression when administered over a long period. The study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, revealed that prolonged, low-dose intravenous infusions of Ketamine, have excellent potential in reducing the symptoms of severe depression. 

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Ketamine improved bipolar depression within minutes, study suggests

Bipolar disorder is a serious and debilitating condition where individuals experience severe swings in mood between mania and depression. The episodes of low or elevated mood can last days or months, and the risk of suicide is high.

For these reasons, better treatments for depression are desperately needed. A new study in Biological Psychiatry this week confirms that scientists may have found one in a drug called ketamine.

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