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Is Pain Medication Ketamine Capable of Treating Depression?

Ketamine is a common drug used mainly in the form of a pain reliever and anaesthetic, may show evidences of being a potential cure of depression too, according to a new study.

Ketamine has not been approved for treating depression yet, but some researchers from the University of California, San Diego are trying out a novel approach in their study to check if the drug has any antidepressant effect. The symptoms associated to depression were looked upon among people who were administered ketamine for treating chronic pain. The results were compared with those participants who were administered other pain drugs, as per the findings of the study published in the journal called Scientific Report on 3rd May.

The study was able to find that people reported a 50 percent drop in their depressive symptoms when administered ketamine, as compared to the ones who were administered other pain medications, suggested by the lead author of the study Ruben Abagyan, also a professor of two departments called Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and University of California respectively.

Ketamine is known to be used in emergency rooms of hospitals as an anaesthetic, and is administered intramuscularly or intravenously, according to Abagyan. It is known for relieving pain quickly along with creating a trace-like state of consciousness in patients, according to him.

Though, the intranasal and oral forms of the drug can be found in the streets illegally in the form of a recreational drug, which is known for causing hallucinations, as per Abagyan. The street version of this drug is called Special K.

Ketamine tablets

Reverse Methodology

Doctors were able to see fast and quick results when the drug was administered to patients having chronic pain. Some of the physicians have also experimented with ketamine in the intravenous form with respect to patients suffering from depression. The patients were not benefitted by any other treatment method of depression in the past, according to the study authors.

It takes about two to three weeks for treatment medications to begin its effect against depression, especially when the patient is suffering from depression along with suicidal ideation, as per the study authors. It was found that ketamine had an antidepressant effect that gets kicked in after two hours.

Few small-scale clinical trials were able to suggest that ketamine is capable of providing an effective approach for treating people suffering from depression, especially when the patient is treatment-resistant, like bipolar depression, major depressive disorder along with suicidal ideation. But, evidences are not enough as the findings are not from a large-scale clinical trial, as per Abagyan.

Later, the FDA database was accessed in order to provide large-scale evidence.

Unintended Effects

The results could also reveal that on administering ketamine against pain relief, the incidence of conditions like nausea, vomiting, and constipation could also be reduced. But, certain side effects caused by this drug include fevers, low blood pressure, and kidney failure.

Clinician trials still need to be conducted in order to figure out the best the dose and method of administration of ketamine along with the mechanism of action, according to Abagyan.

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