Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Special K: Cures What Ails Ye

Ketamine is an injectable drug used in anesthesia that works by blocking the NMDA receptor in the brain. It is known on the streets as "Special K" because of its dissociative and hallucinogenic effects. (You're removed from pain and worries and see crazy stuff.) I use ketamine in the lab for rodent sedation and pain reduction.

A recent press release from the NIH, reported by Science Daily, announced a newfound effect of this drug: anti-depressant. Evidently one sub-anesthetic dose reduced the symptoms of depression in patients resistant to all other anti-depressant therapies. The effect was not trivial. From the NIH press release:
Depression improved within one day in 71 percent of all those who received ketamine, and 29 percent of these patients became nearly symptom-free within one day. Thirty-five percent of patients who received ketamine still showed benefits seven days later. Participants receiving a placebo infusion showed no improvement.
That is something else! Due to its status as a controlled substance and the hallucinogenic side effects, it may be a while before this treatment gets approved. It is exciting none-the-less that there could be an entirely different approach to treating depression.

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