Overview Ketamine’s Effects:
If you’ve heard of ketamine, it’s probably because of its history of abuse as a club drug. But it might also be one of the biggest breakthroughs in treating severe depression in years.
How does one drug hold such promise and danger? The answer lies in the way that it affects your mind.
Ketamine works just like a flash mob, temporarily using a particular chemical “receptor” In some cases and with specialist medical care, that may be a fantastic thing. But cross that line, and it’s big trouble.
Your doctor likely won’t give it to you as an antidepressant nonetheless. Scientists are still testing it. However, if ketamine does bring people back into the depths of depression, it might be the last thing that you expect from a drug that can knock you out.
Putting Out Pain:
Ketamine got its start as a sedation medicine in the 1960s. It was utilized on the battlefields of the Vietnam War.
At lower dosages, it helps alleviate pain. Ketamine aids sedatives’ work and may help people desire fewer addictive painkillers, like morphine after surgery or while caring for burns.
When misused, ketamine may change your sense of sound and sight. You’ll have hallucinations and feel out of touch with your environment — and even out of yourself. It may make it hard to speak or move, and it’s been abused as a date-rape drug.
“Out of this practice, ketamine can cause tragedies, but in the right hands, it is a miracle,” says John Abenstein, MD, president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.
New Life as an Antidepressant?
Turning around acute depression may not literally be a miracle. But if it happens to you, it may feel like one.
Researchers have been analyzing whether ketamine can help treat severe depression, such as in people who have tried other therapies or who are in the hospital and possibly suicidal.
The FDA has not approved it for this use. But some psychiatrists are attempting ketamine liberally with their patients that have this kind of depression, says John Krystal, MD, chief of psychiatry at Yale-New Haven Hospital. In some people, it can alleviate symptoms of depression in only a few hours.
Results have varied. In some studies, most people who tried ketamine (around 85%) got improved. However, in others, few were helped.
Some people in those studies have experienced distorted sound or sight. The target is to find a dose that is big enough to relieve depression but small enough to avoid these side effects, Krystal says.
Can it work and be secure in the long run? Doctors do not know yet.
If the results reveal that the drug does facilitate depression and also the FDA approves its usage, doctors could begin to use it in order to cure their patients 3 to 5 decades, Krystal says. He also developed the nasal ketamine mist that is being analyzed.
The ketamine gap starts with how fast the drug’s effects kick in.
How Does Ketamine Work for Depression?
People usually take antidepressants for a few weeks before they begin to work. Those medicines will need to accumulate in the human body to have an effect.
Ketamine is different. Its effects on depression happen as it leaves the human body, Krystal says.
Researchers aren’t sure exactly why that is. One notion is that ketamine prompts connections to regrow between cells that are involved in disposition.
Krystal calls the effect “deep” and says that the drug works “much more quickly” than today’s antidepressant pills.
The director of the National Institute of Mental Health agrees. “Recent statistics indicate that ketamine, given intravenously, might be the most significant breakthrough in antidepressant therapy in years,” says Thomas Insel, MD.
One day, physicians may use ketamine to assist seriously depressed people until other antidepressants begin to work. But as a cousin of the drug PCP, you’d never get it at the local drugstore.
“While the science is promising, ketamine isn’t ready for broad use in the clinic. We just don’t know enough. However, with the excitement created by historical results, we will have more info shortly,” Insel says.
Ketamine still has a shadowy side — its usage as a street drug, in which the risks can easily spin out of control.
If It Is Abused:
When used recreationally at large doses, people can feel as though they’re in what is called a “K-hole.” This happens when they are on the verge of becoming unconscious.
These other unwanted effects also require emergency medical care:
- Bloody or cloudy pee
- Trouble peeing, or needing to urine often
- Pale or bluish lips, skin, or fingernails
- Blurry vision
- Chest pain, discomfort, or tightness
- Shortness of breath, trouble to breathe, or not breathing
- Problems with absorbing
- Quick, slow, or irregular heartbeat
- Hives, itching, rash
- Puffy or swollen eyelids, face, lips, or tongue
- Feeling overly excited, nervous, or restless
- Unusual tiredness or weakness
It is possible to get addicted or need high doses to feel the effects. (This is not as likely to happen when you get ketamine for medical reasons.) An overdose can be harmful in those with cardiac disease.
“Every drug that causes any change in [the senses] has been and will be abused,” Ebenstein says.
Ask your friends and loved ones for support. If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, consider joining a support group or seeking counseling. Believe in your ability to take control of the pain…
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