Ketamine can work on the treatment of three of the most common psychological problems – anxiety, depression and addiction – according to a new pair of studies.
The sedative has been used for decades for anesthesia, mainly by veterans and as an illegal drug, but a growing number of studies suggest that it can also be psychologically therapeutic.
For people with treatment-resistant mental health problems, ketamine has shown great promise for the rapid relief of depression, and a number of clinics using the drug have emerged experimentally.
Now two new studies from Harvard University and Yale University have discovered that it may also work for depressed patients suffering from anxiety and addiction (respectively).
Two new studies from Harvard University and Yale University suggest that ketamine can work to treat depression in people who also have anxiety or addictions
Antidepressants fail to reduce persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness and fatigue for 10 to 15 percent of patients.
Moreover, it is estimated that 60 percent of Americans with depression also suffer from anxiety and vice versa.
And that complicates treatment options that can make a condition better, but exacerbates others or treats only one.
It is a frustrating riddle for millions of people around the world. Failures of treatments can only serve to deepen feelings of hopelessness, and in turn depression can even increase the risk of other diseases, such as Parkinson's.
In recent years, doctors and the scientific community in general have become more open to new therapies for psychological problems, perhaps out of despair to treat their most desperate patients.
And some of the unexpected treatment candidates are long-favored & # 39; partydrugs, including the active chemical in magic mushrooms & ketamine.
Ketamine was introduced in the 1960s and is still used as an anesthetic by veterinarians and many doctors.
It has a wide range of effects on body and mind, creating a sense of dissociation that can act as a sedative because it changes the perception of a person of his self and senses.
This psychological effect made ketamine a popular party drug, beginning in the 1980s, and by 1999 the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) had classified it as an illegal substance.
But recent research suggests that ketamine, provided carefully administered by a professional, is not just a temporary & # 39; high & # 39; but can provide fast-acting and real relief from depression.
And perhaps relief from often occurring disorders, such as anxiety and addiction.
In the General Hospital of Harvard and Massachusetts, researchers gave ketamine infusions to 99 patients. They all had a treatment-resistant depression and about half had high fears.
Although it has been mainly tested for the treatment of patients who are only depressed, ketamine worked equally well for patients who also had anxiety.
This, the researchers reported, was & # 39; unlike what is observed with traditional antidepressants.
However, it is not clear whether the treatment has improved anxiety disorders.
Meanwhile, a much smaller study at Yale tested the effects of ketamine on addiction.
Ketamine has shown promise for treating addiction, but there has been a significant catch.
Addiction to opioids is one of the hardest to break, plus lethal overdoses are very common.
But naltrexone, a commonly used drug used to treat withdrawal symptoms against addiction, is a bad bed addict for ketamine, making it ineffective, according to a small study from 2018.
More importantly, this made researchers worried that the reason that ketamine seemed to work against depression was that it interacted with the opioid receptors of the brain in a way they had previously missed.
That would make it dangerous for addiction treatment, and would have dulled the clinical promise considerably.
The new Yale study – although done in only five patients – suggests otherwise.
All five had been on naltrexone for a long time and all five had ketamine while they were on it.
The combination therapy proved safe and effective, and the subjects were relieved of withdrawal symptoms and addiction symptoms, as well as depression that was partly related to these addictions.
& # 39;[The results] to increase the possibility that for people with depression that are complicated by addiction disorders, the combination of ketamine and naltrexone may be a strategy to investigate in the endeavor to treat both disorders optimally, "Senior Study Author dr. John Krystal on New Atlas.
Because it has already been approved by the FDA, clinics that use ketamine off label to treat depression experimentally have already started in the US.
In summary, the two new studies suggest that we will only see more such treatment centers – and the medicine that once was known for its place in the party culture could become a hero for patients with complex depression.