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Doing Life Together

disappointed-2167435_1920Jack has suffered with depression for years. He is one of 5 million people who have what is called treatment-resistant depression. He has tried numerous antidepressant drugs that would work for a while and then seem to stop working. Recently, he joined a clinical trial using a drug that most people know as a psychedelic one-ketamine. Ketamine has been used by anesthesiologist to put people under before surgery, but it is widely known as “Special K,” a hallucinogen used by club goers to trip. It is an easy drug to abuse.

Now, the drug is being studied to bring possible hope to those suffering from stubborn depression. And because ketamine is legally prescribed for anesthesia, it has been used off label as a possible new treatment. Currently the trials are small and few, but the early results seem promising.

The drug is not yet FDA approved for depression but it appears that the response from those with treatment-resistant depression is hopeful. Patients report that it seems to help with suicidal thoughts and has rapid results.

How ketamine exactly works to fight resistant depression is not exactly known, but it seems to work rapidly in the brain. Because it has not been largely studied as a depression treatment, we don’t know the consequences and potential side effect of using this repeatedly for depression. With anesthesia, one dose is given. As a depression treatment, doses are repeated because the effects are temporary. And the drug is costly ($400-$800 a treatment) and rarely covered by insurance.

Also, because it is a drug of abuse, people can become dependents on it. Furthermore, it has been correlated with bladder toxicity and cognitive problems in the recreational drug crowd.

A task force of the American Psychiatric Association has said that ketamine is not ready for a roll out to the public. It needs more study despite the fact that private clinics have popped up all over the country and are providing this treatment. A big concern is that this treatment may not be a long-term solution and may stimulate opioid receptors in the brain. This could then bring on the problem of potential addiction like we currently see with opioids.

That said, researchers are working on how the drug works, how to dose it and use it as an antidepressant so as to not provide the euphoric effect. So, stay tuned on this one. As clinical trials continue, we may see a new treatment for hard to treat depression. More research will be telling.

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