I don’t know if it’s what the kids are calling it these days, but when I was growing up in the 90′s, Ketamine was known as “Special K” and largely associated with the rave scene- which was not then as lame as it looks now.
And the ravers and hangers on of the 90′s would probably be a bit amused by all this data being discovered vindicating the drugs of the era- like MDMA and Ketamine- as useful treatments for mental illness. In the past year or so, studies have emerged trumpeting ecstasy as a treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and now Ketamine is being studied as a possible treatment for depression.
NPR did an in-depth piece on the research, and it seems the problem stems from the length of time it takes for traditional treatments for depression to be effective. While this is not necessarily a problem for low-grade depression, occasionally, a patient will present with symptoms of severe depression at an emergency room. The news outlet spoke to a Texas hospital about one such patient, and the head of its psychiatric care unit, Anu Matorin. Matorin discusses a patient whose mother called after she expressed suicidal ideation while caring for an infant. She explained that the hospital was forced to admit the young mother due to a lack of immediate treatment options:
Then came the hard part, Matorin says. She knew the drugs might help the woman eventually. But they weren’t going to do anything about her suicidal thoughts during the next few critical days… So Matorin did the only thing she could for her patient. She admitted her to the hospital’s locked inpatient unit.
A study is currently underway at the facility, Ben Taub Medical Center in Houston, and Sanjay Mathew is heading it up. Mathew says that Ketamine may present a radically different approach to handling episodes of severe depression:
“It’s a completely different mechanism. And the focus is on really rapidly helping someone get out of a depressive episode.”
The study is not yet complete, but researchers say that patient reactions are so distinct and consistent that “more difficult to do good studies of ketamine” because it’s hard to mask who received the drug and who did not.