For those who suffer from depression on a daily basis, the available treatment options just don't cut it. First, there's the difficulty of finding a medication that actually works for you. Then, there's the problem of side effects, which can often outweigh whatever benefits patients might get from the drugs. And, an increasing number of studies have shown that many of the most common antidepressants can cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms if patients go off them. So, considering the many issues associated with the current options, we get pretty excited whenever we hear about alternative ways to treat depression.
A new U.K. study published in the Journal of Pharmacology suggests that ketamine — perhaps better known as the illegal party drug Special K — might be effective at combating depression. Conducted by researchers at Oxford, the study involved 28 individuals suffering from the disorder who were given ketamine on six separate occasions. After the treatment, eight subjects reported feeling less depressed, with four of them improving to the point that doctors could no longer classify them as clinically depressed.
Still, the researchers found that the duration of the effect was inconsistent: Some felt better for the next three months, while others relapsed within days. Also, one participant fainted during treatment.
While this study is admittedly small, and longer term research is definitely necessary, it provides the latest in a growing amount of evidence that ketamine (and ketamine-like drugs) could potentially be used as an effective treatment for people with clinical depression. Of course, we're a long way out from doctors writing ketamine prescriptions, but for those who don't respond to the current antidepressant options, this could be life-changing. (BBC)