There’s a lot of buzz lately about ketamine and its medical potential, particularly in the treatment of depression, PTSD, and bipolar disorder. What exactly is ketamine, though?
What is Ketamine?
Perhaps you’ve heard of ketamine as a party drug popular in Canada, the UK, or India. The truth is, ketamine has been used by medical professionals for over 60 years all over the world. Ketamine is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. It belongs to a class of medicine called “dissociative anesthetics.” Essentially, at higher doses it produces pain relief/lack of feeling and amnesia in the patient, but it does not block the ability to swallow, open or shut eyes, or breathe freely. First derived from PCP in 1962, this medicine is effectively and widely used for surgical anesthesia during routine and emergent procedures. Ketamine is versatile, can be used in a variety of different settings and is incredibly tightly controlled through the intravenous route. Most significantly, unlike other anesthetics, it does not affect the respiratory system. There is virtually no risk that the patient will stop breathing due to the drug itself and possesses minimal to no side effects.
Is Ketamine Safe?
Despite its reputation as an abused drug, ketamine is actually described by the World Health Organization as one of “the most efficacious, safe and cost–effective medicines for priority conditions.” In other words, the WHO recommends that ketamine be on hand for every medical and surgical procedure. Because it doesn’t affect the respiratory system, it can be used for sedation when breathing machines or anesthesiologists are unavailable, or when electricity is out.
With the current opioid crisis in the U.S., many doctors and hospital systems are actually turning to ketamine as an alternative to morphine or other opiates because of its lower risk for side effects, addiction, and negative outcomes.
How Can Ketamine Treat Depression?
Ketamine hasn’t been approved for treating depression by the FDA…yet. It is on the Fast Track for approval for the treatment of depression with the FDA, but no one knows when this will officially take effect. There are more than 50 studies looking to prove how ketamine significantly, positively affects a person with depression. Researchers are looking at it especially for the treatment of severe depression because it has fast results. Typically, antidepressant medications take weeks to months to work on a patient. For those who are having suicidal thoughts, weeks can be far too long. Ketamine, however, has shown positive results in depressed patients in as quickly as 40 minutes after receiving an infusion.
Ketamine is a medicine that holds much promise in the medical community. Healthcare providers and researchers everywhere are energized by the possibilities offered by this medication.