Depression affects nearly 15 million Americans, mostly women, each year. In fact it is the leading cause of disability in the United States for individuals ages 15 to 44. With the personal, social and economic impact of depression adding to the already stressed health care system, experts have turned to a drug commonly found in veterinary clinics and “Rave” parties, for a potential ground breaking solution.
Depression: An Overview
Depression is marked by minor to severe symptoms which can lead to an inability to function in daily life. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) an episode of major depression may be diagnosed if five of the following are present within one two-week period:
• Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day. (Children and adolescents may exhibit irritability)
• Noticeable loss of interest or enjoyment of all, or most activities, most of the day, nearly every day.
• Sudden and significant weight loss without dieting
• Trouble sleeping or sleeping more than usual
• Moving at a slower pace than usual
• Fatigue or lack of energy nearly every day
• Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate or excessive guilt
• Trouble concentrating or making decisions nearly every day
• Thinking, planning, imagining or attempting suicide
What is Ketamine?
Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic and pain reliever that is used most commonly in veterinary clinics for surgery. Other uses of Ketamine include surgery involving children and emergency medicine. Ketamine has also become popular as a street drug commonly called “Special K” which is sold illegally at marathon dance parties called Raves.
Some of the effects of Ketamine include:
• Feelings of being separated from one’s body
• Impaired motor function
• Dream-like state
How does Ketamine affect the brain?
Ketamine blocks a receptor called N-methyl-aspartic acid (NMDA) in the brain. When NMDA is blocked it allows the activity of another receptor, α-amino-3-hydroxyl-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionate (AMPA) to increase. Both NMDA and AMPA are involved in the regulation of the neurotransmitter glutamate, which has recently become the focus of depression research.
How does Ketamine treat depression?
Researchers believe that the increase in AMPA is the cause for the immediate and sustained decrease in depression symptoms. Individuals with treatment-resistant depression reported relief of symptoms in as little as two hours, with a single dose of Ketamine, for up to seven days. In contrast the typical antidepressant may take 6 to 8 weeks to affect depression symptoms.
What is the future of Ketamine in depression treatment?
The speed with which Ketamine works on symptoms of depression holds strong implications for depression sufferers who may become suicidal. However, although none of the participants in the research studies experienced any side effects it is unlikely Ketamine will become widely used as a treatment for depression due to the potential strong side effects which may occur when it is administered in high doses. The results of the studies do serve to point researchers in the right direction for the development of more fast-acting, longer lasting antidepressant medications.
American Psychiatric Association. (2000) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.) (Text Revision). Washington, DC: Author
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/science-news/2006/experimental-medication-kicks-depression-in-hours-instead-of-weeks.shtmlExperimental Medication Kicks Depression in Hours Instead of Weeks