There may be a new option for treating major depression in the form of a psychedelic drug called ketamine. Antidepressants are notorious for their side effects and length of time it takes for the antidepressant to actually begin to work in such a way that the patient can identify a noticeable difference. The problem is that when it comes to major depression, it’s all an uphill battle. Ketamine seems to have overcome that battle.
Major depression is a severe form of depression that can last for years, even with treatment. In fact, major depression is known among mental health professionals as one of the mood disorders most difficult to treat. Medicines seem to struggle to make an impact on this form of depression. To get results from behavior therapy is difficult at best since major depression also causes a severe lack of motivation.
The cause of this type of depressive state can range from some kind of past trauma to a chemical imbalance. It is often coupled with other disorders, such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), low self esteem and even chemical dependency. When major depression comes to an acute position, the only concern is how to implement effective treatment immediately.
That’s where ketamine comes in. Recently, a double blind study was conducted in which 18 candidates for treatment of major depression were given a low dosage of ketamine or a placebo. The results were almost immediate. Within 40 minutes, one patient was already showing signs of improvement. The signs of improvement lasted throughout the week. Could this be the miracle drug that will treat suicidal ideation and serve as a starting point for the treatment of major depression? That remains to be seen since there are so many factors to consider.
Ketamine is a psychedelic anesthetic. It creates a state of euphoria. Ironically, it’s this state of euphoria that is listed as one of the negative side effects in the use of ketamine to treat depression. Some of the other known side effects are gastrointestinal issues and a decrease in motor function skills. Some of the side effects last for less than an hour, but one of the largest potential problems is that ketamine is addictive.
Since the major concern is to treat the depressive episode immediately so that the patient can get some relief before their actual antidepressants kick in, one has to consider how the ketamine would combine with something like Prozac, an antidepressant known to be sensitive to other chemicals in the body, such as alcohol.
Another point to consider is the fact that the drug is a psychedelic drug. LSD, also a psychedelic was tried as a potential medical development, with disastrous results. Ecstasy is being used to treat depression and PTSD. It seems ironic that some of the most dangerous illegal drugs are used to treat serious psychiatric illnesses, but most states won’t allow something like marijuana, a nonaddictive drug that has no association with violence towards ones self or others, to be used to treat something as simple as anxiety.
Something else to consider is the use of psychedelics in general. One of the biggest issues is that they have the potential to induce what is known as a “bad trip”. Are medical professionals really considering using something that can lead to an acute psychological trauma that could lead to permanent psychosis just so they can treat depression a little bit faster? Are any of these factors really worth the risk of using ketamine to treat depression?