Ketamine, once known primarily as a drug association, has been legitimized in recent years by some scientific experts as a potential therapy for difficult-to-treat depression. It works faster than antidepressants, but it decreases relatively quickly, and the health consequences of taking ketamine for months and years are still unknown. The drug is approved by the FDA as an anesthetic, and several academic centers in the US operate Ketamine clinics; Private ketamine clinics operated by doctors have also emerged.
But new research points out what a major downside to the drug might be. It seems like an opioid in the brain, which, as experts fear, could make patients addicted.
The small study, published Wednesday in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggests that ketamine acts as an antidepressant by activating the body's natural opioid system, which controls the pain and reward responses. The findings, the authors write in the study, "provide a strong justification for further caution against widespread and repeated use of ketamine".
The study, led by researchers at Stanford University, was small and preliminary, and the results need to be replicated in future research. But if ketamine actually acts like an opioid, an accompanying editorial, patients taking the drug for depression may become addicted or dependent, as well as other opioids. "We would hate treating the depression and suicide epidemics by overeating ketamine, which may inadvertently increase the third opiate addiction," Dr. Mark George, Professor of Psychiatry, Radiology and Neuroscience at the Medical University of South Carolina, Editorial
Previous studies suggest that ketamine relieves depression by targeting the brain's glutamate system, which is involved in memory and learning. The researchers of the new study, however, wanted to test the effect of the drug on opioid receptors.
To do so, they administered placebo to 1
The findings were so blatant that the researchers – some of whom have financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry – are also finding companies that are modeled on ketamine effects ( 19659002) Ketamine is not the only psychedelic drug that may find a new life as a medical treatment for mental disorders. Studies have shown that psilocybin (a compound in psychedelic mushrooms) and LSD can be used in some people to treat anxiety and depression.