New, “exciting” depression therapy study

With one in 10 people affected by depression at some point in their lives, it is no wonder that researchers are looking for additional ways to alleviate the often debilitating symptoms. Although antidepressants, such as Prozac, are on the market, many people affected by depression remain resistant to treatment.

That is why a new study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology is so special.

The study looked at the “party drug” ketamine as a new treatment for depression. In the small trial of only 28 people, the study shows that 12 of those studied showed marked improvements in their levels of depression.

“[The patients] say, ‘ah, this is how I used to think,’ and the relatives say, ‘we’ve got x back,’” said Dr. Rupert McShane, lead researcher, said in an article on BBC. Dr. McShane is part of the team at the Oxford Health NHS Foundation.

“It really is dramatic for some people,” Dr. McShane added. “It’s a really wonderful thing to see.”

Patients were given doses of ketamine over 40 minutes on up to six occasions. Of those with improvements, eight reported basic improvements and four improved “so much they were no longer classed as depressed.”

Although the team of doctors calls this trial “exciting” and “dramatic” for the treatment of depression, problems remain. The duration of the effect is of considerable concern, with some patients relapsing in days, others, in months. Side effects of the treatment are also being considered after one case of blood supply to the brain being interrupted.

Doctors encourage people to not self-medicate, as there are serious risks associated with the treatment and studies are not yet completed on the drug yet.

“It is exciting, but it’s not about to be a routine treatment as where we need to be going is maintaining the response … it’s not about to replace Prozac,” Dr. McShane said.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, ketamine is an anesthetic widely approved for use in humans and animals that is abused as a “party drug” because of its hallucinogenic effects, and is also used to facilitate sexual assault.

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