The study that was published in the Science Signaling journal divulged how researchers from the Baltimore-based Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the John Hopkins School of Medicine, the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and the Guangzhou Medical University in China brought to light the antidepressant properties of Ketamine.
Ketamine is a Potential Anti-Depressant according to the Findings
Ke Zhang, one of the researchers, explained how ketamine alters messages from neuron to neuron by changing the presynaptic side of the neuron or nerve cells, thereby altering the neurotransmission mechanism.
According to the research, ketamine did more than just alter the message – it improved it significantly, giving rise to the possibility that the drug could have some clinical benefits in the treatment of depression.
A corresponding author of the study, Xiang Cai also spoke about the potency of ketamine as an antidepressant, pointing out that its effects were “persistent and fast.” His statement was backed by clinical trials which showed that a single 0.5 – 10mg dose of ketamine could eradicate symptoms of depression in as little as 72 hours.
The results of the clinical trial are credible enough since they were calibrated by the standard evaluation system for depression, the Hamilton Depression Rating scale.
Further studies involved electrophysiological recording to measure the ion flow frequency within an animal tissue, behavioral alterations in rodents and even the observation of the effects of ketamine while the substance was still in the test subjects.
The research was exhaustive as it also took into account the effect of ketamine when certain genes and molecules were brought into play.
Ketamine Still a Long Way from Universal Acceptance
Ketamine is already in use in various depression clinics as an effective remedy for the condition, but only as a last resort when all else has failed.
It has also seen a lot of use as a dissociative analgesic, which is basically a painkiller that causes feelings of physical detachment from pain, thereby reducing its intensity.
Despite its blatant usefulness in the medical sector, fears that large amounts of ketamine could lead to neurotoxicity and the malfunctioning of other body parts still plays a huge role in slowing down the acceptance of the drug as a medical remedy for depression.
Furthermore, it is still primarily a club drug, popularly known as “Special K” or “horse tranquilizer,” and it still has some vastly addictive effects.
Nevertheless, it is hard to ignore the facts which clearly show that ketamine is a faster, much more effective treatment for depression.
Associate professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine located at Mount Sinai Dr. Dan Iosifescu marveled at the drug’s ability to curb the symptoms of depression in mere months.
He highlighted that most depression medications usually took weeks or months to show any significant positive results – ketamine took a much shorter time frame of hours to days to fully eliminate those same symptoms.
Ketamine’s Antidepressant Effects Still Undergoing Debate
Other than the fact that ketamine is still considered a recreational drug, the ongoing debate concerns its antidepressant action and how it induces the improvement of the messages transmitted from one neuron to another.
Cai’s research supported the theory that ketamine directly affects the hippocampus by improving the excitatory synaptic transmission which, other than killing off the symptoms of depression, also consolidates memory.
On the other hand, another group suggests that ketamine merely weakens the brain’s inhibitory system, thereby giving rise to an unrestricted excitatory system.
What remains unanimous is that ketamine does have a place in the medical world and that it is immensely useful in the treatment of depression.
Progress is slow but steady
Just like marijuana’s gradually momentous re-entry into universal acceptance as a medical drug, ketamine is slowly gaining ground and recognition because of its very fast-acting antidepressant actions in an area where most authorized forms of medication are tainted by lethal and long-term side effects.
The researchers are confident enough however that although it will take time before ketamine is fully adopted as a treatment for depression, it is only a matter of time before that becomes a reality.