You’re probably thinking, “Wait! What?” If you’ve heard of ketamine, also known as Special K, you know it’s no joke or generic OTC drug. In fact, it’s known as a dissociative anesthetic (meaning a drug that distorts perception of sight and sound, while producing literal feelings of detachment from the self and the environment). It’s primarily used by veterinarians for treating pain in animals, but it can also be prescribed to people for severe pain management, particularly those with neuropathic issues, a kind of chronic nerve pain, according to a 2014 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology.

“It’s known that pain and depression are linked,” says Isaac Cohen, a pharmacological student who worked on the study. “Depressed people are more likely to dwell on pain and people in chronic pain are more likely to become depressed due to decreased mobility, a lessened ability to exercise, and other factors, he says. “Ketamine is unique because it may treat both pain and depression simultaneously, leading to better outcomes for both conditions.” And now scientists are arguing there’s not just anecdotal evidence, but also statistical information that shows ketamine can help lessen the symptoms of depression.

In the first-ever large-scale analysis of its kind, published in Nature, researchers found that patients who received ketamine reported significantly lower instances of depression. This research, conducted by the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the UCSD, reinforces anecdotal data and small population studies that have also suggested ketamine’s antidepressive effects.

What sets ketamine apart from other treatments, specifically, is how quickly it takes effect. “Current FDA-approved treatments for depression fail for millions because they don’t work fast enough,” says Abaygan. Ketamine works in a matter of hours. That’s far less than SSRIs, for example, which can take six to ten weeks to reach their full capacity. And that difference in timing could quite literally be a matter of life or death, especially with those who are experiencing suicidal thoughts.

[Read the Full Article Here]