Illegal party drug ketamine really can cure severe depression, according to new research.
More than a fifth of patients achieved total remission in a month – after just eight injections.
A further third saw symptoms improve by at least 50 percent.
The controversial tranquillizer is known as Special K by clubbers. The jab is administered fortnightly – and costs less than $4 (£3).
Ketamine has “shown promise” in the rapid treatment of major depression and suicidal thoughts.
Some clinics in the UK offer it for the most severe forms of depression, such as bipolar, and suicidal thoughts.
Ketamine is commonly used for pain relief. Recreational users say it creates a ‘floaty’ feeling where the mind and body feel detached.
During surgery, it puts the patient in a trance-like state so they can’t feel pain.
In the first trial of its kind, 179 people with treatment-resistant depression were given either a dose of ketamine widely used for anaesthesia and sedation or a dummy solution which also causes drowsiness.
Participants received two injections a week in a clinic where they were monitored for around two hours while acute effects wore off – usually within the first hour.
Neither group knew which they had been given to reduce the risk of the ‘placebo effect.’
The therapy ran for a month at the end of which they were asked to assess their mood – and again a month later.
Another difference was the drug was also injected into the skin, rather than by drip, greatly reducing time and medical complexity.
It is the largest study in the world to date analyzing generic ketamine for severe depression.
But the prohibitive costs of the drug and procedure make this an unsustainable proposition for most Australians.
Ketamine was discovered in 1962 and used in the Vietnam War’s casualty clearing stations as an anaesthetic.
But its mind-altering effects have made it a popular party drug. The hallucinatory experience is commonly known as being K-holed.
It was not until the late 1980s and the arrival of rave culture that it really took off as a recreational drug.
Ketamine is a Class B drug in the UK, meaning it is illegal to take, give away or sell. Anyone caught with the drug faces up to five years behind bars.
The researchers will next be looking at larger trials of generic ketamine over longer periods, and refining the safety monitoring of treatment.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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