Ketamine lifts depression, grows synapses, study says
August 20, 2010 7:58 AM   Subscribe

More research into into the effects of ketamine on depression published today in the journal Science [abstract].

According to the Yale researchers a single dose of Ketamine lifted depression in a matter of hours, and worked for up to one week. The study was done on rats (I was curious to find out how animals are used to study depression in humans - here's what google came up with) .

Molecular psychiatrist Nanxin Li and colleagues also found Ketamine to have marked effects on the m-tor signaling pathway, causing synaptic growth in the rats. This is significant in comparison to current anti-depressants, which can take weeks and several doses to work, and do not promote synaptic growth.

This research gives rise to speculation about potential future drugs which could actively counter the synaptic damage caused by depression. Today in the news (google news link). See also: Previously on the blue. And here's a post about Ketamine's inventor, John Lilly.
posted by yoHighness (30 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
They ought to get in touch with Genesis P-Orridge - he talked about his extended experiments* with Ketamine in an interview (1, 2) back in January.

* They sound like they're not easily distinguishable from abuse / addiction, but he and his late wife were making a conscious effort to continue Lilly's work, and to carefully document the results.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:21 AM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's definitely an interesting experience. I would not necessarily categorize it as 'pleasant'. I found it disturbing, usually. But I rarely used it by itself.
posted by empath at 8:29 AM on August 20, 2010


This looks really big -- or maybe I'm just being hopeful, but if we can get a non intoxicating, non hallucinating version of ketamine.....christ, I don't even dare hope for that.
posted by eriko at 8:33 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, I have been digging about in this all morning and have found myself rather interested in the whole subject. I'd love to see what the -R, the -S, and the mixture would be like, compared subjectively.
posted by adipocere at 8:35 AM on August 20, 2010


but if we can get a non intoxicating, non hallucinating version of ketamine

I'm not sure how such a thing would work. It's a disassociative. All of those will be both intoxicating and hallucinogenic. There might be some combination of drugs that would put you to sleep while you're in the k-hole, though, I imagine.
posted by empath at 8:37 AM on August 20, 2010


If a single dose lifts depression for a week, who cares if it's intoxicating or hallucinating?

Or does "worked for up to one week" mean "we kept dosing them them for a week and it didn't stop working"?
posted by DU at 8:42 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know ketamine is supposed to be somewhat similar in mechanism and effect to DXM. This implies to me that at lower doses, it's probably not terribly intoxicating or hallucinogenic. And probably still therapeutic for medical use.
posted by gilrain at 8:43 AM on August 20, 2010


All ketamine did for me was ruin a date and set back gender and race relations 20 years.
posted by AccordionGuy at 8:57 AM on August 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


This is promising, but dissociative abuse is incredibly dangerous. A classmate of mine in high school who used DXM habitually had his life ruined by it.

I have heard many horror stories about ketamine, so I'm not sure how to reconcile those subjective experience with this information.
posted by mai at 9:10 AM on August 20, 2010


Dissociatives are dangerously awesome...

The reconciliation comes in knowing that (hopefully) the treatment and doses are all being controlled through professional channels, and not through, say, giving a depressed person a big pile of DXM or ketamine and sending them on their way. (Which didn't work so well for opiate prescriptions where patients had to administer their own doses regularly)
posted by Theta States at 9:39 AM on August 20, 2010


Back when I used to be a very regular clubber, some of my posse worked in various research labs and one guy specialised in paediatric pain research. He also loved getting high in a number of ways and his professional and social life always came together quite handily when he could take a pill and work out pretty much what was in it as he was coming up.

He always told me that the only recreational drug he wouldn't take was ketamine as the effects on your body overall just weren't worth the 'high'.

I've always followed that advice.
posted by i_cola at 10:01 AM on August 20, 2010


DU: does "worked for up to one week" mean "we kept dosing them them for a week and it didn't stop working"?

Sorry, should have expressed that more clearly: The study said a single dose lasted up to one week. As far as I understand though, a weekly Ketamine dose by itself would not make a good anti-depressant because there are adverse long-term effects. I wonder if these occur even in small doses?

I'm not sure copyright allows quoting the article, but anybody with clarification questions about the article is welcome to send me a memail.
posted by yoHighness at 10:59 AM on August 20, 2010


>There might be some combination of drugs that would put you to sleep while you're in the k-hole, though, I imagine.

There is. In fact, there are a lot of them. The common one I'm thinking of is ket/val (ketamine/valium), and it's used in veterinary anesthesia protocols. It's also used human medicine, though not as frequently. Ketamine is a very well-known and useful agent in anesthesia.

Of course, most powerful sedatives--including the benzodiazepines--are CNS depressants and habitual use of them causes depression. Tricky, tricky....
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 11:04 AM on August 20, 2010


yeah, I really hope that the therapeutic doses for ketamine will be very small (if it ever becomes useable as a therapeutic for depression). Two weeks ago, a I was out at a club with a friend of mine and she ran into an old raver buddy from San Fran, who gave her a massive pile of very pure K and then disappeared. I got to spend the rest of the night/morning babysitting her. It was not fun to say the least.

I did get a bit of consolation, tho. Two days later, this friend of mine was with a friend of hers, and the same guy showed up and pulled the same trick with her friend. So she got to play the role of babysitter for a night.

lesson: K-holes are a bitch.
posted by LMGM at 11:05 AM on August 20, 2010


This is promising, but dissociative abuse is incredibly dangerous. A classmate of mine in high school who used DXM habitually had his life ruined by it.

I have heard many horror stories about ketamine, so I'm not sure how to reconcile those subjective experience with this information.
posted by mai at 11:10 AM on August 20 [+] [!]
People have used many things in furtherance of ruining their lives... booze, narcotics, speed, religion, whatever. Yet with a societal framework for their helpful use in place, we have the "glass of red wine for your heart," the painkillers that allow the painful to lead relatively productive and untroubled lives, the ADD medicines that allow hyperactive children and distracted adults to concentrate, and the joys of singing praise on Sunday mornings (or whenever). It's not hard to see how habitual, uncontrolled DXM use could be ruinous. I myself had a semi-scary experience with its use*. But I wouldn't want it to go away, it seems to be the best over the counter cough suppressant around, and it can be great as a nonprescription tranquilizer/hypnotic.

* when I was 19 and living by myself for the first time without benefit of being in a supportive educational environment, I had a cold that just wouldn't go away. Took DXM pills every day to mask the symptoms, but it still stuck around. Turns out what I was experiencing was allergies, for the first time ever. Took about a month to wean off the pills...
posted by jtron at 11:05 AM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


lesson: K-holes are a bitch.

Lesson: only idiots take drugs they haven't thoroughly researched.

A lot of people here are implying that taking ketamine results in a trip to the k-hole. That is incorrect. Taking way too much ketamine results in a trip to the k-hole. Also, your over-the-counter cough medicine.

You shouldn't take way too much of any drug. If you must, do some damn research first, at least. And put on some good music. You buy the ticket, you take the ride. Just read the destination on the ticket, first.
posted by gilrain at 11:13 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Two weeks ago, a I was out at a club with a friend of mine and she ran into an old raver buddy from San Fran, who gave her a massive pile of very pure K and then disappeared. I got to spend the rest of the night/morning babysitting her. It was not fun to say the least.

I did get a bit of consolation, tho. Two days later, this friend of mine was with a friend of hers, and the same guy showed up and pulled the same trick with her friend. So she got to play the role of babysitter for a night.


I'm not really seeing the "trick" there, unless you mean he "disappeared" in the David Copperfield sense. Dude was generous with the ketamine, your friend was stupid with the ketamine, as was her friend.

lesson: K-holes are a bitch. When life gives you ketamine, make lemonade instead.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:27 AM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's always comforting when my past drug abuse is found to have been self-medication.
posted by MuChao at 12:10 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Two new scientific studies reveal hallucinogens are good for your mental health
posted by homunculus at 12:14 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Two new scientific studies reveal hallucinogens are good for your mental health

Don't forget the ecstasy!
posted by Sys Rq at 12:30 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


lesson: K-holes are a bitch.

K-holes are amazing. K-holes outside the comfort and control of your own home, and even worse, in a public venue? WTF.
posted by Theta States at 2:07 PM on August 20, 2010


The best game of poker I ever played was when I was on K. Nothing like being able to see in 4 dimensions to improve your game.
posted by empath at 3:36 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


"And here's a post about Ketamine's inventor, John Lilly."

<pedant>According to wikipedia "Ketamine was discovered by Dr. Craig Newlands of Wayne State University."</pedant>

That said this is great news, especially for those who need *immediate* relief. That said, I believe I've read about this somewhere else this past year before the big press release.

Saw this on dosenation today. (just wanted to plug it, cuz I like the site :P)

I've never been able to try it, but I wouldn't mind sometime. I was in a float tank a couple times, but never had much luck.
posted by symbioid at 3:41 PM on August 20, 2010


I wrote about this for MSN here when the earlier research came out, looking at how it upends certain ideas about how antidepressants in general work. Previously covered it for for New Scientist, reposted here.

What's interesting is that basically you need to take it only once to lift depression for a few weeks, which presumably could be done in a hospital or doctor's office so you would be able to get help for any troubling side effects. Also interesting is the fact that this can be offered legally now because ketamine is a legal drug for anesthesia and it is legal to prescribe off-label. But the doctor would have to have balls because prescribing controlled substances off-label can bring legal scrutiny.

It may also help with certain chronic pain syndromes and even possibly addictions: it seems to interrupt stuff that is "overlearned" and kind of "burned in" like depressive rumination.
posted by Maias at 6:29 PM on August 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


My experience with k is second hand, sort of. My cat was given k by the vet as a sedative, and HE DID NOT LIKE IT!!! The vet told us to keep him in a quiet place until he felt better, but after reading up on it, it struck me that sensory input would be better, since apparently the hallucinations it causes are very mild and users need a quiet environment to experience them. So I brought him out to sit with us, and he was a bit less upset, but still not happy. It took him a couple of days to get back to normal.

Ever since, he's been very unhappy about going to the vet, complains in his carrier the whole way.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 12:24 AM on August 21, 2010


Peruvian hallucinogen ayahuasca draws tourists seeking transforming experience
posted by homunculus at 3:16 PM on August 21, 2010


I've said it before and I'll type it here now: people who choose to approach drugs from a shamanistic viewpoint tend to be somewhat successful recreational users, even over long periods of time. For example, knowing that you're male and aged 16-25 should give you good motivation to avoid randomly ingesting stimulants repeatedly if schizophrenia is present in your family's medical history.

Scientists tend to approach drugs from the shamanistic viewpoint; what can we learn from this? Why is it used ritually in primitive cultures? Is it medicine?

But that story about the friend and k-hole upthread is the exact opposite: it's the "cool, I've got some ___ and I'm going to do ALL of it! let's get fucked up!" mentality, which just helps people spread paranoia, misinformation, accidental overdoses and so on.

I've had enough experience with ketamine socially, as an outside observer and otherwise, to know that it can be used like ayahuasca; it can be used to astrally project, individually or in groups, or induce lucid dreaming states; that it can be used to make peace with an overwhelming fear of death; and yes, I'm familiar enough with Genesis P-Orridge (having several friends who know him, and traveled with him for more than a decade) to know it IS medicine. But the trick is, knowing how, where and what dosage to take, delivery method and the goal of its intended use.

So, mai and i-cola, yeah, there are horror stories. Dissociatives can make you pass out suddenly; if that happens in public or while you're driving, you're possibly screwed. You can get raped, give yourself a concussion, wreck your car, die. Example: A friend of mine drove into a tree after doing a lot of K at a party we attended together about 8 years ago. He was on life support for 45 days, then they pulled the plug; he did the drug alone, in the car, right before he drove away. Anyone in their right mind would've stopped him.

But do I still believe ketamine has great potential as an antidepressant? Absolutely -- with scientifically controlled research, funding, studies, etc.

But the "effects on your body overall not being worth the high" assertion? That I honestly cannot comprehend. One dose of ketamine should wear off VERY quickly - we're talking 20-40 minutes, tops, with little to no hangover, unless ingested in large quantities or dosing yourself repeatedly.

In fact, many studies about long-term ketamine use (25 years, in this case) show how low the risks really are, physically and psychologically.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 6:13 PM on August 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Blog Focus: Hallucinogenic drugs in Modern Medicine and Mental Health
posted by homunculus at 4:46 PM on August 31, 2010


Does anyone know if there has been any research into the usage of ketamine and it's effects on PTSD?
posted by MuChao at 12:31 PM on September 2, 2010


'Magic mushrooms' ingredient may ease end-of-life anxiety
posted by homunculus at 11:32 AM on September 7, 2010


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