Depression

20 August 2010

Anaesthetic a depression magic drug

Ketamine, a general anaesthetic usually administered to children and pets, is also highly effective in low doses as an anti-depressant, according a new study.

0

Ketamine, a general anaesthetic usually administered to children and pets, is also highly effective in low doses as an anti-depressant, according a new study.

Researchers at Yale University wrote in the journal Science that unlike most anti-depressants on the market which can take weeks to take full effect ketamine can begin to counter depression in hours.

"It's like a magic drug - one dose can work rapidly and last for seven to 10 days," said Ronald Duman, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Yale and senior author of the study.

Treated people with suicidal thoughts

The researchers noted that ketamine was tested as a rapid treatment for people with suicidal thoughts. Traditional anti-depressants can take several weeks to take effect, they noted.

About 40% of people suffering from depression do not respond to medication, and many others only respond after many months or years of trying different treatments.

The researchers found that ketamine improves depression-like behaviour in rats by restoring connections between brain cells damaged by chronic stress.

Neural pathways

"The pathway is the story. Understanding the mechanism underlying the anti-depressant effect of ketamine will allow us to attack the problem at a variety of possible sites within that pathway," said George Aghajanian, another Yale scientist, who co-authored the study.

Clinical use of ketamine has been limited because it has to be delivered intravenously under medical supervision and in some cases can cause short-term psychotic symptoms.

The National Institute of Mental Health found in a separate study that almost 70% of patients resistant to treatment with all other forms of anti-depressants were found to improve within hours after receiving ketamine. - (Sapa/AFP, August 2010)

 

Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Depression expert

Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules