Ketamine Depression Treatment

Ketamine Depression Treatment

With the medicinal benefits of marijuana finally coming to light (even though ancient cultures told us long ago) other illegal street drugs have made it into the lab. There are a variety of studies currently underway using LSD (acid), psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and MDMA (ecstasy) to treat a variety of physical and mental challenges.

Now, the controversial street drug ketamine or ‘Special K’ has had its own health benefit breakthrough. Turns out that the chemical reaction it can cause in the brain just may knock out what is known as treatment resistant depression (TRD).

Origins, Dangers and Accolades of Ketamine

The drug ketamine, described as a glutamate N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist, has been used as an anesthetic since the 1960s, especially in the Vietnam War. Administered in low doses, ketamine reduces pain, helps sedatives work more efficiently, and decreases the need for addictive painkillers after surgery such as morphine. However, this drug made its way to the street and remains a dangerous, psychedelic that goes beyond the often mind opening experiences of LSD or psilocybin.

WebMD describes the dangers of abusing ketamine,

“When misused, ketamine can change your sense of sight and sound. You can have hallucinations and feel out of touch with your surroundings — and even from yourself. It can make it hard to speak or move, and it’s been abused as a date-rape drug.”

Yet, according to John Abenstein, MD, president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists,

“Outside of the clinic, ketamine can cause tragedies, but in the right hands, it is a miracle,”

Steven Mandel, founder and president of the Ketamine Clinics of Los Angeles boasts, “Ketamine relieves depression and suicidality.”

Manipulating Receptors

Researchers have often applied various synthetic or natural remedies with the intention of turning on or turning off systemic ‘switches’. These switches are often being manipulated by the body in response to outside stimuli or, worse yet, an immune system malfunction such as in autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis lupus and many more

Unlike many other treatments for depression, ketamine is able to manipulate two receptors that contribute to not only depression but to pain as well. In fact, some researchers are following the delivery system of ketamine as being similar to opioids but without the destructive side effects.

There is also the glutamate receptors which play an important role in how depression is manifested. Ketamine has the ability to temporarily block this receptor and reduce depressive symptoms while supporting release of the ‘feel good hormone’ serotonin.

Stanford anesthesiologist Boris Heifets, co-lead author of a study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry commented,

“One of ketamine’s many effects is that it blocks a certain type of glutamate receptor, and so people put two and two together and said, ‘Well clearly if you block glutamate receptors, then you can alleviate depression.”

With ketamine almost mimicking the effects of opioids while releasing endorphins like serotonin, researchers are beginning to build a link between depression and physical pain.

Fast Acting

Because conventional antidepressants can take weeks to accumulate in the system, some people with depression don’t have enough time or patience for them to work. In the interim, depressive symptoms can escalate with the possibility of some people harming themselves while waiting for their medication to take effect.

Wired reported that,

“For patients on the brink of suicide, for example, ketamine might offer instant relief, compared to more traditional antidepressants that can take weeks or months to kick in—if at all.”

In a combined study by American and Italian researchers which was published in Current Neuropharmacology (9/14) it was stated that,

“Ketamine has been demonstrated to be rapidly effective and was associated with a significant clinical improvement in depressive symptoms within hours after administration. Also, ketamine was also found to be effective in reducing suicidality in TRD samples.”

As more ketamine clinics open across the United States and other parts of the globe, it will only be a matter of time before it becomes a viable remedy for depression.

Nolan Williams, the Stanford psychiatrist who is co-lead author on the new paper commented,

“This is really the only time an antidepressant mechanism has been fully blocked in a human in the history of antidepressants, This is novel in the sense that we have established a necessary neurotransmitter for an antidepressant effect. I think that’s an important scientific milestone, because it allows us to ask questions about the fundamentals of depression.”


Talk to your doctor to see if you might be a candidate to receive ketamine treatments. It could be the best medicine yet to lift you or someone you know out of the ravages of treatment resistant or chronic depression.