News

Ketamine studies: anesthetics for the treatment of depression


Well-known anesthetic: ketamine as a quick help for depression
For years, there have been no really new drugs to treat mental illness. However, funds that were actually developed for a completely different purpose can obviously help. For example, the anesthetic ketamine is suitable as a quick aid for depression.

Hardly any new drugs in the past decades
People suffering from depression have often had several unsuccessful drug therapies. Antidepressants often do not work. There have hardly been any really new drugs in recent years. According to experts, today's drugs are still based on the same mechanisms of action as those a few decades ago. There is hope for reports of agents that were actually not developed for the treatment of mental illnesses, such as ketamine.

Anesthetic is also used as a party drug
Ketamine is a drug that is used in particular as an anesthetic and for the treatment of pain. The drug was originally used as a horse medication.

But just a few months ago, scientists from Maryland University’s School of Medicine reported in the journal “Nature” that this substance could also be an effective antidepressant.

The psychiatrist Malek Bajbouj from the Berlin Charité has already used ketamine, which is also used as a party drug, against depression and anxiety and has had good experiences with it.

Medicament to treat depression
The use of ketamine in the treatment of depression will also be on the agenda at the European Congress for Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP), which starts next Friday in Vienna.

There, experts will report on the latest findings on topics such as "depression and anxiety", "dementia diseases" or "ADHD in children, adolescents and parents".

The day before, the “Brain Day” takes place for a lay public at the Medical University of Vienna, the university reports in a statement.

Ketamine quickly lightens the mood
As Siegfried Kasper, head of the university clinic for psychiatry and psychotherapy, explained, the narcotic known from surgery very quickly gets people out of their depression and suppresses suicidal thoughts. "Ketamine works already after ten to 20 minutes and brightens the mood," said the expert.

According to the information, the drug ketamine had been used for decades in anesthesia during surgical interventions. It was shown that patients with ketamine anesthesia the next day felt much better than with another anesthetic. This led to the fact that the drug is also used in psychiatry.

Central to sensory perception
MedUni Vienna is currently driving research for a nasal spray based on ketamine. The advantage: "This could save the liver." As the university announcement states, ketamine repairs a disturbed balance in the brain.

The mechanism of action of ketamine is therefore to compensate for a disturbance in the glutamate-GABA balance in the brain: glutamate is particularly important in the brain and is important for movement control, sensory perception and also memory.

GABA reduces the excitability of the nerve cells and is therefore the antagonist of glutamate. This balance, which can be repaired by ketamine, is disturbed in people with depression or anxiety. (ad)

Author and source information



Video: Ketamine and Depression: From Despair to Hope in Hours - Carlos Zarate, NIH Clinician Scientist (October 2021).