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Dangerous party drug against mental illness? Treat depression with ketamine

Dangerous party drug against mental illness? Treat depression with ketamine


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Club drug ketamine can help people with depression

In recent years, hardly any new drugs for the treatment of mental illnesses have been developed. Apparently, however, funds can also help that were originally brought onto the market for a completely different purpose. For example, the anesthetic ketamine is suitable as an aid for some patients with depression.

More and more people suffer from mental illnesses

According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people with depression has increased significantly worldwide. In Germany and the EU too, more and more people suffer from mental illness. According to the German Depression Aid, over five million people in Germany suffer from unipolar depression in need of treatment every year. There have been no new drugs in recent years. The most recent breakthroughs, so-called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac, are over 30 years ago. However, some depressants can help a remedy that is also used as a party drug.

Well treatable with early diagnosis

In many cases, depression can be treated well as long as it is recognized early. However, antidepressants do not help all patients.

According to experts, almost a third of those affected do not respond to the various drugs.

Here it can make sense to use an agent that some people also use as a club drug: ketamine.

Scientific research has shown that ketamine helps treat severe depression.

For example, scientists from the University of New South Wales (Australia) found that the drug works particularly effectively in older patients.

Anesthetic for depression

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

But it has long been known that this substance can 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.

According to Siegfried Kasper, head of the University Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at MedUni Vienna, the narcotic 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 in a message.

Ketamine quickly frees you from thoughts of suicide

Barbara Reiger also helps the remedy. As the dpa news agency reports, the American from San Diego is injected with heavily diluted ketamine every six weeks. "I felt immediate relief," said the depressed about her first "trip".

To date, approximately 3,000 people have been treated with it in the United States. In this country, too, therapy is slowly becoming better known.

Rapid help is necessary, also because of the risk of suicide.

"With severe, so-called psychotic depression, there can be enormous, increased anxiety about the future and feelings of guilt combined with high internal tension, feelings of exhaustion, insomnia and complete hopelessness, so that dark thoughts can arise, including suicide," explained Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hegerl, CEO of the German Depression Aid Foundation in an older message.

Doctors are convinced that ketamine frees some patients from their thoughts of suicide within an hour.

"It's a paradigm shift because we can now quickly achieve antidepressant effects," said Carlos Zarate of the US National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), according to dpa.

Effectiveness proven in scientific studies

According to experts, the mechanism of action of ketamine is 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 thus the antagonist of glutamate. This balance, which can be repaired by ketamine, is disturbed in people with depression or anxiety.

How the remedy works is also described in articles by the NIH (National Institutes of Health) and in the specialist magazine "Nature".

It is considered problematic that the agent can also lead to anxiety, insomnia and flashbacks. It is also unclear whether it will have long-term consequences or maybe even addiction.

Although the effectiveness of ketamine in severe depressives, which so-called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) do not help, has been proven in scientific studies, a large double-blind study has so far been lacking.

Therefore, the U.S. regulatory agency FDA has not yet approved the drug for the treatment of depression. Currently, only so-called off-label use is practiced.

Findings can open the way to new antidepressants

The American Psychiatric Society does not yet consider ketamine to be a suitable treatment for treatment-resistant depression.

"I still think it's the most exciting treatment for mood disorders in the past 50 years," said ketamine researcher Gerard Sanacora (Yale School of Medicine) in a statement.

Several pharmaceutical companies are currently working on ketamine-like agents that can be administered, for example, as a nasal spray.

Here Prof. med. Malek Bajbouj from the Berlin Charité Potential. With 100 patients to date, the hospital has the largest range of ketamine therapies in Germany.

According to the information, the success rate is only 35 to 50 percent, but the rapid onset of the effect is a great advantage of ketamine.

"But more important is knowledge about the special mechanism of action. You can open the path to new antidepressants, ”said Bajbouj according to dpa. (ad)

Author and source information


Video: Ketamine brings hope to depressed patients amid safety, oversight concerns (May 2022).


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