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What are the effects of taking ketamine on people with depression?
Researchers have now found that ketamine is extremely effective in treating depression that is difficult to treat. The effect in older patients is particularly good, but a similar effect can also be found in younger people.
In the world's first randomized control study of the use of ketamine in the treatment of resistant depression, scientists from the University of New South Wales found that older people in particular can benefit extremely from ketamine. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry".
Treating older people can cause problems
It is always very important to test how people of different ages react to a new treatment before it can be used by the doctors, the experts explain. Sometimes depression, for example, is harder to treat in older people, especially with medication. In addition, the older patients often show other medical problems, which can then be exacerbated by medication, explain the doctors.
After treatment, 43 percent of patients reported healing
Ketamine was discovered in 1962. In the UK it is used medically for anesthesia. The drug is also used illegally as a recreational drug, the researchers report. After six months of treatment with ketamine, 43 percent of the participants stated that they no longer had any significant symptoms of depression. This rate is very high because the participants had not responded to previous treatment, the study authors said.
Effect maximizes about 20 hours after ingestion
According to the researchers, ketamine works quickly and strongly even with a single dose. Many critics believed that the drug triggered a kind of euphoria and people were therefore convinced that they were no longer depressed. But the effect takes place in the first hour and has nothing to do with euphoria, the experts explain. The depression decrease occurs a few hours later and maximizes after about 20 hours.
Doses have to be adjusted for individual people
The study also showed that ketamine can be used in different ways (not just intravenously), the researchers say. And the dose has to be adjusted if the depression is particularly resistant to treatment, the study authors further explain.
Drug was given to patients by injection
The drug was given to the patients by injection in the study. The scientists explain that ketamine is easier and faster to administer than with an intravenous infusion, which was used in other studies. Participants received customized doses of ketamine over a total of five weeks.
How did patients react to treatment with ketamine?
The researchers report that there were patients who were relieved of their symptoms for several months after a single treatment. For example, a subject was free from depressive symptoms for five months after a single dose in 2014. Most patients initially responded positively to the treatment, but after three to seven days they returned to their previous state. Repeated doses were used in this case.
More research is needed
The results of the study represent an important step for the approaches to treating depression with ketamine. However, it is still too early to test this treatment in clinical practice, the researchers say. Further research with larger sample sizes is now required to formally assess the side effects of ketamine. (as)