Ketamine: A Future Class of Antidepressants

Researchers from Yale and NIMH have recently found ketamine to be extraordinarily useful in treating major depression by restoring damaged neurons. 

The psychedelic anesthetic has been popularized as one of the best reputed substances to instigate out-of-body experiences. Unique within the entheogenic family, this compound is the only member of its group that carries an addictive potential with its use. Ketamine’s mystifying effects on the psyche have been remarked by many a notable character.

For Karl Jensen, it cracked his atheism, later leading him to write considerable acclaim for its use in ketamine-based psychotherapy. For John Lilly it was seen as metaprogramming tool to recalibrate the human biocomputer. On a similar note, propagators of the eight circuit model of consciousness (i.e. Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, & Antero Alli) purported ketamine to allow its users access to the Overmind via 8th circuit psychoatomic consciousness processing.

Despite ketamine’s colorful background, there is quite a diversified reputation surrounding the substance depending on who you ask. For an explorative psychonaut, this consciousness-altering substance is seen as a propellant to drop into Satori-like bliss waves of quantum possibility. For those strapped within the lens of material reductionism, it’s known as an effective FDA-approved anesthetic which sometimes yields unexplainably bizarre side-effects for those undergoing the knife. However, for the majority of the drug-illiterate populous, ketamine is an animal tranquilizer only used by reckless party-goers and crazy miscreants.

Regardless of the view you may have on this drug’s elusive and sometimes notorious character, recent research has found it to be useful in relieving severe depression.

Depression is stated to be a condition associated with the atrophy and loss of connections between nerve cells. Once ketamine has been administered, the brain rapidly upsurges synaptic connections reversing most deficits caused by stress.

Human trials have been promising, able to demonstrate an alteration of brainwave activity, which indicates the strengthening of connections in areas of the brain involving mood and emotion. Ketamine bears positive results within hours of administration as opposed to the prolonged build-up phase, which can take days or weeks, characteristic of most antidepressants.

This recent find has been described as a monumental discovery. It has initiated the development and investigation of the first new class of depression drugs since Prozac appeared in the 1970's. Naurex, a pharmaceutical company, has already been working on ketamine derivative called GLYX-13, which is maintained to have the same antidepressant effects without the visionary qualities of the original substance (of course, like euphoria-stripped Marinol). Only time will tell whether or not this new class of anti-depressants will have their day as future wonder drugs on the market.


Image by cinnamon~fluff, courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing