'Magic K' Proves To Be 'Magic Drug' For Depression
Everyone knows someone affected with chronic depression. Up to 40 percent of those who suffer from it test various antidepressants for several months or years before finding one or a combination of antidepressants that help alleviate their symptoms; some never find relief. Ketamine, a common recreational drug known as 'Magic K" or "Special K," is being studied by scientists at Yale University School of Medicine as an alternative to the more commonly prescribed antidepressants.
One of the drawbacks of traditional medication for depression is that it generally takes from 2 weeks to 2 months to significantly effect symptoms of depression. If it takes two months to test the efficacy of one medication, and it doesn't work, trying out several medications sequentially... Well, it's depressing!
Ketamine has been used as a general anesthetic for children as well as anesthesia in veterinary medicine. But about 10 years ago, a research team at the Connecticut Mental Health Center found that, when administered in smaller doses, ketamine was shown to relieve depressive symptoms of adults. Replicating that study recently on a broader scale, Yale scientists found that almost 70 percent of their clinical test group, who had not responded to other antidepressant medications, responded positively to Ketamine.
"(Ketamine) is like a magic drug -- one dose can work rapidly and last for seven to 10 days," said Ronald Duman, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Yale and senior author of the study published in Science Magazine.
The Yale team found that not only did ketamine improve depressive symptoms, including diminishing suicidal thoughts almost immediately, but by studying the effects of ketamine on the brains of rats, they found that it restores neuron connections between brain cells formerly damaged by chronic stress. One critical pathway, identified was the enzyme mTOR, provided the protein required for the reestablishment of synaptic connections - a process called synaptogenesis.
The team is aiming to find additional ketamine pathways that enable synaptogenesis in order to find the most effective administration of ketamine. One roadblock to use of the drug is that it must be administered intravenously under medical supervision, as there are some patients who experience short-term psychiatric symptoms.