The Economist Corner: Ketamine-another recreational drug drafted for medical research.

Lead into The Economist article about Ketamine

Lead into The Economist article about Ketamine

After slogging through a half dozen articles devoted to the swirl around Mr. Trump and his existential threat to human life on this planet and substituting the names of different countries for the usual spate of articles on dictators, war torn states, bankers under fire and bribery you come across an article like Sniffing at a New Solution– a piece devoted to on-going studies with Ketamine and the possibilities it offers for treating deep depression and suicidal thoughts.

As someone who admires Freud I immediately associated the article’s title with both his cocaine habit and the movie The Seven Percent Solution.

But the use of “sniffing” here refers to  on-going projects with Johnson & Johnson among others to develop a Ketamine-based treatment for deep depression and suicidal thoughts that’s a nasal spray taking advantage of Ketamine’s fast-acting properties in this regard.

While Prozac is still the leader in this area it’s only effective in 58% of the cases. Plus even though Prozac delivers the boost in Monoamines, the class of chemicals thought to influence depression-its effects can take weeks or even months-if at all-to work.

The Prozac approach stems from the “chemical imbalance” theory that’s guided depression-treating approaches for decades now.

But Ketamine which is used in anesthesia, but is more popularly known as a drug used at raves is undermining this theory.  It has shown promise as an antidepressant because in studies it’s shown to  not only deliver a shot of the Monoamines but, unlike Prozac whose effects take weeks or even months – Ketamine actually  works in a matter of hours if not minutes in some cases.

Ketamine however does not act on the Monoamines directly. But because it’s shown to be effective in 75% of the cases of people who do not respond well to Prozac, Ketamine research is taking anti-depressant treatment down a different road. At this time researchers don’t know exactly why Ketamine works but The Economist says Ketamine research offers the opportunity to “design a new class of antidepressant.”

The article goes on to say this research is, “a change of direction so radical that some think it heralds a revolution in psychiatry.”

The research into Ketamine has been going for 10 years with favorable results. But because its patent has expired it’s not a high priority for drug companies who of course make the bulk of their profits from patented formulations they market.

However even though Ketamine isn’t formally approved it is prescribed “off label,” and here in the US a number of clinics have opened that use Ketamine infusions of the drug to treat people.

Right now these clinics focus on administering infusions of Ketamine intravenously because that’s how it works best for this purpose at this time. According to the article treatment with Ketamine in this manner has actually saved lives.

So now there are a number of companies looking at nasal sprays as mentioned above, as well as other formulations to take advantage of Ketamine’s potential (and to create drugs which they can patent) to work fast and effectively.

Still as someone who helped to put on some raves in the 90’s (though I never used K) it’s hard to imagine this drug would be helpful in this regard as there are plenty of instances where its recreational use has led to less than desirable results.

But then again if medicine is in effect going back to the drawing board with regard to the causes of depression maybe it’s no accident that there’s been a resurgence in the study of the theories and treatments by Freud among researchers in recent years as all the mapping of the brain and how it functions has still left scientists wondering about the mysterious impact our emotional complexes and thoughts have on the mind and the states it inhabits.

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