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Doctor explains why ketamine is being used as a depression treatment

Ketamine has been around for decades, both illicitly for its psychedelic properties and legitimately as a general anesthetic or sedative.
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Posted at 2:53 PM, Jun 25, 2024

Cases of depression that are resistant to common medications and treatments affect over 2 million Americans, so researchers are constantly exploring new ways to combat the disorder. One answer might be a common street drug.

Ketamine has been around for decades, both illicitly for its psychedelic properties and legitimately as a general anesthetic or sedative.

More recently, ketamine has been administered as a treatment for pain control. Dr. Jayne Morgan, a cardiologist and executive director of health and community education at the Piedmont Healthcare Corporation, said there’s a chemical in the brain called glutamate that impacts both the pain response and depression.

Morgan explained that as ketamine impacts the glutamate receptor in the brain, it works to dissociate the individual from depressive symptoms.

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Health experts and researchers have been testing the use of ketamine as a depression treatment for patients who have failed two or more antidepressant treatments in a controlled environment.

However, Morgan noted there are still many questions to be answered, including how long a patient would have to use ketamine as a treatment for it to maintain its effectiveness.

Most treatments have been administered through an IV or a slow-release nasal spray, Morgan said. Now, scientists are testing the drug in pill form, which can often be unpredictable in terms of absorption.