The researches find that the a club drug also happens to be a fast-acting antidepressant  and New Zealand scientists have just shown why. Ketamine  or “special K” as it’s known in the club scene where it’s used recreationally is already widely used as an anaesthetic, especially for children, and vets use it as a tranquiliser. Since the early 2000s, scientists have also recognised its potential as an antidepressant; and it’s been approve as an intravenous treatment for depression in the UK and; in nasal spray form, in the US.

Ketamine  or “special K”

But in some places; including New Zealand; it remains controversial due to its hallucinogenic properties and the risk of abuse. Now, University of Auckland researchers have show how the drug increases the brain’s ability to form new connections; and demonstrate how its antidepressant effects occur after  and appear quite separate from its action on the brain that produces highs. The research adds further evidence for the clinical benefits of ketamine; especially for people experiencing suicidal thoughts for whom the usual six- to eight-week lag before classic antidepressants fully kick in can be a highly vulnerable period.

“They know that ketamine works as antidepressant in many people; and works fast  reaching its full effect within a day,” said lead author Rachael Sumner; a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Pharmacy at the University’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. “The question is, how? It doesn’t work the way classic antidepressants do which most often is by raising levels of the brain chemical serotonin. If we can figure this out; we may also be able to identify other medications that do what ketamine does but without the high.”

Intravenous dose of ketamine

So the research team, led by Associate Professor Suresh Muthukumaraswamy; carried out a clinical trial to investigate the effects of a single intravenous dose of ketamine in people with major depressive disorder. The new findings are now publish in scientific journal Biological Psychiatry CNNI. In the study; 30 participants who are moderately to severely depressed; and had not responded to at least two standard treatments for depression, were given a small dose of ketamine and a placebo on two separate visits.

Their depressive symptoms are measure at different time points; and they are also connect to an electro encephalography (EEG); machine so researchers observe changes in electrical activity during a task that measures the ability of the brain to form new connections. In line with past research; ketamine reduced symptoms of depression within one day by 50 per cent or greater for nearly three-quarters (70 per cent) of participants.