Controversial drug offers hope of alleviating depression

Credit: KING

Controversial drug offers hope of alleviating depression

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by KING 5 HealthLink

WCNC.com

Posted on August 20, 2013 at 11:36 AM

One in 10 adults in the United States suffers from depression. For many, current treatments don't help with debilitating symptoms.

But as Jean Enersen reports, there's a drug that can produce results within hours.

Ketamine, a common anesthetic in hospitals, is also a hallucinogenic drug when abused. But what makes ketamine truly special for millions of people is its potential to treat depression.

"It has been one of the major new findings in the field for at least a few decades," said Dr. Gerard Sanacora, a psychiatrist.

Researchers say that ketamine can improve your mood in hours, while standard antidepressants take weeks or months. It works by reconnecting brain regions and allowing proper control of mood and emotion, said Dr. Ron S. Duman, a neurobiologist.

However, researchers are still figuring out how to safely administer ketamine routinely.

"It's not strongly addictive, but does have high abuse potential," Dr. Duman said.

While ketamine is currently not approved as a treatment for depression, a growing number of private clinics are offering it "off label." This concerns Dr. Sanacora.

"There are several very important questions that we still don't know about ketamine, and probably the most important is, what is the long term benefit? Is repeating dosing of this actually a good idea?" he said.

Infusions of ketamine at private clinics can run you thousands of dollars with no guarantee of any results. They're also not covered by insurance.

On the other hand, doctors say, the fast-acting quality of ketamine can help save the lives of those in danger of committing suicide.

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