Can ketamine really cure depression?

Unfortunately, one in four people in the UK will become affected by depression at some point in their lives and with a worldwide prevalence of around 450 million people, depression has become the leading causes of poor health and disability.

In the 1960s the theory of depression was discovered which looks at how depression may be caused by reduced chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) such as serotonin, adrenaline and dopamine in the central nervous system.

Research has been looking into using ketamine which is a drug used to relieve pain but can also have hallucinogenic properties.

It causes a rapid burst of glutamate in the pre-frontal cortex, which is a region of the brain implicated in mental disorders, leading to an overall rapid antidepressive effect.

  • Research has been looking into using ketamine which is a drug used to relieve pain but can also have hallucinogenic properties.
    Click on image for more info

Several trials have shown a rapid decrease in symptoms with an estimated 71% of patients having over a 50% reduction in depression symptoms after a single dose of ketamine.

The side effects associated with prolonged use of ketamine remains untested however, various acute side-effects have been reported such as headaches, anxiety and increased blood pressure.

High doses and repeated exposure to ketamine is associated with more serious toxic effects such as renal damage, dependence and cognitive changes.

However, overall ketamine could be a useful drug for depression as it had rapid therapeutic effects, consistent findings between studies and is readily available in many countries.

  • High doses and repeated exposure to ketamine is associated with more serious toxic effects such as renal damage, dependence and cognitive changes.
    Click on image for more info

References

Sophie Simmonds Fourth Year Medical Student, Cardiff University.

Milad Rouf Final Year Medical Student, Cardiff University.

Haase, J. and Brown, E., 2015. Integrating the monoamine, neurotrophin and cytokine hypotheses of depression—a central role for the serotonin transporter? Pharmacology & therapeutics, 147, pp.1-11.

Loo, C., 2018. Can we confidently use ketamine as a clinical treatment for depression? The Lancet Psychiatry, 5(1), pp.11-12.

Short, B., Fong, J., Galvez, V., Shelker, W. and Loo, C.K., 2017. Side-effects associated with ketamine use in depression: a systematic review. The Lancet Psychiatry.

Singh, I., Morgan, C., Curran, V., Nutt, D., Schlag, A. and McShane, R., 2017. Ketamine treatment for depression: opportunities for clinical innovation and ethical foresight. The Lancet Psychiatry, 4(5), pp.419-426.

World Health Organization, 2001. Mental disorders affect one in four people. Treatment Available but not Being Used.

Zarate, C.A., Singh, J.B., Carlson, P.J., Brutsche, N.E., Ameli, R., Luckenbaugh, D.A., Charney, D.S. and Manji, H.K., 2006. A randomized trial of an N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist in treatment-resistant major depression. Archives of general psychiatry, 63(8), pp.856-864.