There is a new light shining into the corner of treatment-resistant depression: in the form of a drug called Ketamine. This substance, not new to the medical world, is thought to have a rapid effect in clinical depression and could become a life-saver for people with severe suicidal depression.
The drug has hallucinogenic and pain relieving properties and is well known to anaesthetists for its use during the general anaesthetic. Commonly known as “horse tranquillizer”, due to its use in veterinary medicine, it is also a Saturday night drug for clubbers who appreciate the ‘out of body experience’ in its recreational use. Ketamine act on a receptor in the brain called NMDA. The exact mechanism of action related to major depressive disorder is not known yet. Although the effect of Ketamine kicks in much faster than conventional antidepressants, which take up to 3 weeks to show a mood enhancement, initial doses fade quickly and a regular treatment plan is needed to gain a long-term effect.
A substance called Esketamine, in the form of a nasal spray is currently going through phase III clinical trials and, if all goes well, could soon become a reality and a possible alternative to last resort Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Provided that side effects and long-term risks are causing any concerns, we could at long last be able to have an effective first aid treatment for major depression that acts safely and quickly.