Home > Depression Issues > Research Into Illegal Drugs and Depression

Research Into Illegal Drugs and Depression

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 29 Feb 2012 | comments*Discuss
Depression Ketamine Research Study

While drug abuse is well known to trigger mental health problems such as depression, research into illegal drugs has also shown some benefits from a drug known as ketamine.

Ketamine is an animal tranquilliser but is more commonly known for its use as a street drug – called 'special K'. A study earlier this year, however, showed that it could rapidly relieve the symptoms of depression in patients, sometimes in as little as only two hours. Not only that, but the drug continued to relieve symptoms for one week.

Current Antidepressants

An issue relating to antidepressant therapies is that they usually take some time to show a beneficial effect. Patients can become frustrated or suicidal as they struggle with their depression. In this sense, scientists have been keen to find a treatment for depression that works rapidly.

An earlier study eight years ago that only looked at a small number of patients found that severe depression was helped by ketamine. Following on this study, researchers elsewhere began a larger study to find out just how effective ketamine could be in helping depression.

Researchers studied people with moderate to severe depression, all of whom had not responded favourably to antidepressant therapies. Initially, participants received either a placebo or a single dose of ketamine. One week later, patients received the opposite dose. For most of the patients, their depression was reduced within only one day. Overall, a fifty percent reduction was seen in the symptoms of depression. For some participants, the positive effects lasted for up to a week or two weeks.

Understanding Ketamine

While antidepressants typically work to spark brain levels of a chemical called serotonin, ketamine has a different mechanism. Ketamine reduces the impact of a neurotransmitter known as glutamate, which is one reason why scientists think that the drug acts so rapidly to relieve symptoms of depression. This fast-acting aspect of ketamine is one of the reasons researchers are particularly intrigued about the use of ketamine for depression.

Unfortunately, there is a very notable downside. One key reason that ketamine is used illegally is because it produces hallucinogenic effects. In fact, this hallucinogenic aspect was the most commonly reported side-effect in the recent study on depressed patients. For ketamine to have any hope of being used therapeutically and legally, it would have to be provided in a form that does not cause hallucinations.

Also important is that the hallucinations would have quickly revealed to patients that they received the 'real thing' in the study rather than a placebo. In turn, this may have caused them to think their depression had lifted. Still, the research is important because it gives scientists a starting point for finding a more rapid treatment for depression.

Looking at Other Compounds

For now, researchers are hoping to investigate different ketamine compounds to find one that can provide the therapeutic benefits to severely depressed patients but without the hallucinogenic side-effects that could prove uncomfortable or frightening. Treating depression is vital to improving the moods of the millions of Britons who are thought to suffer from its grip. Hopefully, the recent ketamine research can continue to provide clues to help researchers develop a fast-acting, effective treatment for depression.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • OvercomeDepression
    Re: Depression After an Abortion
    ED - Your Question:I've just turned 25 and I've had 2 abortions. I also have a son who is 3. And is the most amazing person in my…
    14 November 2017
  • OvercomeDepression
    Re: Insomnia Caused by Depression
    corey - Your Question:Hello and im corey and im 40 years old. Ive been experiencing sleep difficulties for the past 2 weeks. To…
    23 October 2017
  • corey
    Re: Insomnia Caused by Depression
    Hello and im corey and im 40 years old. Ive been experiencing sleep difficulties for the past 2 weeks. To this day Im unable to…
    20 October 2017
  • Laura
    Re: Depression After an Abortion
    I had medical abortion a Week ago today. Feeling very emotional ?? and anxious ?? got to go back to Hospital in 3 days for…
    17 October 2017
  • Rosey
    Re: Depression After an Abortion
    Hi, I had an abortion at 13 weeks and it was fifteen weeks ago I thought it was my only decision and it's the biggest regret of my…
    12 October 2017
  • OvercomeDepression
    Re: Avoiding Negative and Thinking Positive Thoughts
    Bix - Your Question:What do you do when depression floors you so bad that you feel you cant talk? It has…
    2 October 2017
  • Bix
    Re: Avoiding Negative and Thinking Positive Thoughts
    What do you do when depression floors you so bad that you feel you cant talk? It has left my mind blank…
    30 September 2017
  • OvercomeDepression
    Re: Depression After an Abortion
    J - Your Question:I didn't have an abortion yet but I'm going soon. I just found out that I'm pregnant with my boyfriend of 7…
    25 September 2017
  • Not Fine
    Re: Depression After an Abortion
    I had a medical abortion in March 2017 at 20 weeks pregnancy due to genetic issues in the foetus. My first child (10 yrs old now)…
    15 September 2017
  • OvercomeDepression
    Re: Depression After an Abortion
    :-( - Your Question:I had a surgical abortion 10 weeks ago I would of been 16 weeks pregnant this week. I am heartbroken at what…
    15 September 2017
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the OvercomeDepression website. Please read our Disclaimer.