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Ketamine Increasingly Being Used For Treating Severe Depression [VIDEO]

Update Date: Mar 22, 2017 07:19 AM EDT

More and more doctors agree to the use of ketamine for treating patients with major depressive disorder who do not respond to other treatments.

Ketamine is an anesthetic approved primarily for operations on humans and animals. Due to the high and dissociative effects, it has become popular in party scenes. It induces a sense of relaxation so strong that users report feeling like they were floating.

The drug is not approved for depression.

The colleagues of Dr. Gerard Sanacora, a professor at Yale University, sometimes express their concern about his method of treating extremely depressed patients with ketamine.

His patients had tried all other treatments before he resorted to this anesthetic medication. Sanacora does not see why he should be prevented from prescribing it when his patients' depressive and suicidal thoughts could overpower them within just a brief period of time.

Studies have shown that ketamine's antidepressant effect can be relatively rapid compared with current drugs for depression which takes a few weeks for their effect to be felt completely. More doctors are convinced that it is an effective part of therapy for cases of severe depression.

In fact, doctors in the U.S. and the U.K. have treated over 3,000 patients with ketamine, Sanacora added. Doctors admit that research on the long-term risks of the drug is inadequate. There have been no large-scale trials to date.

The short-term effectiveness of ketamine has spurred drugmakers to create a new medication for depression that acts on the neurotransmitter glutamate which is what ketamine targets. Esketamine is a similar drug being developed recently, the NPR reported.

The company Parke-Davis developed ketamine in the U.S. in 1962. It was used as a field anesthetic during the Vietnam War.

Unscrupulous individuals have used it as a date rape drug.

It causes drowsiness, hallucinations, confusion, numbness, dissociation from the body, agitation, and difficulty thinking.

Users may develop tolerance to ketamine with repeated use-- leading to addiction. Depression and anxiety ensue after they discontinue using it, according to the Medical News Today.

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