Ketamine's Antidepressant Effects Demonstrated In First Large-Scale Study

Psychonaught via Wikimedia Commons

Ketamine is commonly used for pain relief or as a recreational drug but it could soon be a crucial way to treat depression. Several studies have looked at the effectiveness of ketamine's active principles to help to treat mental health conditions, with meta-analysis strongly reinforcing the drug’s reputation.

But lacking a large-scale study, researchers from Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at University of California San Diego decided to use the FDA Adverse Effect Reporting System (FAERS) to perform one. Their study is published in Scientific Reports.

They found that the 41,000 people who are using ketamine for pain reduction reported symptoms of depression half as often compared to patients that were being treated for pain with other drugs.

"Current FDA-approved treatments for depression fail for millions of people because they don't work or don't work fast enough," senior author Professor Ruben Abagyan, said in a statement. "This study extends small-scale clinical evidence that ketamine can be used to alleviate depression, and provides needed solid statistical support for wider clinical applications and possibly larger scale clinical trials."

In vivo studies on mice indicate that ketamine acts on the AMPAR receptors in the brain, significantly reducing the behaviors associated with depression. The study also hints at the surprising antidepressant effects of other drugs, such as botox, anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac, and even antibiotic minocycline, which could be linked to their anti-inflammatory actions.

The researchers aren’t sure why botox appears in the category and they are investigating if the effect is psychological or pharmacological by comparing it with other cosmetic treatments also in the FAERS.

Interestingly, FAERS is usually used to check drugs for harmful side effects, but the scientists, in this case, used it for highlighting the lack of symptoms.  "The approach we used here could be applied to any number of other conditions, and may reveal new and important uses for thousands of already approved drugs, without large investments in additional clinical trials," co-author Tigran Makunts explained.

Three hundred million people experience depression worldwide. Without proper treatment the condition can become chronic, increasing the risk of mortality from suicide, heart disease, or other factors.


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