Ketamine May Aid Antidepressant Development

Special K" may hold the secrets to an effective antidepressant.

“Special K” may hold the secrets to an effective antidepressant.

Researchers have determined that the party drug provides fast and sustained antidepressant effects.

“You have a novel, highly effective treatment for depression, but you can’t give it to people to take at home or on a routine basis,” said Daniel Lodge, PhD, of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, in a press release.

Ketamine comes in the form of a liquid or a white powder and can be injected, snorted, smoked, or swallowed.

Some short-term health effects from using ketamine include hallucinations, confusion, memory loss, and slowed breathing, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Ulcers or pain in the bladder, kidney problems, and stomach pain are potential long-term health effects.

However, its use as an antidepressant is of interest to researchers because FDA-approved antidepressants may take at least 2 weeks to take effect. Ketamine, on the other hand, can have effects within 2 hours.

The authors of a new study published in Molecular Psychiatry examined the ventral hippocampus-medial prefrontal cortex pathway and its role in ketamine’s antidepressant effects.

The researchers found that inactivation of the hippocampus with lidocaine stopped the sustained effect of ketamine, but not the fast antidepressant response.

In addition, the researchers discovered that light and pharmacogenetics activation of the pathway showed a similar antidepressant response.

“The idea is, if one part of the brain contributes to the beneficial effects of ketamine, and another part contributes to its abuse and effects such as hallucinations, now we can come up with medications to target the good part and not the bad,” said lead study author Flavia R. Carreno, PhD, in a press release.

The study authors concluded that activity in the ventral hippocampus-medial prefrontal cortex pathway was “necessary and sufficient” to achieve optimal antidepressant effects.