Ketamine could be used to help people with treatment-resistant depression following positive early results from its use.
Scientists at Oxford University have been using the sedative to treat more than 100 people with severe treatment-resistant depression for the past six years, with 40% of patients reporting a sustained improvement in their mental health.
It may not be what you’d expect from ketamine, but the doctors say it really works.
Roughly 3% of the UK population, around two million people, suffer from depression, and it is thought up to 30% of those are resistant to treatment.
The results were achieved with intravenous infusions of the drug, followed by oral top ups, giving a success rate that can only be bettered by electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), Dr Rupert McShane told the Independent.
Ketamine is used medically as an anaesthetic, including on horses as a tranquilliser, but is also used illegally as a recreational drug.
Despite the positive results achieved by the doctors at Oxford, more research needs to be done.
“There are still significant gaps in our knowledge about dosage levels, treatment protocols and the effectiveness and safety of long term use,” Professor Allan Young of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said.
Dr McShane is calling for a medical register to track how ketamine is prescribed, while his colleague Ilina Singh published a paper outlining the team’s recommendations for effective trials into the treatment.
Nonetheless most are looking at the research as positive, if with a little caution.