New Research Reveals How Ketamine Works to Relieve Depression Symptoms within Hours - Its Efficacy and Limitations

By Amy Taylor on October 08, 2012

Until today, treatment response for depression has not been identified yet. Although there are available treatments, the success of recovery remains to be a case-to-case basis. For clinically depressed individuals who do not respond well to medications and other medical procedures, ketamine is the last resort. This drug, which is normally used in the administration and maintenance of general anaesthesia, offers immediate relief to the depression symptoms. Bur for decades, scientists have been trying to find out why.

Ketamine offers fast relief from depression symptoms

Since 1990s, researchers from the Yale University have begun conducting investigations on the effects of ketamine in the human brain to explain how exactly it alleviates symptoms of depression and other neurological disorders. It was not until today that they figured out what the drug actually does.

Their findings (published last week in the journal Science) show that the paediatric anaesthetic helps in regenerating the synaptic connections between the brains cells, which are normally damaged by stress and depression. Unlike other antidepressants, a small amount of ketamine could already provide relief from symptoms in just a few hours.

How ketamine works as an anti-depressant drug

The researchers found that the drug stimulates the release of neurotransmitter glutamate which in turn, triggers the release of brain synapses. In neurological science, a synapse refers to the structure in the nervous system that allows a neuron to pass through a chemical signal to another cell. In layman’s term, synapses are responsible for collecting, storing, and retrieving information throughout the brain.

During their clinical trials on rodents, Yale researchers have shown that the synaptic connections caused by chronic stressed are immediately reversed by just a single dose of ketamine.

According to the study, understanding how ketamine works could lead to the development of new medications that will provide better relief from depression symptoms. Duman and George K. Aghajanian, research authors, warned that although the symptoms vanish within hours from taking ketamine, the effect lasts only for a week to 10 days, making the drug a less sustainable medication for depression. Meanwhile, large doses of ketamine could lead to short-term psychosis symptoms. It is also tagged as the "Special K” – a party drug that is abused by many.

Currently, scientists are trying to develop medications that would replicate the positive effects of ketamine to depression symptoms. However, they do not act as fast as ketamine. Researchers are looking for alternatives that will give the same efficacy and speedy response of the drug.

 

Source of this article:

Yale scientists explain how ketamine vanquishes depression within hours, Yale University

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