Does Ketamine Combat Depression?

By McCarton Ackerman 01/30/12

Ketamine—AKA club drug "Special K"—is showing anti-depressant potential in a study at a Houston hospital.

Ketamine could now give depressed people
a lift.
Photo via

Ketamine has been used for many decades as an anesthetic, and more recently as a popular club drug known as “Special K.” But new research suggests it could provide relief from symptoms of depression. The study is being conducted by Ben Taub General Hospital in Houston. Initial findings indicate that while anti-depressants like Prozac may take weeks or even months to begin working, ketamine's benefits could kick in within hours. “[Patients typically say] ‘I feel something has lifted or feel that I’ve never been depressed in my life. I feel I can work. I feel I can contribute to society,’ ” says Carlos Zarate, who researches ketamine at the National Institutes of Health. “And it was a different experience from feeling high. This was a feeling that something has been removed." The study involves giving patients either a sedative or ketamine; the information on what each patient received will only be revealed once the study is done months from now. Up to 40% of patients suffering from depression reportedly just don’t respond to drugs like Prozac. However, ketamine has to be administered intravenously, under medical supervision, and can cause short-term psychotic symptoms.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.