Club Drug Being Considered a “Cure” for Depression

I don’t know if anyone else saw this, but there was a segment on my local new station a couple days ago about research trials in regard to using a slightly altered form of Ketamine (also known as Special K for those who are familiar with the club scene) to lift someone out of incredibly deep depression.

Hallelujah! I cried, It’s about freaking time!

The article about it on the CBS news website is a little more than laughable, (“is there an antidepressant shortage we don’t know about?”) but secured the idea in my mind more than ever that most people don’t know much about depression and its current treatment.

Antidepressant treatment for depression can take weeks, if not months before beginning to see an improvement in symptoms. On top of that, many people who experience bipolar depression can’t take antidepressants because they will trigger a manic episode.

Anyone who has experienced severe depression and has had to linger for weeks, months or longer in that state know how absolutely vital it is to improve our treatment options for depression.

The idea with this new take on an old party drug is to make it available in the emergency room. Many severely depressed people wind up there with the overwhelming urge to commit suicide, or after having already tried. The Ketamine administered is said to lift the person out of depression within 1-2 hours.

Amazing, right?

As excited as I am, there is obviously a downside we need to address. The effects of the drug so far only last somewhere between days and weeks, and while doctors are hopeful to modify it to last for months it is a bit more on the fleeting side for now. The amount of time it lifts you out of depression may not be long enough for the depressive episode to have fully passed.

Also, I haven’t seen any information yet regarding bipolar depression. I would definitely be skeptical to receive this treatment without some research being done on that end, especially after my own experiences being prescribed antidepressants.

The most terrifying thing I’ve encountered involving the drug is from The Seattle Times article, People’s Pharmacy, Surprising Drug for Severe Depression, a question that someone sent in regarding their experience from two research trials involving Ketamine for depression;

 I participated in two clinical trials of ketamine for depression. The infusion was not pleasant, but a few hours later, my depression was mysteriously lifted. It was as though someone carefully cleaned, polished and rejuvenated every cell in my brain. It was not a feeling of being high; it was completely different from anything I had ever experienced in my entire life.

Unfortunately, it only lasted a few days. When it went away, the return to life as I had always known it was horrible. They told me upfront that it is a clinical trial and the drug is not available for depression treatment. But it is a Food and Drug Administration-approved medication. Any M.D. could prescribe it, but no one has been willing to administer it.

I have felt closer to suicide at times since I found out how good other people feel every day. I hope ketamine will soon be approved for severe depression.

Does this give anyone else the chills?

Let’s consider the implications here. Depression is serious, it kills, and there are few treatments for it.

But, if I’m interpreting this correctly, this person has just stated that though their depression was lifted, the descent back into depression was “horrible”. They also said they have felt more suicidal since being denied this drug, since they have experienced a quick-fix to the depression solution and have since been denied it.

Based on the statement of this one person alone I would say we should seriously consider the data before making Ketamine available for treating depression. 

It alieviates the depression? Good.

But if it will cause the person to come down after a single dose feeling more depressed or suicidal than before, is it worth it? Are the people who feel the effects of their depression being abated going to become obsessed with having more?

And if these patients do establish some kind of dependency on the drug, how is it going to be dealt with in a healthy way? How much is the treatment that these people are hooked on going to cost them on a regular basis to maintain?

And how is this different than self medicating with the illegal club-version of the drug? Even if it is something that people can become addicted to, does government regulation make the difference?


In the meantime, medical professionals are urging folks NOT run out and partake in the club drug on their own. There is chance of overdose, hallucinations, and falling into the proverbial “K-hole” (if you’ve seen the movie Party Monster, that should be reason enough to stay away from it).

For me, I know those dark recesses of depression can make even the most sane people desperate enough to try anything, but I definitely urge you to consider the repercussions of any treatment before making the decision to partake.

8 responses to “Club Drug Being Considered a “Cure” for Depression

  1. Irresponsible reporting if ever I saw it! I can only imagine the spike in Special K sales as people rush to self medicate. Substance Dependance (whether alcohol or drugs) is already rife in people struggling with mental illness. Articles like this provide legitimacy to something that is only ever going to numb the pain not treat the source. There is no quick-fix, but self-discovery and understanding, once learned, will never run out or give you a “come-down”.

  2. I actually had a psychiatrist give me information on a trial they are doing of this (somewhere back east) and recommend that it might be something worthwhile for me to try. It wasn’t a route I wanted to go at the time, but I find the idea interesting.

    But as far as addiction and dependency, well, it’s true of so many medications that are regularly prescribed for psychiatric disorders. Benzodiazepines would be an obvious culprit here. I have dealt personally with Valium withdrawal. It was horrible, but it was absolutely worth dealing with for the beneficial effects when I took it. And I have heard anti-depressant withdrawal can be hell, too.

    So I guess (like everything else in a theoretical or actual treatment plan) this one is highly individualized.

    • True about dependancy and psychiatric drugs. Though, I guess I haven’t been able to ingest enough of most of them to have experienced any sort of withdrawal on a mental level, only on a physical level. And after having experienced that, experiencing emotional withdrawal sounds just about the most torturous thing I can imagine.

      Really, in any situation I think as long as people know the effects of the choices they’re making, they should be able to pick whatever treatment they want. I just get a little jumpy when I hear these sorts of stories and none of the doctors or researchers have commented about this portion of the research to any of the news teams. Many doctors I’ve seen have a casual way of leaving out important information, so I guess that is why I get so concerned. Also why I tend to go to peers for information regarding treatments they have experienced, vs. speaking to doctors who have only administered them.

  3. That might be the most horrifying thing I have read in a long time when it comes to psych meds and treatment. This is just like when they began using LSD in treatment. Depression isn’t something that develops in a day. While I think that immediate relief is useful, I don’t think that something like that should be considered as a treatment option. The risk of dependence is entirely too high. I would probably guess that it would increase suicide risk unless a person uses it in the long term. And, it in no way should be considered a long-term treatment option.

    Ex-heroin addicts tell me that was great at treating depression. Ex-cocaine addicts told me there was no such thing as depression. (I don’t advocate or even condone that.) And the millions of people that smoke marijuana in the US will attest that marijuana is a great treatment for depression. We’re studying Ketamine right? The drug that induces hallucinations, much like LSD? Why aren’t we studying marijuana and that possibility? I mean, if we’re going to go into the world of illegal drugs.

  4. In Washington state there has already been legalization of medical marijuana and it is prescribed for anxiety, PTSD, and depression to pretty much anyone willing to sign up. We’ve talked about this at my group a few times, and though some people have had better reactions than others (and it doesn’t herald itself as any sort of “quick fix”) most of the people I’ve talked to say it helps make their symptoms more bearable, if nothing else.

    Personally, I’m with you. The risk just seems to great, I don’t think I’d partake in this one. I have a quality that lends itself too readily to addiction anyway, so I try to avoid thrusting myself into situations that could be really rough on me in the long run.

    • My poison of choice is alcohol, so I’m not sure I’d be susceptible to addiction with Ketamine. However, the prospective of hallucinations scares me. Let’s just say I’ve had some experience with other hallucinogens, and I’ll tell you this. I have enough of a problem handling reality without trying to filter things that aren’t in that reality.

      PA does not have medicinal marijuana yet. I’m no pot head, but I can say that I use it occasionally, meaning a few times a year. (Like, we’ll be gifted some for someone’s birthday). And, it does help to an extent. It’s better than alcohol. I have done more dangerous and stupid thing while drunk than I have while I was high. There isn’t a “hangover” per se, more like a haze the next day. Which is similar to taking a high dose of sleeping medication.

      Now, I don’t really know the health affects of occasional marijuana use. But, I’m going to guess that although it is a carcinogen (which can easily be alleviated if they were to extract the THC and put it in something else), it is likely less damaging on a system than putting a toxin like that in it. Marijuana grows naturally in certain climates. I don’t see any Ketamine plants around.

  5. Pingback: Cannabis Use Linked to Higher Cognitive Performance in Bipolar I Patients | bi[polar] curious

  6. TIME magazine did a story about this a few weeks ago, actually called New Hope for Depression. After reading it, I get the impression that it’s acknowledged they’re a long way off from actually coming up with a modified form of ketamine that could be safely and effectively used, though they are still looking at it. So.. imo, nothing to worry about quite yet. Though I do hope that people involved in any trials are safe.

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