This Party Drug May Soon Treat Depression
Clinical trials on ketamine now underway
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 18, 2016 7:48 AM CDT
A vial of ketamine.   (Wikimedia)

(Newser) – A controversial party drug might become the first new treatment for depression in about 50 years, reports CNN. Clinical trials are underway focusing on ketamine or "Special K" and its reported ability to ease depression, particularly in those who don't respond to other treatments. Initially used as an analgesic and sedative for soldiers in Vietnam, the hallucinogen is now an animal tranquilizer, but it's also known as a party drug and has been implicated in date rapes. In regard to depression, scientists say it might actually transform nerves damaged by the condition. "What's unique about ketamine is, this happens in hours or days," a doctor says.

Another describes a depressed patient who wasn't responding to antidepressants but saw "a very positive effect" with a single dose of ketamine, which can work for up to 30 days and is effective within four hours. However, the drug can raise blood pressure and reverse tolerance to opioids, among other things, so it would likely only be given under doctor supervision with patients monitored for two hours afterward, if approved by the FDA. The agency has fast-tracked its review. Meanwhile, a three-year clinical trial in Australia and New Zealand is focusing on long-term treatment with multiple doses, reports the Guardian.