Ketamine depression treatment ‘should be rolled out’

Ketamine Depression Treatment 'should Be Rolled Out'

Ketamine depression treatment 'should be rolled out'

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Media captionHelen is one of the first people to be treated with ketamine for depression

Doctors trialling the use of ketamine to treat depression are calling for the treatment to be rolled out.

Ketamine is licensed to be used as an anaesthetic but has a reputation as an illegal party drug.

Writing in The Lancet Psychiatry, Dr Rupert McShane, who has led a trial in Oxford, since 2011 says ketamine can work on patients with depression "where nothing has helped before".

Though, he is calling for a national registry to monitor its use.

Dr McShane says tens of thousands of people who have not responded to other treatment may possibly be helped by the drug.

But he adds there should be a national registry for those who prescribe the treatment to monitor the consequences and avoid mishandle of the Class B substance.

Of the 101 people taking part who had failed to find a successful depression treatment, 42 of them responded to the ketamine.

"The first ketamine infusion literally saved my life," says one patient.

"I had felt so desperate I was going to end it all.

"Subsequent ketamine treatment has enabled me to return to my job full-time. I still struggle at times but being able to work again has agreed me such a boost."

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SPL

Image caption

Ketamine is licensed for use as an anaesthetic and painkiller, but is also used as an illegal party drug

Dr McShane hopes more doctors will use it to treat depression but fears that the UK may possibly follow the US where there are private ketamine clinics that vary in their clinical checks.

"We reflect that patients' treatment should be in specialist centres and formally tracked in national or international registries. This will help us to pick up any safety or abuse problems with longer term use and narrow down what dose, frequency, route and durations of treatment works best."

'Not a miracle'

The measured quantity of ketamine used in his trial is much less than the amount used by people who take it as an illegal party drug – and he warns against any kind of self-medication.

Dr McShane also warns it is "not a miracle" drug for depression and "maintaining the benefit is a challenge", which has so far only been achieved by repeated dosing.

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Oxford Health

Image caption

This photo shows one person (far left) having a ketamine infusion alongside two people recovering from ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy)

But participant Louise, a 36-year-ancient ex- nurse, said she did not feel that she was apt dependent on the drug.

"I certainly do not feel at all, in any way 'hooked on' or addicted to the ketamine. I have more distress with withdrawal and side-effects if I miss a link of doses of my (standard) antidepressant than I do with the ketamine."

'Exciting discovery'

Commenting on the paper, Prof Allan Young, from the The Royal College of Psychiatrists, said there were still "significant gaps" in knowledge about ketamine's use.

"Before ketamine can be recommended for use in clinical do, extensive research is required to know how to optimally use ketamine for treating depression," he said.

"The Royal College of Psychiatrists has concerns for patient safety and therefore recommends mental health practitioners to proceed with caution when treating patients with ketamine."

Cardiff University psychiatrist Dr Paul Keedwell said: "Ketamine in the treatment of depression is one of the most exciting discoveries in psychiatry for years.

"Though, more research is needed and having a registry allows researchers to share new findings, clear or negative."

Ketamine Depression Treatment 'should Be Rolled Out'
Ketamine Depression Treatment 'should Be Rolled Out'
Ketamine Depression Treatment 'should Be Rolled Out'
Ketamine Depression Treatment 'should Be Rolled Out'

Ketamine Depression Treatment 'should Be Rolled Out'

Ketamine Depression Treatment 'should Be Rolled Out'

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