Existing treatments for depression can take four to eight weeks to take effect, but in Sydney a trial has found that the drug ketamine can alleviate symptoms in a matter of hours. Ketamine is approved for use as an anaesthetic, and in veterinary medicine is administered as a horse tranquiliser. It is also an hallucinogen, with the street name ‘Special K’.
According to overseas studies, ketamine causes recovery from depression in 70 per cent of people when given in small doses intraveneously. Existing anti-depressants often work on neurotransmitters like serotonin, noradrenalin or dopamine, while ketamine works on glutamate, a completely different neurotransmitter.
At the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Colleen Loo (pictured right) and her research team, which includes Veronica Galvez Ortiz, have been trialling different doses, and methods, of administering ketamine. Ruth Beran goes to the Black Dog Institute to find out more about the trial, and meet participant Cheryl, who had dramatic results after being treated with ketamine.