A common prescription painkiller that is sometimes used as a hallucinogenic club drug may have a beneficial side effect, according to findings from UC San Diego researchers.
Ketamine, long used as an anesthetic, may also alleviate depression, according to the study published Wednesday in the journal Scientific Reports.
The UCSD researchers combed millions of FDA side effect records, which revealed that people who took ketamine for pain relief reported lower rates of depression.
“The occurrence of complaints about depression dropped in half after ketamine administration,” UC San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy professor Ruben Abagyan, who led the study, told KPBS.
Large-scale clinical trials, however, have not yet been conducted to test the safety and efficacy of ketamine as an antidepressant.
“This study basically is an additional justification for a proper clinical trial,” Abagyan continued.
The findings out of UCSD do back smaller studies that indicate Ketamine hydrochloride has been found to help treatment-resistant depression.
Sometimes called “special K” on the club scene, Ketamine’s illegal use does worry some doctors.
Dr. Charles Nemeroff, chair of the American Psychiatric Association task force and chairman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, told Time magazine, “The last thing we would want to do as a field would be to promote the use of a substance to treat depression that turns out to have tremendous abuse liability, and that would end up creating a cadre of depressed patients who are now, in addition to that, substance abusers.”
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