Pharmacology: Drug acts as a fast-acting antidepressant

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Pharmacology: Drug acts as a fast-acting antidepressant
Pharmacology: Drug acts as a fast-acting antidepressant

Drug acts as a fast-acting antidepressant

Ketamine, a drug used as an anesthetic and occasionally abused as a recreational drug, may be used to treat depression, researchers at the US National Institutes of He alth report. The remedy shows an effect within minutes that can last for a long time.

The researchers had treated depressed patients who had failed conventional medication. Half of the patients injected with low doses of ketamine experienced a reduction in symptoms after just 110 minutes. At the end of the day of treatment, 71 percent had reacted positively to the drug, and 29 percent even reported no more complaints. A single dose of the chemical worked for at least a week in more than two-thirds of the subjects, reports study leader Carlos Zarate.

Current antidepressants, which are intended to increase the concentration of the neurotransmitters serotonin or dopamine in the brain, usually only show an effect weeks or months after treatment. Apparently, ketamine works faster because it influences other metabolic pathways: the active ingredient docks onto so-called NMDA receptors, which play a role in learning and memory processes.

Ketamine, chemically a cyclohexanone derivative, is already used in anesthesia, emergency medicine, pain management and veterinary medicine. However, its use in humans is limited due to the drug's mind- altering side effects. For this reason, it also plays a role as a lifestyle drug. In Great Britain its possession is punishable by law, in Germany the drug requires a prescription, but is not subject to the Narcotics Act.

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