The world’s first ‘gold standard’ clinical trial for the use of Ketamine as an anti-depressant has been launched in Australia and will eventually involve seven research institutions across both Australia and New Zealand.
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The trials, which will look at the tranquiliser (more widely known for its use on horses/in clubs) for the ongoing treatment of major depression, will study how people respond to ongoing treatment with multiple doses. I certainly know how I respond to ongoing treatment with multiple doses, although I’ve never thought of it from the whole depression aspect. As said, most of the time it’s used in the after party setting rather than a doctor’s room.
It will all be completely randomised, with some patients taking actual ketamine and others a placebo drug. The whole thing is going to run for three years so we’ve got quite a long while to wait until it even reaches the drug development stage, but it will still be interesting to know whether this drug has the potential to help cure people of mental illness.
Professor Colleen Loo from the University of New South Wales said:
Existing studies show that, if you give a single dose of ketamine to people with serious clinical depression, they do tend to get better – but that only lasts for a few days.
Feeling better for a few days is no good with a chronic disease like depression.
What we now need to do is establish whether it can be used as an effective ongoing clinical treatment and, if so, who best responds to the treatment and what the treatment guidelines might be.
It is not good enough to say that just because it has made people feel better in previous trials, when given one dose, that it is a safe and effective treatment long term.
What happens is the patient responds to the ketamine, relapses after a few days, and so their doctor gives them another dose. As they get the treatment more and more it becomes less effective as people become resistant, so the doctor escalates the treatment. But after a while it just isn’t effective and the doctor is too scared to take their patient off the treatment in case it causes them to crash.
It’s a big concern. We aren’t winging it in our trial. We will be very carefully monitoring people under a predefined treatment protocol.
What I’ll be more interested to see is how they get around the whole issue of dosage and how this affects the body, more than the mental effects. I don’t know about you guys but I have seen and read about quite a few cases of ketamine addiction and the problem is the more you take, the more you need. But then in high doses, the drug has a seriously detrimental affect on the bladder and can make it shrink to the size of a 50p piece.
Either way, it’s a groundbreaking trial and at least we will know more about what effects this drug has on the human body and mind. As psychiatrist Ian Hickie, a national mental health commissioner, put it, the study will help ketamine treatment move “out of the lab and into clinical practice”.
To read the shocking diary of a ketamine addict, click HERE.