Lifestyle & Belief

'Special K' — a.k.a. ketamine — treats depression better, quicker, Yale study finds


Glass capsules containing ketamine are seen in Bang Pa In on June 26, 2008. Thai authorities will burn more than 310 million dollars worth of drugs in an annual narcotics bonfire to mark anti-drugs day.



The drug ketamine, known among recreational drug users as "special K," helped relieve depression in patients who did not respond to other medications, Yale University scientists found.

According to a longterm study, published in the journal Science, ketamine helped to regenerate synapses — the spaces between brain cells (neurons) — damaged by depression and stress.

And while standard antidepressants took weeks or months to fully take effect, small doses of ketamine — an FDA-approved anesthetic — could offer near-immediate therapeutic relief.

Or, as Gizmodo put it:

Science just proved what zillions kids in the K hole have known for decades: Ketamine is a very effective way to make yourself feel good.

The researchers, from Yale and the National Institute of Mental Health, found that ketamine also worked a lot quicker than common antidepressants, giving patients immediate relief from symptoms — during the critical period in which depressed patients may be a threat to themselves or others.

More from GlobalPost: The globalization of "Special K"

The Verge pointed out the potential downside: that the improved symptoms only last up to 10 days; and that there is potential for misuse.

However, NPR quoted Ron Duman, a psychiatrist and neurobiologist at Yale, as saying: 

"It's exciting. The hope is that this new information about ketamine is really going to provide a whole array of new targets that can be developed that ultimately provide a much better way of treating depression."