Horse tranquiliser could be the new magic drug for depression

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Most anti-depressant drugs take a few weeks or months before any positive effect is felt but now researchers are claiming that Ketamine, a drug traditionally used as an anaesthetic and a tranquiliser for animals, can reduce the symptoms of depression in humans within hours and the effect lasts for days.

Around 40 percent of people who are diagnosed with depression don’t respond to anti-depressant medication and for many it’s a case of trial and error to find a drug that works and in some cases this can take years. Ketamine appears to be effective even on people who do not respond to other drugs and it gives the anti-depressant effect with relatively low doses.

“It’s like a magic drug – one dose can work rapidly and last for seven to 10 days” said Ronald Duman, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Yale and leader of the research.

Professor Duman, who led the study, found that Ketamine works differently to other drugs in that it facilitates “synaptogenesis” meaning it forms new synaptic connections between neurons that have been damaged by stress.

“Our results demonstrate that these effects of Ketamine are opposite to the synaptic deficits that result from exposure to stress and could contribute to the fast antidepressant actions of Ketamine,” the researchers said.

The findings of the Yale study have been published in the August 20th edition of the Journal Science.

The drug is not yet ready to be dished out to depressed patients on a large scale though, as the researchers reckon it needs further analysis and modification before it can be used for the general population.

At the moment Ketamine has to be injected and used under medical supervision and like any drug there can be side effects. Ketamine is highly addictive and can cause hallucinations and other psychotic symptoms.

The drug is also used on the streets and is referred to as ‘K’ or ‘Special K’ and use of this drug is on the increase amongst young people most likely as a result of the banning of the legal high drug mephedrone in April.

The worrying thing is that the class C drug is fairly easy to get hold of on the streets but used without medical supervision it can have some serious side effects such as bladder problems and pain, incontinence, insomnia and blood clotting.

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