New research is showing that ketamine, a powerful dissociative hallucinogen, can provide near instantaneous relief from severe chronic depression. Ketamine, or "Special K" as it is known in the psychedelic community, is capable of causing the brain to quickly regrow new neural connections in a part of the brain that is responsible for feelings of depression. In fact, the healing occurs so quickly that increased production of synapse-associated proteins was measured within 2 hours of administration, and new synapses were observed to have formed in the brain within 24 hours.
Current anti-depressant medication hasn't changed much since the discovery of Prozac back in the 1970s. Drugs like Prozac are only found to be effective in 40% of depressed patients, and they take several weeks before they begin to be effective. In contrast, users of ketamine report instantaneous relief from depression lasting several weeks or longer. Ketamine represents an entirely new class of anti-depressant drugs that were previously unknown, which act upon the brain using an entirely different mechanism from current anti-depressant medications.
Ketamine has been FDA approved for medical use in humans and animals for some time now as a general anesthetic, but its anti-depressant properties have only recently been discovered after recreational users began reporting its powerful anti-depressant effects, prompting scientists to conduct new research.
Researchers are presently looking at ways to eliminate the dissociative hallucinogenic effects of the drug, while still retaining its anti-depressant properties. A new drug called riluzole acts on the brain in a way similar to ketamine without the hallucinogenic effects, as do the drugs scopolamine, and GLYX-13. Both scopolamine and ketamine can be extremely dangerous if used incorrectly, and ketamine does have some addictive properties.
High doses of scopolamine are actually capable of eliminating a person's free will, making them open to suggestions by others, and the user will be left with no memory of the events that took place while under the effects of the drug. In minuscule doses, scopolamine is used as a medication to treat seasickness. Initial findings indicate that low doses of scopolamine, like those found in seasickness patches, can be effective at alleviating depression, but not as quickly as ketamine.
Here are some related news articles:
Synaptic Dysfunction in Depression: Potential Therapeutic Targets. Duman R, Aghajanian G. Science 338.6103 (2012): 68-72.
mTOR-dependent synapse formation underlies the rapid antidepressant effects of NMDA antagonists. Li N, Lee B, Liu RJ, Banasr M, Dwyer JM, Iwata M, Li XY, Aghajanian G, Duman RS. Science. 2010 Aug 20;329(5994):959-64.PMID: 20724638
A randomized trial of an N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist in treatment-resistant major depression. Zarate CA Jr, Singh JB, Carlson PJ, Brutsche NE, Ameli R, Luckenbaugh DA, Charney DS, Manji HK. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2006 Aug;63(8):856-64.PMID: 16894061
Neuroscience. A glutamate pathway to faster-acting antidepressants? Cryan JF, O'Leary OF. Science. 2010 Aug 20;329(5994):913-4. No abstract available. PMID: 20724626