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Quick Ask the Doctor Question, Dr. Robert--

I saw a study (NIMH) on the use of Ketamine for depression. The bout I'm in is about 7 years old. At best I get mediocre results from antidepressants. I have been unsuccessful in finding a doctor that will treat me with it.



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© 2006 Robert Saltzman

Hello, Mike--

I do not know about that study. Ketamine is a drug normally used for anesthesia since it has the property of instantly separating the experience of the user from the sense of being associated with a body. In other words, its anesthetic properties are not due to suppression of pain (which is the way that an opiate works), but rather to taking experience to such a far away place, that the body is not even perceived or remembered. Typically the user seems to be in a kind of dream, but a dream that feels completely real while it is happening. In other words, the user remains conscious in an odd way, but not conscious of being "somebody" or even of having a body at all. For example, one user reported watching various colored balls moving randomly through space, colliding, and ricocheting. At each collision, a sound would be produced, making a kind of symphony of collisions which this user took to be the "music of the spheres."

In other words, ketamine is a powerful psychedelic chemical which alters consciousness profoundly until it wears off. Perhaps this kind of mind-altering property could help with some kinds of depression in the same way that LSD sometimes proved helpful for treating depression in studies in the 60s and 70s. In fact, these studies came to an premature end, in my view, when funding for psychedelic research, or even permission to do it at all, fell out of political favor for reasons having nothing to do with science or LSD.

In any case, I can understand why you would be searching for something better than the present day SSRIs (like Prozac and Paxil) which although very helpful for some people, are not very helpful at all for others (you seem to be one of these), and which have a growing list of unwanted side-effects associated with them.

Although ketamine (known on the street as "Special K") is often available illegally as a kind of "recreational drug", and the instructions for using it--it must be injected--are certainly available on internet, you would be much better off, in my opinion, to experiment with a drug of this power under full benefit of informed medical supervision, so I advise you to keep looking for an M.D. who is willing to try this with you.

Be well

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page last modified December 10, 2006

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