Ketamine, known to most as a party drug, has been receiving more attention in recent years for its potential medical uses. For decades, the use of psychoactive substances in medical research has been taboo. Now, more and more researchers are finding possible uses for them in the treatment of mental health conditions. The latest study demonstrates that ketamine is effective in relieving the devastating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
What Is PTSD?
PTSD is a mental health disorder. Those who have it experienced something traumatic in their past and relive the event in terrifying ways. Anything that triggers memories of that trauma can cause the symptoms of PTSD: flashbacks, nightmares, emotional distress, angry outbursts and getting frightened easily, among many others. It can take time to learn to cope after experiencing something traumatic, which is normal. But when symptoms persist for months or years, it is called PTSD and it can be extremely disruptive for the sufferer.
What Is Ketamine?
Ketamine is a synthetic drug that was developed in the 1960s to be used as an anesthetic. It causes dissociation, detachment from reality and distortions in perceptions. It is for these reasons that ketamine is a Schedule III controlled substance and is not often used in human medicine. It is most commonly used as an animal tranquilizer and sedative. It is the psychoactive side effects that have led to ketamine being abused as a party or club drug. Users take it to have a mind-altering experience, but it can also cause amnesia, increased heart rate, impaired motor functions, aggression and even overdose.
Ketamine and PTSD
Although ketamine can be harmful and risky to use as a recreational drug, it may have some valuable medicinal properties. A recent study involved 41 participants suffering from PTSD and researchers at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine. The patients were given an intravenous dose of ketamine or a placebo once every two weeks during the study period. The patients were evaluated for symptoms of PTSD 24 hours after the dose, and again at 48 hours, 72 hours and seven days later.
The results were exciting as the patients receiving ketamine showed significant improvement in their PTSD symptoms at the 24-hour mark as compared to those who only got the placebo. Some even showed improvement a week later. PTSD is often accompanied by symptoms of clinical depression. The patients who got a ketamine dose also saw improvements in these depressive symptoms. The participants tolerated the ketamine well with minimal to no adverse side effects. The results are very promising, but need to be replicated with larger groups of people. It is also important for ketamine to be tested in real clinical trials before it could be used more generally for patients with PTSD.
There are many reasons the research is so encouraging. Treating PTSD is difficult with traditional therapy and medical techniques. Many people struggle with symptoms for years without finding significant relief. The disorder can take over a person’s life and hamper their ability to live normally or to hold down a job or relationships. A medical therapy could help so many people feel better.
The ketamine in the trial also relieved symptoms quickly. PTSD symptoms can be severe at times. To have a treatment that brings quick relief would be a huge relief to those living in fear of their past traumas. While the research is early, it is very exciting for those studying ketamine and those who need its relief.