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Depression could be managed with ketamine and looking at smiling people




  • A new study reveals that ketamine, an illicit drug, could help stop depression.
  • The research also found that looking at images of smiling people can prolong the effect of ketamine.
  • The US FDA approved ketamine as an anesthetic for pain in 1970.

A new study reveals that an illicit drug called ketamine could be used as an antidepressant. In addition, reading happy words and looking at smiling faces can prolong ketamine’s effects.

Ketamine, which was approved by the US FDA in 1970 for use as an anesthetic to kill pain, was used in treating injured soldiers during the Vietnam War. Nowadays, it is used as an illicit party drug.

Medical experts learned that ketamine had powerful effects against depression and suicidal thoughts. Doctors called it ‘the speedster of antidepressants’ because of its ability to work within hours. First responders sometimes give it to agitated people to stop suicide attempts.

The University of Pittsburgh developed a new therapy for those suffering from treatment-resistant depression. According to the university, a single ketamine injection followed by automated computer-based training that used positive words and imagery can improve how an individual sees themselves.

The therapy involves flashing positive words like “sweet”, “lovable” and “worthy” on a screen alongside the patient’s photo and images of smiling people.

Experts behind the therapy plan realized depression can be kept at bay for at least a month if the digital techniques are applied when ketamine has activated the brain’s plasticity.

“Using simple conditioning during the period after ketamine treatment, when the brain is receptive to soaking in new information, allows us to go after key features of depression,” says Dr. Rebecca Price, an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the school in a report.

“Training the brain to link perceptions of yourself with positive ideas during this ketamine-primed plasticity window exceeded my expectations, Price, who was among the first to show that intravenous ketamine can reduce suicidal thoughts, said.

The results of the clinical trial were published last month in the American Journal of Psychiatry.


Almost 21 million American adults experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2020, according to a National Institute of Mental Health analysis. About 3 million of those diagnosed are resistant to traditional antidepressant medication.

However, ketamine’s effects often wear off after a couple of weeks, it’s not easily accessible and infusions often come with high out-of-pocket costs and long waiting lists.

Dr Price and her team came up with the idea to improve access to intravenous ketamine treatment and boost its effect by adding digital therapies.

“Our goal is to leverage digital technologies and develop a strategy that will efficiently extend time between appointments, save patients money and get more patients effective depression care.”

The team is now in the process of figuring out how they could get the content on an iPad or smartphone and offer patients the same benefits that they receive on a computer in a clinic.

Source: Good News Network

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