Ketamine is getting closer to being a ‘miracle treatment’ for severe depression

Could the festival drug be a wonder cure?

Few who have attended a UK festival and had a “bit of an episode” will believe it, but ketamine could be a powerful treatment for severe depression.

Scientists at The National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland report that low dosages of ketamine, delivered in six IV drips over a two week period, could temporarily cure someone who is suffering from the mental illness. It could start to work within an hour of entering the body.

He's overdone it

He’s overdone it

According to Dr Carlos Zarate Jr., NIMH’s chief of neurobiology and treatment of mood disorders, ket works differently to standard antidepressant medication. “Ketamine almost certainly modifies the function of synapses and circuits,” he explains, “turning certain circuits on and off. The result is a rapid antidepressant effect.”

It is a powerful anaesthetic, and is already used in operations. Research into its potential to treat mental health disorders began in 2006, and since then there have been dozens of studies making claims about how it could be used to treat depression.


Ketamine has been around since the early 1960s. It is a “dissociative aesthetic”, and can be ingested through snorting, injection, orally, or smoked. It can create a distorted, ‘dream-like’ state known as a as a ‘k-hole’, and if used in great quantities, can cause vomiting, increased heart rate, and possibly fatal, respiratory reactions.

Institutions in the US – including the University of Yale – have started using ketamine to treat patients.

Currently there are no reports of addiction to the drug when it administered in this way, though because it is temporarily, a “relapse” in depressive or suicidal thoughts could occur within a week of the IV drip, so routine treatments would be necessary.