Using Special K to treat Depression and PTSD? – Cali Estes – The Addictions Coach
A huge medical breakthrough in treating depression has the potential to make some major waves very soon! Just to be clear, this isn’t your traditional method of just going outside or doing activities that make you happy, but a medicinal treatment being studied right now that can be an alternative to traditional antidepressants.
You may be skeptical right off the bat, and that’s understandable. “Miracle remedies” pop up in the news or on Facebook pages occasionally but never really amount to anything more than that. However, this was a scientifically-backed study funded by actual pharmaceutical companies with some weight to its findings.
The drug at the center of it all is nicknamed ‘Special K’. Not the cereal obviously, but Ketamine. Wait! Before you react to this information: Yes, ketamine is controversial. Yes, it’s often used and abused for hallucinogenic episodes; however, there’s more to it than that. Let’s get into the study as covered by The Addictions Coach, Cali Estes.
On December 9th, 2014, the privately held company Naurex attended a medical conference and reported that after some study, the drug GLYX-13 had shown some surprising effectiveness in its trial, with signs of reduced depression in nearly half the patients tested. This then naturally leads to the question – why this over traditional antidepressants? Well, there are two main reasons: one, it can be effective in helping those who aren’t helped by drugs like Prozac and Lexapro, which is a big market in need of help, and two, rather than taking weeks to kick in, it takes hours.
“It’s definitely the most promising compound in the depression space in terms of effect and durability.” This quote is from Harry M. Tracy following the findings, and his input does hold some significance, as he’s the publisher of a newsletter that follows the development of psychiatric drugs regularly.
So, there are plenty of positives that are all well and good, but the study didn’t come without its own share of controversy. For one, the experiment itself came with some risks and many experts felt it wasn’t quite ready for use, as other attempts in the past have failed. Evidence suggested that those who abuse the drug could have a decline in brain function and bladder issues. Those same experts argue that testing that drug on the severely depressed was a step too far.
Dominic A. Sisti, an assistant professor of medical ethics emphasizes this in saying “We are talking about a population that is particularly vulnerable.” Not only that, but the current iteration of these treatments is injection-based, with each infusion session reportedly costing anywhere from $300 to $1,000.
However, both clinicians in support of the use of ketamine and the patients themselves disagree. Arguing that there’s a desperate need for new drugs that hasn’t kept up with the needs of the people and that the cost is worth it. One patient reported that she was suicidal until she first tried the treatment, and it “saved her life”. She couldn’t afford to keep getting the infusions, but her depression was reportedly lessened afterward.
Again, the consensus is that the treatment is controversial. It can be easily argued that the trials are exploitative of those in vulnerable positions – depressed people who are desperate for options. However, its also easily arguable that the method is justified and only helps participants.
Since the study was conducted back in 2014, there has been some progress. The FDA approved of a ketamine-based treatment in 2019, with a derivative called “esketamine”, an anti-depressant in nasal spray form. It’s had surprising success, especially in patients who needed an alternative to traditional antidepressants. However, the infusion-based system discussed earlier is still up for debate in terms of morality and ethics. Leading many detractors to ask: did the end justify the means?