Ketamine becomes more popular for off-label use, but caution still exists
A news releaseÊfrom the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses highlighted a recent study on administration of Ketamine in the ICU. It reported Ketamine use is increasing regularly as an option over opioids, to control pain and sedate patients.
Off-label use of ketamine in clinical settings has seen significant increases because of concerns regarding dependence and respiratory depression linked to traditional sedatives,Êincluding opioidsÊand benzodiazepines.Ê
Ketamine, popularly known as the psychedelic club drug Special K, has been around since the early 1960s. It is a staple anesthetic in emergency rooms, regularly used for children when they present with broken bones and dislocated shoulders. It also plays important role in burn centers and veterinary medicine.
The dark side of Ketamine, is its notorious use as a date-rape drug, due to its power quickly to numb and render someone immobile.
Ketamine works differently from traditional antidepressants, which target the brain's serotonin and noradrenalin systems. It blocks N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA), a receptor in the brain that is activated by glutamate, a neurotransmitter.
In excessive quantities, glutamate becomes an excitotoxin, meaning that it overstimulates brain cells.Ê
Although ketamine has demonstrated safe use when used for off-label indications, authors note that monitoring for respiratory depression and adverse drug effects should be routine.
The allure of ketamine's potential as an anti-depressant is strong, although it is not the only drug currently being researched for depression sufferers, especially those who have not responded to other drugs or treatments.
While the science remains unproven, we need to be careful not to let the hype overtake the research.