Promise in ketamine
Sold as a grainy white or light brown powder. Looks similar to cocaine but is a very different drug.
The anesthesia medication ketamine is showing increased promise as a treatment for people experiencing depression who haven’t found relief with other prescription medications.
Though ketamine is known for its recreational use as a party drug, it can also be prescribed legally by doctors. In recent years, ketamine has become more accessible for those struggling with depression. In 2015, there were fewer than 60 ketamine clinics in the U.S. Three years later, there were more than 300, according to the journal of Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences.
But ketamine’s unique status can create problems for patients. Ketamine’s use for depression is off-label and it is typically not covered by health insurances. Because of this, “there are some access issues,” said Dr. Panagiota Korenis, a psychiatrist and associate professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
“It’s often limited to a subset of the population that can pay out of pocket or be a part of a trial,” she said.
There are also certain risks associated with ketamine.
For those who are unable to get into a clinical trial of psychedelics like MDMA and psilocybin, KAP may be the closest legal equivalent.
“Ketamine works for depression and suicidality — it works quickly, it’s safe,” said Mandel. “For the other medicines, we just don’t know. They seem to have great early promise, but we do need a lot more data and a lot more time before we can fully embrace them.”