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Study shows anaesthetic effective in treatment of depression

Since ketamine was first synthesized in 1962 it’s had various medical and recreational uses. Normally used as an anaesthetic, it has particular value in veterinary science due to its ability to sedate animals without suppressing respiration nor cardiovascular functions. Now researchers at the University of New South Wales and the Black Dog Institute are exploring new uses for the drug.

Led by professor Colleen Loo, a pilot trial has been completed on the use of ketamine to treat treatment-resistant depression in older people.  The results, published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, suggest ketamine is effective as a treatment for depression when delivered in regular, repeated intravenous doses.

Lead author professor Colleen Loo said “Not only was ketamine well-tolerated by participants, with none experiencing severe or problematic side effects, but giving the treatment by a simple subcutaneous injection (a small injection under the skin) was also shown to be an acceptable method for administering the drug in a safe and effective way.”

This breakthrough addresses some of the complexities of treating depression in older people such as side effects of tricyclics, the way anti-drepressants interact with medication for other age-related illnesses and a reduction in efficacy due to an aging brain.

The study was a collaboration between UNSW Sydney, Black Dog Institute, Royal North Shore Hospital, The Wesley Hospital Kogarah, the Dementia Collaborative Research Centre and the University of Otago.

Professor Loo is currently recruiting 200 adult participants for a broader trial into the use of ketamine to treat depression which will be carried out across seven sites in Australia and New Zealand.

For more information and to register for the trial.

For mental health support, contact Lifeline at 13 11 14 or beyondblue at 1300 22 4636.

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