Researchers look at therapeutic benefits of ketamine

The largest trial into the use of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) in the UK in more than 30 years will look into how the use of the Class C drug ketamine might reduce the side effects of ECT for those being treated for severe depression.

Both ECT and ketamine are both known to have benefits as and as rapid and effective treatments for Treatment Resistant Depression (TRD).

However ECT can be associated with confusion and impaired thinking ability and memory. Ketamine, also known by its street name of 'Special K', is used as an animal and human anaesthetic and sometimes for pain relief but cannot be used on its own as a treatment for depression. Small studies have suggested that combining ketamine with ECT can protect against the detrimental effects of ECT on and hasten the speed of getting better from depression, but a proper large scale trial of the combination is needed before it is used in clinical practice.

It is particularly hoped that ketamine will reduce the longer-term loss of past memories, including – which may include memories of childhood holidays, growing up and early life – that some people experience with ECT and which can be very distressing. The researchers also want to know whether ketamine will increase the rate improving , which may mean that fewer ECT treatments are needed. An optional part of the study will be to include brain imaging to understand better how ketamine might be working in the brain.

Professor Anderson said: "It's a great opportunity to really study ECT and see how we can improve it. ECT is the most effective treatment we have for severe and – but it can cause cognitive and memory difficulties as a side-effect. This is one of the reasons why not everyone who could benefit from ECT receives it, or is even offered the opportunity to have it. We believe that by combining ketamine with ECT these side effects on thinking and memory will be reduced or even prevented completely. This may make ECT a more acceptable option in the future."

Ketamine will be given alongside the received during ECT, and those taking part in the study will be randomised to either receive ketamine, or a placebo (dummy) injection.

Recruitment has just started for the trial, which is looking for 160 participants, all of whom will need to have been referred for ECT by their consultant. Those who do take part in the clinical research trial will help researchers find out whether ketamine should be given routinely with ECT and may help develop better treatments in the future. Participants may also experience direct benefit from less cognitive impairment after ECT and perhaps a faster improvement in their depression (if they receive ketamine).

More information: www.ketect.org/

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

'Special K' could relieve depression

Jun 07, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Recreational drug and anaesthetic, ketamine, is being trialled in people with severe depression and is providing almost instant relief from symptoms, offering fresh hope of a quick new ...

New depression treatment may avoid side effects

Oct 23, 2012

In an Australian first, researchers are studying Magnetic Seizure Therapy (MST) as an alternative treatment for the 30 per cent of patients suffering from depression who don't respond to traditional treatment.

Recommended for you

Research shows seven-year-olds can think strategically

34 minutes ago

(Medical Xpress)—A study by Melissa Koenig of the University of Minnesota and colleagues shows that by the time they reach the age of seven, children can think strategically, in an adult manner. The researchers ...

Discovery hints at why stress is more devastating for some

4 hours ago

Some people take stress in stride; others are done in by it. New research at Rockefeller University has identified the molecular mechanisms of this so-called stress gap in mice with very similar genetic backgrounds—a ...

Family dinners reduce effects of cyberbullying in adolescents

16 hours ago

Sharing regular family meals with children may help protect them from the effects of cyberbullying, according to a study by McGill professor Frank Elgar, Institute for Health and Social Policy. Because family meal times represent ...

The Edwardians were also fans of brain training

22 hours ago

Brain-training programmes are all the rage. They are part of a growing digital brain-health industry that earned more than US$1 billion in revenue in 2012 and is estimated to reach US$6 billion by 2020. The extent to which they actually improve brain function re ...

Report advocates improved police training

Aug 29, 2014

A new report released yesterday by the Mental Health Commission of Canada identifies ways to improve the mental health training and education that police personnel receive.

User comments