Researchers look at therapeutic benefits of ketamine

May 1, 2013

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).

Explore further: 'Special K' could relieve depression

More information: www.ketect.org/

Related Stories

'Special K' could relieve depression

June 7, 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 way to manage the ...

New depression treatment may avoid side effects

October 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.

ECT can restore quality of life for some severely depressed patients

April 15, 2013
Patients whose severe depression goes into remission for six months following electroconvulsive therapy report a quality of life similar to that of healthy individuals, researchers say.

Declining access to electroconvulsive therapy: A clinical choice or an economic one?

January 10, 2013
Horrific images from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest notwithstanding, modern electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) remains one of the safest and most effective antidepressant treatments, particularly for patients who do not tolerate ...

Experimental agent briefly eases depression rapidly in test: Works in brain like ketamine, with fewer side effects

December 11, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—A drug that works through the same brain mechanism as the fast-acting antidepressant ketamine briefly improved treatment-resistant patients' depression symptoms in minutes, with minimal untoward side effects, ...

Recommended for you

Many kinds of happiness promote better health, study finds

July 21, 2017
A new study links the capacity to feel a variety of upbeat emotions to better health.

Study examines effects of stopping psychiatric medication

July 20, 2017
Despite numerous obstacles and severe withdrawal effects, long-term users of psychiatric drugs can stop taking them if they choose, and mental health care professionals could be more helpful to such individuals, according ...

Study finds gene variant increases risk for depression

July 20, 2017
A University of Central Florida study has found that a gene variant, thought to be carried by nearly 25 percent of the population, increases the odds of developing depression.

In making decisions, are you an ant or a grasshopper?

July 20, 2017
In one of Aesop's famous fables, we are introduced to the grasshopper and the ant, whose decisions about how to spend their time affect their lives and future. The jovial grasshopper has a blast all summer singing and playing, ...

Perceiving oneself as less physically active than peers is linked to a shorter lifespan

July 20, 2017
Would you say that you are physically more active, less active, or about equally active as other people your age?

Old antibiotic could form new depression treatment

July 19, 2017
An antibiotic used mostly to treat acne has been found to improve the quality of life for people with major depression, in a world-first clinical trial conducted at Deakin University.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.