In the club scene, ketamine is known as “Special K,” an illegal drug that causes an intense high and dissociative effects. But the medication also is used legally as an anesthetic in hospitals and is being studied for its potential to treat severe depression and suicidal thoughts.
Ketamine can induce fast-onset antidepressant effects in patients with depression, according to a study published in the Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience journal. Ketamine also may rapidly decrease suicidal thinking within 40 minutes, though response times may be slower in some subjects, and clinicians should be aware of dissociative effects and the potential for abuse, the study says.
However, ketamine continues to be investigated and at least one pharmaceutical company has applied to the Food and Drug Administration for a version of ketamine to be approved as an antidepressant for adults.