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Ketamine could help treat a host of mental health issues: UBCO

Ketamine could also help treat other disorders, like eating disorders, problematic substance use, post-traumatic stress and anxiety
UBCOketaminestudy
Ketamine was first synthesized 60 years, and has been used as an anesthesia dating back to the Vietnam War.

Local research from UBC Okanagan has shown promising results for treating a host of mental health issues through the use of ketamine.

A recent study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry analyzed more than 150 studies on the effects of sub-anesthetic ketamine for the treatment of mental illness, and determined the drug has “significant anti-depressant and anti-suicidal effects.”

Ketamine was first synthesized 60 years, and has been used as an anesthesia dating back to the Vietnam War. The substance is also used as a party drug for its dissociative effects.

The UBCO study was led by psychology professor Dr. Zach Walsh and doctoral student Joey Rootman, in collaboration with professor Celia Morgan and doctoral student Merve Mollaahmetoglu from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.

“We found strong evidence that indicates ketamine provides rapid and robust anti-depressant and anti-suicidal effects, but the effects were relatively short-lived,” said Rootman. “However, repeated dosing appeared to have the potential to increase the duration of positive effects.”

The study also found evidence that suggests ketamine could also help treat other disorders, like eating disorders, problematic substance use, post-traumatic stress and anxiety.

“What our research provides is an up-to-date overview and synthesis of where the knowledge on ketamine is at right now,” said Rootman. “Our results signal that ketamine may indeed have a broader spectrum of potential applications in psychiatric treatment—and that tells us that more investigation is needed.”

The study's authors say their work can help other researchers who are looking to study ketamine, in addition to helping clinicians considering using ketamine with patients.

“As many as one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness this year, and the reality is that existing treatments don’t work for everyone,” Walsh said. “As a result, many Canadians are curious about new approaches to help with these serious conditions.”

Walsh is no stranger to the study of substances. For years, he has published research about the therapeutic use of LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, MDMA and cannabis, among others.

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