New Use For Ketamine Could Change How We Feel About Drugs


The famed club drug, used medically as an anesthetic drug, could get a new standing altogether very soon. Scientists and doctors are enthusiastic as Ketamine may prove effective as an entirely new and innovative way to treat depression. Since the introduction of Prozac, an anti-depressant that targets the neurotransmitter serotonin, advancements in treatment for depression have stayed relatively stagnant.

The Economist reports that recently, however, prominent psychiatrists, healthcare professionals, and scientists are turning to Ketamine as a way to quickly alleviate the symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts, possibly becoming a revolutionary treatment. It could open the door to an entirely new class of drugs for the treatment of depression. Unlike other available medications for depression, which target serotonin, Ketamine targets a neurotransmitter in the brain called glutamate. The results thus far have been outstanding, offering optimism and hope amongst people who haven’t experienced relief with standard depression treatments. Already, thousands of patients have been treated with the drug in various clinics across the country.

This breakthrough provides us with unique insight as to how, by framing different drugs as either medically useful or criminal, moral entrepreneurs are able to manipulate society’s perception of a drug and hence the people who use it. In this case, Ketamine is exemplary because it is now in a state of transition from being a stigmatized party drug to a viable medical treatment option for depression. History has shown us that the stigma surrounding drugs is not rigid, but rather in a constant state of flux, where any given drug can move in and out of illegality depending on the current social climate.

Although Ketamine is still currently undergoing the FDA approval process as a treatment for depression and other related disorders, doctors are administering it “off label”, which means using a drug for a purpose other than its approved one… sound familiar?