Ketamine: anesthetic, antidepressant or party drug?

For a drug known as a “horse tranquilizer,” ketamine is – scientifically speaking – very versatile. It is an anesthetic for humans and other animals.

In late October 2023, “Friends” actor Matthew L. Seven weeks after Perry was found dead at his home, the County of Los Angeles Medical Examiner determined that Perry died due to the “acute effects of ketamine”.

Secondary causes of death were drowning, coronary artery disease and the effects of buprenorphine, which is used to treat opioid use disorder.

The AP and Reuters news agencies said the autopsy report said Perry had been taking testosterone shots — she had been prescribed tamoxifen, a hormone regulator commonly taken for breast cancer prevention.

Perry’s death: a variety of legal drugs and ketamine

Investigators reportedly did not find any alcohol, illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia, but they did find nicotine vapes, nicotine lollipops, and an inhaler, as well as the injectable anti-diabetes drug, tirazepide, which is suggested Perry was trying to give up. Was using for. weight.

The autopsy report listed “non-toxic levels of the benzodiazepine lorazepam” – a class of benzodiazepine depressants that relieve anxiety and muscle spasms, and reduce seizures.

But the coroner said ketamine was the main cause of Perry’s death. Perry’s friends said he was receiving experimental ketamine infusion therapy to treat anxiety and depression. However, the dose of ketamine that caused Perry’s death was not related to the experimental ketamine therapy.

Ketamine is used as an anesthetic for humans and other animals in health care settings, but the US federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved ketamine to treat psychiatric disorders.

What are the effects of ketamine?

Ketamine is classified as a dissociative anesthetic with some hallucinogenic effects.

The effects of ketamine are very dependent on the dose taken. Its effects range from feeling “weird” and disjointed to fainting and unconsciousness.

Ketamine works rapidly and is a relatively short-lived experience – compared to hallucinations on LSD, ketamine hallucinations can last between 30 and 60 minutes.

Small doses distort a person’s perception of sight and sound, and can produce feelings of calmness, euphoria, and pain relief. This can make the user feel “unstable” and out of control.

High recreational doses produce a feeling of “oblivion” similar to a near-death experience – also known as a K-hole.

The drug can cause amnesia, which is probably one reason why it is used to “facilitate sexual assault” – as noted by the US Justice Department’s Drug Enforcement Administration.

Even at high doses, the drug becomes an anesthetic agent, causing sedation, unconsciousness, and reduced breathing rate.

Ketamine is commonly used in hospitals as a sedative and anesthetic drug for people undergoing surgery. It is one of the safest and most effective sedative medications for children who need minor, emergency procedures in a hospital.

How is ketamine used recreationally?

Ketamine comes as a liquid and a white powder, so it can be injected or snorted. Some people consume it in pill form, mix it with beverages, or smoke it.

The drug is sometimes mixed with other party or club drugs, including amphetamines and MDMA.

Using a mixture of drugs can lead to unintended interactions between drugs and expose users to higher health risks.

An analysis of current use of ketamine by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) states that “various acute and long-term harms are dose-dependent, including neurological and cardiovascular toxicities, mental health problems, such as depression, and urinary complications.” Are.” As in bladder damage from intensive use.”

How is ketamine used to treat depression?

In 2019, the FDA approved a nasal spray based on a derivative of ketamine – esketamine – combined with an oral antidepressant to treat depression in adults when other medications have failed to help.

But in October 2023, the FDA warned of “increased interest” in the use of compound ketamine products to treat mental disorders, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder – when neither Neither ketamine nor the resulting mixed drugs were approved for safe use in humans.

Generally, compounded medications are a gray area. These may be made with drugs that have been individually approved for use in humans, but the resulting compounded drugs have not been approved – that is, the new mixture of drugs has not been tested for safety in humans. Is.

Compounding, as it is known, is not itself illegal – some patients need medications compounded (remixed, if you will) if, for example, they have an allergic reaction to one of the ingredients in the original medication. Might be possible.

But the use of ketamine in mixed medications is a specific case. The FDA warns of potential abuse and misuse, which can lead to psychiatric events, increased blood pressure or respiratory depression. It advises against using any form of ketamine at home or anywhere where its use cannot be monitored by a health care provider.

Research on Ketamine Abuse and Addiction

A study published in November 2023 revealed that the subanesthetic ketamine was being falsely advertised online as a treatment for health conditions.

“Advertisers may promote intravenous infusion and/or oral formulations, which have been shown to be an emerging treatment for mental health conditions,” the researchers wrote in a paper published by JAMA Network.

“Despite the potential benefits of ketamine in treating select mental health conditions, well-founded concerns have been raised about similarity with opioid prescriptions and the risk of widespread abuse,” they wrote.

Ketamine is addictive. But this is where things get weirder still – because another study published in 2018 suggested that ketamine could be used in addiction treatment.

Studies found that ketamine has helped alcoholics and cocaine and heroin addicts stay healthy longer. But those researchers also said: More research is needed.

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