Interest in ketamine therapy for treating depression is exploding in the UK (Ryan & Loo, 2017), and there is a push to make this treatment available free of charge as part of their public health system.
Thousands of people with severe depression could obtain urgent relief if ketamine therapy were made more widely available, UK medical experts say. (1)
‘Ketamine May Be a Paradigm Shift’
“There is enormous interest and excitement in the field about the potential therapeutic effects of ketamine for severe depression,” said Michael Bloomfield, clinical lecturer in psychiatry at University College London.
Another expert, Professor Allan Young from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, hailed ketamine as “one of the most exciting developments in mental health in recent years.” He added:
We need to continue to gather evidence on benefits and harms of this treatment, but ketamine may be a paradigm shift, delivering real benefits to patients.
Patients Say Ketamine Therapy Has Changed their Lives
The Guardian spoke to Helen, a 36-year old former nurse who has had mental health problems most of her life.(2) No drugs, hospital stays or therapies have been able to help.
Once immobilized by depression, she reports she can now better handle the challenges of day-to-day life.
“I am managing my thoughts and that is what ketamine helps to do. It slows down my thought process so instead of being completely overwhelmed by all these immense negative thoughts and feelings … I can think, stop and breathe,” said Helen.
For some ketamine therapy can be a lifesaver. Karen, a 42-year-old teacher, says she took it when she was at her “lowest ever ebb” and it prevented her from committing suicide. Thanks to the drug she has even been able to return to work.
Ketamine Patients Must be Monitored
Dr. Rupert McShane leads the UK’s only ketamine treatment clinic. It serves people for whom other antidepressants have not worked.
McShane says widespread use of ketamine therapy could become a reality in the UK for those with treatment-resistant depression.
“It is possible, but not inevitable, that ketamine will eventually find a place in NHS secondary care treatment of resistant depression,” he says.
He warns, however, that for the drug to reach its potential, patients must be watched closely.
Without robust monitoring, ketamine could easily go the way of all previous powerful psychiatric medical treatments: overuse, backlash, and stigma.
In his clinic, patients monitor their mood with a daily mood assessment sent via text message using a service called True Colours. A similar service, MoodMonitor, is available for ketamine clinics outside of the UK.