Can Ketamine Treat Depression?
Can Ketamine Treat Depression?

Billionaire Elon Musk said he believes ketamine is a "better option" for people who are dealing with depression than the more widely prescribed antidepressants.

"Depression is overdiagnosed in the U.S., but for some people, it really is a brain chemistry issue," Musk wrote on Twitter Tuesday in response to a user who asked if the social media platform had gone "woke" due to a mental health-related community note.

"But zombifying people with [selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors] for sure happens way too much. From what I've seen with friends, ketamine taken occasionally is a better option," the former Twitter CEO added.

Before his tweet, the Wall Street Journal published a report claiming that Musk has told people he is taking small doses of ketamine to treat depression.

The billionaire also takes full doses of the drug at parties, the publication reported, citing people who have witnessed his drug use and others who have direct knowledge of it.

International Business Times could not independently verify this information. Musk did not respond to WSJ's request for comment.

Ketamine, in the form of pills or through infusions, is sometimes prescribed by doctors to treat depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the outlet.

First used in Belgium in the 1960s as an anesthesia medicine for animals, ketamine was approved as an anesthetic for people by the Food and Drug Administration in 1970.

Dr. Ken Stewart, whose clinic gives patients with treatment-resistant depression research-based ketamine infusions, told WebMD that doctors realized that the drug had powerful effects against depression and suicidal thoughts after it was used to calm agitated patients who attempted to kill themselves.

"Someone is trying to jump off a bridge and they give him ketamine in the ambulance to calm him down and 9 months later, he says, 'I haven't felt suicidal for 9 months,'" Stewart, an emergency physician and founder of Insight Ketamine in Santa Fe, New Mexico, told WebMD.

"When enough stories like that started to pile up, doctors said, 'Maybe there's something here,'" he added.

The drug causes what doctors call a "dissociative experience" and what others would refer to as a "trip," which led to it becoming a famous club drug.

"Ketamine can produce feelings of unreality; visual and sensory distortions; a distorted feeling about one's body; temporary unusual thoughts and beliefs; and a euphoria or a buzz," Dr. John Krystal, chief of psychiatry at Yale-New Haven Hospital and Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut, said.

The doctors said casual use of ketamine would not treat depression, but they were able to develop a protocol for medically supervised use of the drug that may help people who don't find other medications effective.

According to WebMD, doctors recommend that patients who take ketamine for depression should still continue with their psychotherapy and their regular antidepressant regimen.

Stewart said that at his clinic, patients undergo a process called integration in which a medical professional talks to them following ketamine treatment.

"It's my sense that this is important," Stewart said.

"When people come out of this really profound experience, they have a lot to say, and these are people who have a lot of baggage and a lot of experiential pain. A lot of times, ketamine leads to an unpacking of that baggage," he added.

Krystal called ketamine an "intervention" and said that the "treatment" for depression is much broader and could take weeks and months and additional doses.

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