Wednesday, 15 April 2015

How Does Ketamine Work and Who Does It Help?


By Sonya Collins
WebMD Feature

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD

If you’ve heard of ketamine, it’s probably for its history of abuse as a club drug. Or maybe you have seen headlines about its potential to help treat some of the toughest cases of depression.

The drug aims straight for your brain, and that’s where both its promise and its peril lies.

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It works like a flash mob, temporarily taking over a certain chemical “receptor” in the brain. In some cases and with expert medical care, that can be a good thing. But cross that line, and it’s a disaster.

That’s why experts have both hailed ketamine as a possible breakthrough for depression and lamented it for its tragic effects when abused.

Ketamine and Your Body

Ketamine got its start as an anesthesia medicine on the battlefields of the Vietnam War.

At lower doses, it can sedate and ease pain. Ketamine helps other sedatives work and reduces the need for addictive painkillers like morphine after surgery or while caring for burns.

“Outside of the clinic, ketamine can cause tragedies, but in the right hands, it is a miracle,” says John Abenstein, MD, president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

Ketamine’s Dark Side

When misused, it can change your sense of sight and sound, cause hallucinations, and make you feel detached from your surroundings -- and even from yourself. It can make it hard to speak or move, and it has been abused as a date-rape drug.

When used recreationally at high doses, people can feel like they’re in what’s called a “K-hole.” This happens when they are on the verge of becoming unconscious.

These other side effects need emergency medical care:

  • Bloody or cloudy pee
  • Trouble peeing or needing to pee often
  • Pale or bluish lips, skin, or fingernails
  • Blurry vision
  • Chest pain, discomfort, or tightness
  • Shortness of breath, trouble breathing, or not breathing
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions
  • Problems with swallowing
  • Dizziness, faintness, lightheadedness, or fainting
  • Fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat
  • Hives, itching, rash
  • Delusions
  • Puffy or swollen eyelids, face, lips, or tongue
  • Sweating
  • Feeling too excited, nervous, or restless
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness

It’s possible to get addicted or need higher doses to feel the effects. (This is less likely to happen when you get ketamine for medical reasons.) An overdose can be deadly.

“Every drug that causes any change in [the senses] has been and will be abused,” Abenstein says.

source : How Does Ketamine Work and Who Does It Help?

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