New research has revealed that a popular "party drug" could help in treating stress-related disorders such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in women.
The drug is ketamine, a central nervous system sedative used as a general anesthetic. Doctors and veterinarians use it for surgeries. Though it's a sedative only at a low dose, at higher doses it becomes a "dissociative anesthetic" — which means that the central nervous system becomes almost disconnected from the body, Dr Andrew Monte told Vice.
And this concept of dissociative anesthesia is appealing to partygoers, certainly because of the hallucinations it causes. However, the dosage is very important — too little of it will not have much effect, a little more of it can act as a dissociative anesthetic. A little bit more than that can be dangerous, and the person might fall into a coma.
Now, a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder has examined the effects of ketamine on female rats for the first time, and revealed that low doses of the popular drug are a promising treatment for depression.
"This is the first study of its kind to assess the preventative effects of ketamine on a future adverse event in females," researcher Dr Samuel Dolzani, of the University of Colorado Boulder, told Daily Mail Online. "This is of importance given the increased interest in preventative medicine," he added.
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology gave 10 milligrams of ketamine to female rats a week before they received an electric shock to their tail — an experience that should have made them less explorative when placed in a new cage the next day.
However, they found that the ketamine-treated female rats were just as sociable as the control group females rats who did not suffer the tail shock stress.
The drugs available in the market to treat depression, which can reportedly affect one in six Americans in their lifetime, can take weeks or months to start working, but the party drug took just a week to kick in.
Fluorescent proteins were also used by the researchers to show how neurons in the prefrontal cortex — an area of the brain that helps in regulating emotional and behavioral functioning — were activated by low-dose ketamine.
The researchers found that the drug combats stress-related disorders such as depression and PTSD by triggering neurons in the prefrontal cortex.
The study, published in eNeuro, addresses a critical gap in understanding and developing treatments for stress-related disorders.