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it seems that studies have shown ketamine, normally used as an anesthetic by surgeons and veterinarians and [at lower doses] as a party drug by ravers. ketamine is a fairly popular anesthetic because it has a relatively low side effect profile [at least compared to those of other similarly effective anesthetics, which have a nasty tendency to screw with your respiratory system]. in fact, even occasional recreational users are on fairly safe ground, since harmful, long-term damage has been confirmed chiefly in chronic users and addicts. timothy leary experimented with the mind-expanding qualities of ketamine and he was pretty much a poster child for surviving psychedelic excess.
MORE CRAZY TALK AFTER THE BREAK...
the benefit of ketamine in psychiatric terms- its big advantage over traditional psych meds- is that patients seem to feel its effects right away. anti-depressants, anxiolytics, mood stabilisers and anti-psychotics all take weeks or even months to start working- if they start working, which can vary widely from one individual to another. that can mean that a patient in need of medical intervention could go months or even years before hitting on the right drug at the right dosage. and in the meantime, it's anybody's guess what they're going to do, because some drugs will make them worse, some will overwhelm them with side effects and some may "poop out" after a short period of time. that can seem like a very long, uncertain stretch to someone fighting severe depression.
readers of this blog might recall that this isn't the first time illicit drugs have shown some promise in the field of mental health. lsd showed promise in fighting alcoholism, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and even painful stress-agitated conditions like fibromyalgia before governments started to crack down on it like it was a sinkhole to hell. and crystal meth, marketed under the trade name desoxyn, is apparently the bomb when it comes to dealing with adhd symptoms. in fact, one could be forgiven for being a little suspicious that drugs that would, properly administered, give a great deal of help to people who suffer from mental illness have been right under our dealers' noses for years.
there are two basic problems with getting these sorts of drugs approved. the first is that the mentally ill are not popular. very few people want to advocate for the rights of the nutty because there is a prevailing sense that such people are either a. dangerous and should be locked away somewhere or b. weaklings incapable of dealing with the real world.
the second is, of course, that after years of a war on drugs, it's sort of difficult to go back and say that the drugs at the very top of the fear factor pyramid actually have some legitimate medicinal uses that scientists have been dissuaded or prohibited from studying [or dissuaded from distributing, as in the case of desoxyn]. because admitting that would make everyone involved in spending billions and billions of dollars none of us can afford look kinda stupid. and no one wants that to happen. except ron paul and he's probably just been saying that for thirty years because he wanted to court the stoner youth vote.
this does conveniently overlook the fact that people with mental disorders have mental disorders because their brains just don't work like other people's. the chemistry just ain't the same, which means, often, that chemicals that have a certain effect on normally wired brains don't work the same way on disordered ones. that's why paradoxical reactions to many drugs are understood to be fairly common among those with bipolar spectrum disorders. that's why giving people with attention deficit- hyperactivity disorder doses of amphetamines makes them calmer. people with mental disorders who take psychedelics are not getting high, they're getting balanced. unless they take them at really high doses. then they're getting high. but they're not getting a prescription to do that.
this is just another example, really, of the acute need for massive drug policy reform and for a great expansion of what drugs already in existence- one way or another- could be used to address widespread problems like mental disorders. many of these drugs could be produced cheaply [without resorting to cooking them in a trailer or mixing them in a bathtub], which would make them more accessible for mental patients- a disproportionate number of whom are poor. it's a very sane alternative.
the nifty diagram used above comes from this article, which looks at the use of ketamine on suicidal patients.
if you're new to the blog, or would like to have a look at what this "mental health mondays" thing is/ was about, you can view the archives here.