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Ketamine Shows 'Promising' Results On Treating Severe Depression In Seniors

The party drug could help treat depression.

23/07/2017 12:18 PM AEST | Updated 23/07/2017 12:19 PM AEST

New Australian research shows Ketamine could be effective to treat depression in elderly patients.

The UNSW and Black Dog Institute study provides preliminary evidence that Ketamine, a substance associated with recreational drug use or pain relief, was effective as an antidepressant when delivered in repeated intravenous doses, UNSW said on Sunday.

The potentially game-changing results, published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, tested different doses of ketamine among 16 participants aged over 60 years with treatment-resistant depression.

It showed that ketamine was well-tolerated by participants and that using a small injection under the skin was an acceptable method to administer it safe and effectively.

The research's co-author Duncan Georges said elderly patients with severe depression faced "additional barriers when seeking treatment for the condition".

"Older people are also more likely to have co-morbidities like neurodegenerative disorders and chronic pain, which can cause further complications due to ketamine's reported side effects," Georges said.

"Our results indicate a dose-titration method may be particularly useful for older patients, as the best dose was selected for each individual person to maximise ketamine's benefits while minimising its adverse side effects."

Previous studies into ketamine treatments for older people with depression -- which are limited to just five case reports -- have shown mixed success, with findings limited by small sample sizes.

While ketamine trials in the past have shown upbeat short-term results for treating depression, little research has been done into the long-term effects of taking the drug over a prolonged period.

According to experts, depression has been shown to cause brain cells to shrink and become less effective. It's thought that ketamine may be able to help reverse this by supporting impacted cells.

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