Ketamine, also known as 'VITAMIN K, SUPER K, SPECIAL K, K, GREEN, DONKEY DUST' is a N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA)-receptor antagonist that has become the drug of choice for a number of people involved in the 'clubbing scene'. It was developed in 1962 and was originally used as a general anesthetic, but in the 1970′s and 1980′s Ketamine became illicit. It is popular thanks to its pain dulling effects.
We don't know much about the long term effects of chronic Ketamine. One study by Dillon et al (2003) showed memory problems, trouble speaking and increased body temperature which resulted in people reducing their use or stopping altogether.
More recently Ketamine has hit the headlines in other ways. A team of researchers at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust have used Ketamine to treat depression in a sample of people with treatment-resistant depression. They gave patients doses of Ketamine over 40 minutes on up to six occasions. The article published in Journal of Psychopharmacology tested the drug on 28 people with major depression who had had many episodes throughout their lives.
Eight of the people treated had a very quick improvement. Nearly 30% of all people in the study had 3 weeks relief and 15% of patients had a positive outcome at two months or more. Researchers warn against viewing the outcomes as a 'cure all', as a number of the patients continue to experience symptoms within a matter of days. However, Ketamine might have a role in severe depression that does not respond to normal treatments. There is a chance that once there is that initial rapid recovery other treatments, such as psychotherapy, might be possible.
Chemical structure of racemic ketamine