From party drug to panacea: How ketamine became medicine’s new ...

Lifestyle

From party drug to panacea: How ketamine became medicine’s new hero

Introduced as an anaesthetic and often used as a horse tranquilliser, it is now touted as a cure for many ailments

Tomé Morrissy-Swan

It is perhaps better known as an illegal hallucinogenic party drug, but in recent years ketamine has acquired an unexpected reputation: as a medicinal substance at the frontline of scientific research.

Introduced about 50 years ago as an anaesthetic and commonly used as a horse tranquilliser, ketamine is now touted as a remedy against depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and migraines. To that list we can add addiction, after a team of psychopharmacologists from University College London revealed that a one-off dose of the drug could help heavy drinkers refuse alcohol. 

The research, led by Dr Ravi Das, centred on retraining the participants’ brains. On day one, the researchers placed a beer in front of each participant, which they were allowed to drink after they had viewed pictures of beer and drinkers. The next day, the same routine took place, yet this time before they could reach for the glass, the beer was removed and instead a dose of ketamine was administered intravenously...

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