Ketamine significantly reduces severity of PTSD symptoms, study finds

A new study has found that repeated intravenous ketamine infusions can significantly alleviate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A new study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry has found that consistent doses of ketamine provide “large-magnitude improvements in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.” 

Participants in the study underwent a two-week course of infusions and reported experiencing an increase in vitality which lasted for nearly a month.

Photo: Sarah Spickernell

Widely known for its presence as a party drug, ketamine is traditionally used by medical practitioners and veterinarians as an anaesthetic. Recreational ‘ket’ induces psychedelic effects such as visions or hallucinations of smells, feelings, or tastes that aren’t actually there. Oh, and did I mention that it was originally developed as a horse tranquilliser?

The treatment of PTSD has challenged medical practitioners for decades, with symptoms ranging from nightmares and flashbacks to avoidant behaviours and depression. Currently, the most prescribed medications for the illness are anti-depressants, such as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which often fails to bring adequate relief to patients.

However, unlike anti-depressants such as SSRIs, ketamine does not interfere with serotonin signalling. Instead, the drug alleviates depression by interacting with a glutamate receptor known as NMDA. Not only has this method been found to ease depression, but the study also found that a single dose of ketamine brought rapid relief to sufferers, lasting for at least 24 hours.

The study consisted of 30 sufferers whose PTSD had been triggered by a variety of different events, including sexual and physical abuse, exposure to military combat, and even witnessing the 9/11 attacks. Each participant had suffered from the condition for nearly two decades.

With 67 per cent of patients returning positive responses to the drug and recording a 30 per cent reduction in symptoms, ketamine will hopefully be fast-tracked to assist sufferers.