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A ketamine-like nasal spray has been approved to treat depression

It’s almost instantly effective

Move over Prozac, there’s now a new anti-depressant drug available in the US, similar to ketamine (also known as ket, and sometimes Special K), which you can spray into your nose.

US officials are beginning to see the benefits of ket as a potential mental health drug. For patients suffering with hard-to-treat depression, a new treatment closely related to the trippy recreational substance, Esketamine, was approved yesterday (March 6).

According to Time, The drug is three times as potent as ket so will be given at a much lower dose. Johnson & Johnson, as in the baby oil company, will be selling the ketamine-like drug in a nasal spray called Spravato. It will only be available to patients who’ve tried at least two other antidepressants.

Most of the drugs prescribed to deal with depression work on boosting serotonin, the same chemical that is boosted by drugs like MDMA. However, drugs like Prozac can take weeks to prove effective. On the other hand, ket and Spravato impact another brain chemical called glutamate which helps restore the brain connections that help fight depression and is almost instantly effective.  This is the first major pharmaceutical innovation in depression since Prozac was brought to market decades ago.

Dr John Mann who works as a psychiatrist and researcher at Columbia University said that the speed is a “huge thing because depressed patients are very disabled and suffer enormously”.

60-year-old Robin Prothro, who was in the trial, is not the usual customer for ketamine. But, after 20 years of bad luck with other prescriptive medication for her chronic depression, the psychedelic nasal spray has made her able to get back into her hobbies.

“You can feel it coming on, it’s a strong drug,” she said. As it takes effect she sees a range of colours and shapes. “I just let the drug work. I close my eyes and my mind is amazingly quiet.”

With its potency and potential for substance abuse, the drug will be administered under medical supervision, and patients will be watched for two hours after taking it.

Read our report on how women have been using ketamine to block out emotional trauma.