Doctors Using ‘Club Drug’ To Treat Severe Depression

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There is a new use for a drug that’s commonly used as an anesthetic.

Doctors are using ketamine to treat severe depression. People may know it as a “club drug,” but some patients suffering from depression call it a miracle drug.

Lisa Newman, who has been battling depression for more than 30 years, says she’s finally finding relief with ketamine infusions.

“It’s completely changed my life,” Newman said. “I’ve cut my antidepressants in half, which I never thought that I would do.”

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Ketamine is a powerful anesthetic and pain reliever, known as the party drug “Special K.”

Now the drug is gaining popularity to treat severe depression symptoms.

Dr. Steven Mandel runs a ketamine clinic where patients receive small doses through infusions. He says while antidepressants take several weeks to work, ketamine kicks in within hours and the effects last up to three months.

“Many of them have tried every drug you’ve heard of, some you haven’t, and these people come to me because they haven’t been relieved by any of these things,” Mandel said.

A study recently published from San Diego researchers shows pain patients who received ketamine reported less depression.

However, many experts have questions about its long-term effects on the mind and body. The American Psychiatric Association has not endorsed it and says more research is needed.

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Mandel works with his patients’ physicians before starting treatment. Richard Hall has been doing infusions for the last seven months.

“I think ketamine is a miracle,” Hall said.

His wife says it’s changed their lives.

“I’m seeing him able to enjoy his life in a more fulfilling way than he’s been able to do in many years,” Betsy Lohrer Hall said.

Using ketamine to treat depression is not cheap.

These infusions cost several thousand dollars for a series of treatments and it’s not covered by insurance.

The Food and Drug Administration has not approved ketamine as a treatment for depression.

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