Part of why Special K — the drug, not the cereal — became popular with some US clubbers is because of its ability to instantly improve the user's mood. Now doctors in Texas are studying if that effect can help treat cases of severe depression.
Conventional anti-depressants like Prozac are effective but take weeks, if not months, to stabilise a patient's brain chemistry. They work by boosting serotonin levels and developing new neurons. Problem is, patients who are depressed to the point of suicide generally don't have that sort of time for the drugs to kick in.
Ketamine, on the other hand, was developed originally as an anesthetic but found widespread popularity on the black market for its mood enhancing ability. According to Sanjay Mathew, head of the study, Ketamine works on "a completely different mechanism" than other anti-depressants by increasing the amount of connections between existing neurons — much faster than growing entirely new ones.
For the double-blind experiment, patients are given either a sedative or Ketamine. The results of the study won't be known for a few more months until it concludes but some patients are already reporting obvious and clear changes to their mood. Heather Merrill, one patient, describes her mood, "No more fogginess. No more heaviness. I feel like I'm a clean slate right now. I want to go home and see friends or, you know, go to the grocery store and cook the family dinner." [NPR via Business Insider]