What is Ketamine?

Chemical diagram of Ketamine

Ketamine is an anesthetic agent that was synthesized in 1962 by the Parke-Davis & Company in Detroit. Unlike other anesthetic agents, it has the desirable quality of not suppressing the respiratory system and not lowering blood pressure. It found very effective use during the Vietnam war, when battlefield anesthesia and surgery were needed but artificial life support wasn’t readily available and the need to preserve blood pressure in soldiers who had suffered life and limb threatening trauma was critical.

Ketamine has long been studied for its pain relief qualities and has been known to affect the brain’s glutamate receptors, which are critical in forming and reforming connections between brain cells, a process called plasticity. Plasticity has been shown to be critical for memory, thinking and consciousness.

Unlike traditional antidepressants which take weeks to work, ketamine consistently works within a few hours and the effects of one treatment can last days to weeks. During this time, it enhances the ability to form new neural connections and new neural patterns. Over the past few years, a growing body of literature has shown that ketamine is very effective in treating depression, PTSD, chronic pain and other mental health and medical conditions.