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One of the difficulties in treating depressed patients is that drug treatments can take weeks before the beneficial effects are seen.

Sungho Maeng, affiliated with the Laboratory of Molecular Pathophysiology and Experimental Therapeutics, Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, and Department of Health & Human Services, Bethesda, Maryland, and associates, studied the use of ketamine as possible treatment for depression.

Ketamine is used in general medicine as anesthetic and has recently been shown to produce improvements in depressed patients within hours of administration. Research indicates that ketamine depends on AMPA receptor stimulation, which suggest that it might have rapid antidepressant properties.

Maeng suggest that by aiming new medications at more direct targets, like AMPA, it might be possible to bypass some of the roundabout routes that current antidepressant medications need. Even though ketamine and SSRIs eventually end up doing the same thing, but SSRIs take the long path to accomplish the task.

Ketamine is not without its drawbacks. Its use can produce transient changes in perception and impairments in cognition. It is in the same class of drugs as phencyclidine (PCP), which can cause hallucinations among other side effects.

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