Ketamine, also known as “Special K,” is a powerful dissociative hallucinogen which causes a user to feel completely detached from the world, their perceptions of sight and sound completely distorted by the drug. It has been reported by drug users that it provides an almost instantaneous relief from depression, and these reports have been followed up by scientists doing real research. This research has shown that the claims of ketamine’s almost miraculous antidepressant properties are indeed true, and that this “club drug” may be the solution to depression.
For the past 40 years, since the discovery of Prozac, the treatment of depression has not changed, and for many people the traditional drugs do not work. Most traditional antidepressants work by decreasing the reabsorption of seratonin and allowing normal cellular communication to happen. This can take weeks for the process to start in a way that is observable, and it doesn’t always work. Ketamine allows the brain to quickly regrow neural connections, but it unfortunately also causes hallucinations so it should not be used as a common drug.
The structure of a drug is a hugely important part of how the drug affects the brain, so by observing the structure of ketamine scientists can develop other drugs that treat depression in the same way that ketamine does but without the side effect of hallucinations.
Ketamine is absorbed extremely quickly into tissues such as brain tissue when put in the body parenterally (through a means that is not the mouth), which is what causes the very fast relief from depression. The fact that ketamine is a relatively small molecule compared with many drugs such as Lipitor, Prograf, and amoxicillin would account for the quick absorption. A drug that works in a way similar to ketamine would have to be of a similar size, and with a similar structure to allow it to work with the same chemicals in the brain that ketamine does.