Tens of thousands of people suffering from depression could be helped by ketamine, according to a medical professional.
Dr Rupert McShane, a consultant psychiatrist of the Oxfordshire Electro Convulsive Therapy and ketamine service, co-wrote a paper for The Lancet, which states "ketamine use for severe, treatment-resistant depression does not violate ethical principles."
The drug, widely used as an anesthetic, but also popular in the party scene, is currently categorised as a Class B substance in the UK. However, McShane claims it can prove successful as an anti-depressant "where nothing has helped before".
McShane has been leading a trial in Oxford since 2011, finding that of the 101 people involved - all who'd not had successful treatments in the past - 42 benefitted from ketamine.
Warning that it shouldn't be self-medicated, McShane said: "We think that patients' treatment should be in specialist centres and formally tracked in national or international registries. This will help us to pick up any safety or abuse problems with longer term use and narrow down what dose, frequency, route and durations of treatment works best."
One patient says the drug has "literally saved my life", while another says she feels less dependent on ketamine compared to another treatment.
"I definitely do not feel at all, in any way 'hooked on' or addicted to the ketamine. I have more trouble with withdrawal and side-effects if I miss a couple of doses of my (standard) antidepressant than I do with the ketamine."
This follows news from last year that the drug was getting closer to be used clinically in the United States. A month later, a study found that it led to "rapid reduction in depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation" for up to 70 per cent of patients.
Dave Turner is Mixmag's Digital News Editor, follow him on Twitter