Drugs of Abuse: Ketamine

Ketamine, like PCP (Phencyclidin) is a dissociative anesthetic, and the idea when Parke – Davies laboratories synthesized it was to actually replace PCP, as PCP had severe side effects. Ketamine was a promising compound since it had a shorter half-life, but then ketamine had its own side effects, most notably hallucinations and the striking “near death”and body detachment experience that people report at higher doses. This is what is commonly referred as the “k-hole”.

Ketamine (and PCP as well) is an antagonist of the NMDA glutamate receptor, which is a key receptor in the consolidation of certain types of memories. Interestingly, it seems that ketamine may be producing some of its effects not by blocking NMDA receptors, but through opiate (or other) receptors.

Both PCP and ketamine can produce effects that resemble those associated with schizophrenia, so they may give some insights into the mechanisms underlying this disorder.

Last but not least, Ketamine is also an antidepressant, and a fast acting one. That in itself is remarkable, since most classic antidepressants target serotonin or norepinephrine pathways, not glutamatergic ones.

And Mozart’s Requiem will play / On tiny speakers made of clay

some sources:

Wolff & Winstock

Li et al.

Marek et al.