Helen and Keith are two of the patients who were interviewed by the Guardian about their experience of ketamine as a treatment for depression that has not responded to other antidepressants. Ketamine is known to be an effective antidepressant for people with treatment-resistant depression, and both Helen and Keith are being treated at the Trust’s ketamine for depression clinic, which is led by consultant psychiatrist Dr Rupert McShane.
Keith credits ketamine with helping soften his depression, such that he now has good days as well as bad ones. “My wife gets her husband back for those few days when I am normal – well, whatever normal is,” he says.
Earlier this year, Dr McShane co-authored a paper in the the Lancet Psychiatry sets out principles for responsibly testing innovative treatments for severe depression, based on treating over 100 patients with approximately 1,000 infusions of ketamine, over six years in Oxford.
Dr McShane said, “I have seen ketamine work where nothing has helped before. But ketamine is a drug not a miracle, and maintaining the benefit is a challenge. So far, the only way we have found to maintain the benefit is repeated dosing.
“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 duration of treatment works best.
“Getting the right level of oversight is important: not enough, and we risk overuse and an inevitable backlash; too much, and we leave patients in misery unnecessarily.”
Read more about our patient’s experience and our clinician’s recommendations in the Guardian.