It looks like there is more encouraging news coming from drug-related studies. After the favorable news on MDMA curing tinitus, it is now shown that the popular party-drug ketamine has had dramatic positive effects on severely depressed patients who had not responded to other treatments during a study UK.

Last week the drug was upgraded to a Class B banned substance, because of evidence that it has caused physical and psychological harm to recreational users. But at the Oxford NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Oxford, researchers have observed that 29% patients that participated in a study battling long-term cases of manic depression, some of whom had suffered for more than 20 years, were noticing significant improvement in mood four to seven days after their final dose of the drug. Four of the 28 subjects  were actually completely free from depression at that point.

Dr Rupert McShane, a consultant psychiatrist at Oxford Health and researcher in Oxford University’s department of psychiatry, warned against self-medication, emphasising that patients in the trial were carefully monitored.

McShane told reporters: “This really is dramatic for some people and it’s the sort of thing that really makes it worth doing psychiatry … we’ve seen remarkable changes in people who’ve had severe depression for many years that no other treatment has touched.

Among those that responded to the ketamine treatment, the duration of benefit varied widel: from 25 days to eight months, with the median being 2.3 months. One of the reasons the drug is thought to work is that it has a direct impact on the subgenual anterior cingulate, the part of the brain where overactivity is seen in people with depression, and because it works more rapidly compared with official antidepressants, which can take 10 or more days to take effect.

Overall, suicidal thoughts among the patients diminished.

“The main thing we are having to work on now is maintenance strategy to try to prolong the responses [to ketamine],” McShane said. “It’s a controversial area but there’s no doubt that it’s got potential.”The reclassification of the drug wouldn’t be a problem according to him, since there is already wide use of ketamine in the relief of chronic pain in UK hospitals.

It is yet to be seen if the treatment will be copied in other countries as well.

WARNING: This is not a call to start using ketamine, whether you are feeling depressed or not. Ketamine is still a very, very dangerous drug that causes more harm than good in the long run. The patients from the study were all under a strictly controlled environment.