‘I can stop and breathe’: the people taking ketamine for depression

It has a reputation as a party drug, but some patients say it has transformed their lives after no other treatments helped

When depression takes hold of Helen it feels like she is drowning in a pool of water, unable to swim up to the world above. The 36-year-old former nurse has had mental health problems most of her life. No drugs, hospital stays or therapies have been able to help.

Then one day, during yet another spell in hospital, her consultant told her about a psychiatrist treating patients with ketamine. The psychiatrist in question visited her to discuss using the drug. He warned there were no guarantees, but it had helped some patients.

Related: Ketamine could help thousands with severe depression, doctors say

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Ketamine could help thousands with severe depression, doctors say

Psychiatrists hail benefits of ‘transformational’ drug, and call for more trials to explore its potential

Thousands of people with severe depression could obtain urgent relief if experimental treatment using ketamine were made more widely available, medical experts say.

The drug has been championed by doctors and psychiatrists as a potentially life-changing treatment for those with depression who are resistant to medication or suicidally depressed. Medics are calling for more specialists centres and trials to be set up to explore the drug’s potential under controlled conditions.

Related: Royals launch campaign to get Britons talking about mental health

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Living in cities ‘puts teens at greater risk of psychotic experiences’

Findings suggest early interventions for adolescents brought up in urban areas could be valuable, researchers say

Teenagers who live in large cities could be at greater risk of having psychotic experiences, according to research examining the impact of urban life on mental health.

The finding ties in with previous studies and suggests that early interventions for young people in deprived urban neighbourhoods could be valuable.

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What is ECT and how does it work?

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest has coloured perceptions of electroconvulsive therapy, but the modern reality is different

The public perception of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is rooted in cultural depictions, not least the dramatic scene in the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in which Jack Nicholson is held down as the treatment is carried out.

Sylvia Plath’s account in The Bell Jar is hardly less brutal. Describing ECT, administered without general anesthetic, the protagonist says: “With each flash a great jolt drubbed me till I thought my bones would break and the sap fly out of me like a split plant.”

Related: Electroconvulsive therapy on the rise again in England

Related: What is ECT and how does it work?

Related: Tea, biscuits and classical music: inside an ECT clinic

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A puke bucket and an ancient drug: is ayahuasca the future of PTSD treatment?

I visited Peru to find out more about an intriguing ayahuasca study – and to have my own experience with the psychedelic brew

I’m sitting on a blue plastic, wipe-down mattress with my back to a wooden pillar. Within arm’s reach on the floor is a small torch to light my way to the toilet during the night, on the other side an orange plastic bucket to puke into. As the light fades my four companions, each with his or her own plastic mattress and bucket, disappear from view while on every side the barks, croaks, growls and cries of jungle life grow louder. Twenty minutes ago I gulped down a draught of the bitter psychedelic brew known as ayahuasca and I have convinced myself that I can feel its hot, unstoppable progress through my body, from my seething guts into my veins and onwards to my brain.

This is hardly a recreational drug experience, what with the nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, not to mention the possibility a truly terrifying trip, yet thousands now beat a path to Peru, Ecuador and Brazil every year to drink ayahuasca. Some are just looking for an exotic thrill, but others hope for enlightenment and healing from this ancient plant medicine. In the past few years, many of them have been war veterans desperate to escape the nightmares of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Related: Seeing with eyes wide shut: Ayahuasca inner visions | Mo Costandi | Neurophilosophy Blog

Related: Peru’s ayahuasca industry booms as westerners search for alternative healing

Related: Why psychedelics could be a new class of antidepressant

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Alzheimer’s: ultrasound safely delivers drugs to damaged brains of mice

Scientists at Queensland Brain Institute find noninvasive technique slows progression of Alzheimer’s disease in mice

Australian researchers say they have made a promising step in the future treatment of Alzheimer’s disease after discovering ultrasound can effectively and safely deliver drugs to the damaged brain.

Scientists at the Queensland Brain Institute found the noninvasive technique successfully penetrated the blood-brain barrier to deliver a therapeutic antibody to the brain. This then slowed the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in mice, according to a study published in the journal Brain.

Related: New Alzheimer’s test can predict age when disease will appear

Related: Dementia’s cost to Australia doubles in five years to almost $15bn

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