Ketamine - A Brief History, its Uses, and Possible Future

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All throughout history, doctors and other medical personnel have been tirelessly trying to find ways to make surgery and other medical issues less painful and recovery quicker so that the patients can recover and return to their lives. During the latter half of the 20th century through the current, there have been breakthroughs in finding better medicines and drugs that would provide more pain free comfort as well as ancillary benefits. During the search for these types of drugs, ketamine was found to help in many more ways than your standard anesthetic. Here is a brief history of the drug’s discovery and uses through the years.

In the 1950's doctors were trying to create or find a drug that would allow ‘ideal’ anaesthetic agents with analgesic properties to be performed in ways that would ease the pain of surgeries and other pain management situations. Originally PCP or (phencyclidine) was discovered by Parke-Davis and Company's laboratories in Detroit, Michigan, USA.

Although PCP was beneficial in providing analgesia in animals, some problems developed with the animals tested. Muscle relaxation was poor, among other symptoms. It was the hope that human trials would prove more effective. PCP was given a trade name of Sernyl and started being used. Although Sernyl was proved to be a powerful anesthesia, there were many side effects of the use of the drug that proved to make the experience worse than with other drugs that have been used. Over time it was determined that the drug was not suitable for use.

As the 1960's dawned, research continued and in 1962, ketamine was discovered by merging a ketone with an amine. In 1964, ketamine was tested on volunteer prisoners. What they found was that the patients described feeling like they were floating in outer space and didn't have any feeling in their limbs. The patients appeared to be what was described as being disconnected. Ketamine was then characterized as dissociative anaesthesia.

In 1970's France, clinical trials for ketamine proved a potent analgesia but was less potent and considerably shorter duration of action than PCP. However one of the main side effects were hallucinations which were considered very unpleasant. In the US, the FDA approved its use as a field anesthetic to Vietnam soldiers during the war.

At the end of the 1970's due to abuse of the drug with psychedelic effects and introduction of other drugs like Propofol, Ketamine was then used less as a medical drug and therefore starting in 1978 onward, it became a Class III substance of the US Controlled Substances Act in 1999.

Research continued on ketamine and it was determined that under medical supervision, the drug could be used to treat certain mental distresses. One of the uses of ketamine is to manage treatment-resistant depression. It has also been found that low doses of ketamine improves the postoperative state of depressed patients. It's been observed that ketamine possessed an antidepressant activity that it doesn't act within weeks but within only a few hours.

Ketamine has remained a crucial anesthetic agent making it possible for surgeries to be performed in a controlled, altered state of consciousness and creating a painless process. Ketamine has been found to be successful as it has developed and it has been a very beneficial drug of choice for many as an option both for surgeries and mental health treatments.