To deal with high levels of work-related stress and burn-out in frontline healthcare workers, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers from the United States created a study which assessed the efficacy of micro-doses of ketamine for the treatment of acute stress disorder.
Microdosing traditional psychedelics such as LSD, psilocybe mushrooms, ayahuasca, and even cannabis, has rapidly grown in popularity over recent years. The trend is believed to have gained momentum in Silicon Valley amongst the tech executives who used sub-psychedelic doses of these substances to improve productivity.
People who microdose do so for a variety of reasons, there are reports of it aiding creativity, treating conditions such as chronic pain, depression, and addiction problems, and improving general psychological and physiological well-being.
Ketamine was first synthesised in 1956 by chemists from the USA, and was subsequently introduced into clinical practice in the 1960s. It was championed as an exceptionally safe and effective anaesthetic for a broad range of patient populations. Ketamine has many other uses within medicine, including being effective in the treatment of unipolar depression. In the USA it is the only drug licensed by the FDA that has psychedelic properties.
Also used by people around the world as a recreational or party drug, ketamine is being studied alongside previously taboo subjects such as cannabis, psilocybin containing mushrooms, LSD, DMT and others. Thousands of studies have been published on these plants and substances, all contributing to the growing body of evidence that is helping to evolve the world of medicine.
Twenty-six participants were recruited via word of mouth and email, all worked in healthcare and 16 of them were doctors, the remaining 10 were made up of nurses, therapists, students and technicians. The participants were aged between 29 and 60, all were screened for depression and had their diagnoses confirmed.
During the study, the participants were prescribed 37.5 mg of subliminal ketamine once daily, and were asked to take their dose at the end of the day as they were ‘winding-down’.
Researchers used specific assessment criteria to measure levels of depression in participants and to analyse the results. They wrote, “100% (25/25) of patients experienced improved anxiety, 92% (23/25) experienced improved stress, 96% (24/25) experienced improved PTSD, and 91% (20/22) experienced improved depression”. One patient was excluded from the results due to not completing the parameters correctly.
Ketamine is considered by medical practitioners and scientists to be a very safe drug, and it is favoured as an anaesthetic by some due to its shorter after-care period. This means patients can be discharged more quickly from the hospital following minor surgeries and procedures. This helps healthcare providers free-up beds and resources.
In their conclusion, researchers on the micro-dose ketamine study said “The rising popularity of ketamine macro-doses as treatment options for a wide array of mood disorders often does not discuss the burden that is imposed by these treatments, which are time and financial-resource intensive (Witt, 2021). Furthermore, many patients are averse to undergoing a dissociative, psychedelic experience.”
“In comparison, the relatively low cost and potential to scale ketamine micro-dosing, along with the minimal disruption that it poses to patients’ routines, supports its promise as an effective tool to help combat our worsening mental health epidemic. In contrast to benzodiazepines, ketamine’s apparent lack of physical dependency and safety profile further adds to its potential promise.”
In another ketamine study covered by leafie last year, the use of macro-doses of ketamine as an alternative treatment to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for depression was investigated. Researchers wrote in their paper that “We believe that ketamine infusion can be offered as an alternative treatment option perhaps for younger patients in some cases or patients who have experienced severe side effects from ECT.”
As with all small studies, more research is needed to make solid conclusions. Researchers finished their report on the micro-dose study by stating “While we cannot draw conclusions from the association demonstrated by this data, we believe these results demonstrate the significant potential of this treatment strategy, and that further research into the efficacy of ketamine micro-doses for acute stress disorders, and for mood disorders more broadly, is warranted.”