It is not just therapists and the medical profession who have had their interest piqued in recent health news announcements filling the pages of media sources online and in newspapers. No, ravers around the world have been ‘cutting some shapes’ and triumphantly hugging their mates to some hardcore techno music to celebrate the fact that the word ‘ketamine’ is turning up in the headlines.

A study conducted by a team at the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, reported it’s findings in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, and suggested that the illegal party drug could have major benefits for sufferers of depression.

Ravers, particularly those from the 1980s and 1990s are publicly united with their “we knew it all along” sentiment. They also seem to share other sentiments of the conventional medical fraternity who are describing the findings of this trial as “exciting.”

The trial does show some very positive findings too. The BBC’s coverage of the ketamine trial findings stated:

Some patients who have faced incurable depression for decades have had symptoms disappear within hours of taking low doses of the drug.”

Of course, a number of therapeutic organisations have come out in opposition of drug culture to treat depression and of course favour their own modality of therapy. People just jumping on the back of mainstream media stories, eh? *Sighs dramatically and ironically*

It is not entirely without reason to swipe at the sole use of medication in the treatment of depression. Medication does tend reinforce client passivity (a majorly problematic cornerstone of depression), then there are issues with uncertain dosing and effectiveness, not to mention the potentially negative side-effects (Dubovsky, 1997; Altamura & Percudani, 1993) and habituation of the drug – I have worked with clients who have taken prozac or Seroxat (for example) for 5-10 years. If ketamine becomes a new drug prescribed by doctors, I wonder if the potential side effects they’ll advise their patients of will include a propensity for banging hardcore ‘choons’ to be played really loudly?

That said, medication can have some advantages too – it does have a faster rate of symptom remission than the most effective talk therapies and can often boast greater effectiveness in treating the vegetative symptoms, such as sleep and appetite disturbances (DeBattista & Schatzberg, 1995).

I can understand people getting excited about this trial with ketamine, it is not just newsworthy because of it’s illicit use at parties; to date, no single antidepressant has been shown to be superior in efficacy to another, so to get some results with this potential and such positive initial findings is encouraging news for many.

Therapeutic efficacy studies do show that some psychotherapies outperform others in treating depression. These include cognitive and behavioral approaches (Antonuccio et al., 1995). Us hypnotherapists do also have evidence to suggest that CBT used in conjunction with hypnosis advances the effectiveness of CBT (Kirsch et al., 1995) so it is with some bias, I’d recommend going for hypnotherapy.

It is not all positive for taking the therapy route though.

While a therapeutic approach focuses on skill-building and the associated reduced relapse rate and thus has a greater degree of personal empowerment (than relying on drug intake) (Seligman, 1991), therapy has a greater reliance on the level of competence, experience and judgment of the therapist. It saddens to me to say that not all training schools teach to the same standards and not all therapists are of the same standard.

Perhaps a more balanced perspective and consideration of a combination would be better – to make the use of the benefits of a number of approaches (medication and therapy) instead of just digging our heels in and promoting a singular perspective – which currently all have flaws.

… And let’s join in the celebration – ravers and arty-goers have been rejoicing indeed… And they have had much reason to do so in recent times….

Marijuana has been proven to have medicinal uses. Even the pages of Web MD have a section dedicated to the explanation of what medicinal marijuana can be used for health benefit – and it extends to more than just enhancing our ability to chill out, laugh uncontrollably and develop a ravenous appetite.

Likewise, as this article in the LA times shows that this year, for the first time in 40 years, LSD has been studied for it’s uses in medicine and also showed promise. Perhaps Dr Timothy Leary’s advocating of responsible use of LSD in the 1960s was not so crazy. Though I suspect groups of individuals who experienced ‘a bad trip and subsequently freaked out all their fellow tripping friends’ may sign the petition against the medicinal use of LSD.

If only Sigmund Freud were around to enjoy these developments, eh? He could suggest trials to investigate the efficacy of (his well-documented drug of choice) injectable cocaine and perhaps have slightly more than debunked pseudoscientific theory to show for his influential contribution to the mental health field.

The mind boggles as to what else could occur. Perhaps ‘speed’ has some medicinal or therapeutic benefit that is yet to be discovered? I bet the ravers are all discussing it earnestly in chill-out rooms in nightclubs in the early hours of Sunday mornings. Along with them all attempting to work out ways they can get prescription versions of these drugs via their own doctor…. Can you imagine it? A climate of therapy working in harmony with new drug prescription… Our amphetamine fuelled clients may not let us get a word in, eh? I’ll leave you with that thought, and with the clip of Spudgun at a job interview under the influence of ‘a few dabs of speed’ in the film Trainspotting