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Johnson & Johnson is apparently on the verge of a major breakthrough in psychiatry, with an unusual twist. It believes it could use ketamine, a popular street drug, to treat depression.
Before he joined the company, Johnson & Johnson neuroscience R&D head Husseini Manji was part of a team that learned that a particular brain receptor, called N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) played a crucial role in depression. Then it became apparent that ketamine could successively target the receptor and ease the symptoms of depression, even suicidal thoughts.
The effects were nothing short of spectacular. Ketamine had a positive effect on 70 percent of patients just a day after they were injected with the drug. By comparison, currently available antidepressants take weeks to produce actual results and even then they have a much lower success rate, about 30 percent.
At the moment, ketamine is mostly used to cure standing up straight and being able to dance properly.
Manji pointed out that standard procedure in serious cases of depression involves locking people up to keep them from harming themselves until the drugs kick in. With a much higher success rate and the ability to treat patients in a single day, ketamine could revolutionise treatment, reports Forbes.
Manji believes ketamine could be used to develop other drugs, which could be available by 2017, without the negative image and dangers associated with ketamine.