Enough is Enough Series: An Hallucinogen for Depression? Psychiatry is Testing Ketamine (‘Special K’) for Depression


The article, “Special K, a Hallucinogen, Raises Hopes and Concerns as a Treatment for Depression,” by Andrew Pollack in the New York Times, December 9, 2014, tells how far afield my field, psychiatry, has really gone that it is even a consideration to use an hallucinogen for the treatment of depression.

Let’s start at the beginning. Depression is not a biochemical disorder. It is actually a manifestation of personality when too much anger gets directed at the self and crosses the line into a symptom.  See – “No its not the  Neurotransmitters, Depression is not a Biological Disease caused by an Imbalance of Serotonin.” Human suffering is not a brain problem, but a human problem. Psychotherapy addresses what ails us, not drugs. Unfortunately big Pharma and the APA have manufactured a house of cards that seems to be believed not only by most of psychiatry, but by the general public as well.

There has never been any link between the suffering of depression and biochemistry. Yes, of course, all our mental states are reflected in the brain. But they are not caused by a brain disorder. When psychotherapy addresses the salient issues, our brains then reflect a different state of mind. The brain does not lead anything. It follows.

It’s bad enough that people are subject to the SSRI’s and other ‘antidepressant’ pharmaceuticals. These are mind altering psychoactive drugs that numb and harden us. Once a person is unconflicted about being selfish and not caring, his so-called depression may seem to diminish. This is a dehumanizing process. We need to be fully human, not the other way around. Not only that, but antidepressants are very addictive. When patients try to stop the drugs, their so-called depression seems to get worse, because they are habituated to the supply of serotonin. These patients then end up believing that they truly have a brain disorder. They’ll need the drugs for life and thank god they have them.

Of course, if a patient tries to detox from the antidepressants they commonly have horrific withdrawal symptoms that are almost never publicized. An array of frightening neurological symptoms appear when trying to detox — vertigo, lightheadedness, burning or tingling sensations in the skin, difficulty with gait and balance, blurred vision, tremors, twitches and restlessness. Sometimes there are hallucinations. Patients, understandingly, get terrified from these symptoms and conclude that something really is dangerously wrong with their brain. To detox from antidepressants has to be done very carefully, under proper supervision, over the course of a year. It is bumpy and hard.

But it keeps getting worse. Eventually patients get habituated to the antidepressants. They don’t seem to be working. The supply ceases to keep them numb. They need more serotonin. The psychopharmacologists then expertly add in other antidepressants. Than maybe a benzodiazepine. Or maybe an antipsychotic. And if the ‘depression’ gets really bad, they may need to be shocked.

And now we turn to hallucinogens as one more agent to treat a synaptic-biochemical disorder that doesn’t exist? The fact that it is even a question as to whether Special K might be constructive is absurd. Dr. John H. Krystal, chairman of psychiatry at Yale and a pioneer in the study of ketamine for depression says,“ Synaptic connections that help us to cope seem to grow back.” I would be very interested in finding a synaptic connection to help us cope. Depression is not a synaptic problem in the first place. Pharmacologists have redefined the hallucinogenic effects as side effects. They say, “Pharmaceutical companies hope to solve the problem by developing drugs that work like ketamine but without the side effects, which are often described as out-of-body experiences.” This is nonsense. We are talking about a hallucinogen here. What’s next, LSD for depression?

We have a huge drug problem in the United States, both illegal and legal. Cocaine was in, disappeared, then came back with a vengeance, advertised as having no negative effects, no addiction, just a free high. Amphetamines were huge in the sixties and seventies and then fell into disrepute, only to be resurrected and promoted again for the fictitious ADHD. Marijuana is back, becoming legal, and is far more powerful and destructive especially for teenage brains. And on its heels we want to bring back the psychedelics? Hallucinogens are incredibly disruptive to the very intactness of the personality.

I never fail but to be amazed that so many people are genuinely concerned about what they eat and drink, and are careful to not put toxins in their body. And they tend to be at odds with and suspicious of huge corrupt organizations. And yet with drugs, this is completely disregarded, and people swallow what Big Pharma puts out there.


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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  1. While I fully agree that “depression” is not a biochemical matter, there is a robust literature – including works like Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception – addressing the notion that positive altered states, including those induced by hallucinogens- can be helpful in personal growth. So while I’m not endorsing the use of ketamine for “depression,” I don’t think we should dismiss hallucinogens as potentially useful tools for people experiencing emotional distress. As someone who has been labled with “depression,” I personally have benfitted greatly from such experiences over the decades.

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    • Probably a good idea to stay away from marijuana until some has a core sense of who they are as a person. Marihuana is not free of risks, especially at higher THC levels. Of course the drug war is disastrous. I sense that Uruguay has a better handle on the issue than Colorado and Washington state.

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    • Humanity (and not only – some animals too) have used narcotics since the dawn of our species. I don’t think there is anything wrong with drinking alcohol, smoking a joint or even taking a pill once in a while. But if that is being marketed as a “medicine” to fix your brain and that for people who are vulnerable and who yearn for something to relieve the stresses of their daily lives – it’s a recipe for disaster.

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  2. I never tried Ketamine, cat tranquilizer no thanks, but having listened to hundreds of addicts in recovery talk about drugs I have never heard one say it’s much of a good time. The same can be said about opiates and benzos. No one ever has a good time story about that stuff. Only misery.

    But bring up the subject of LSD or Mushrooms with anyone who has tried that and get ready for a long animated 25 minute story of the positive experience they had. I don’t think Ketamine is anything like Acid and mushrooms.

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    • Marijuana, moderate alcohol, and maybe six mushroom trips describe my college drug experimentation. Maybe sometimes I find myself developing a superior attitude-not a good thing-but seemed more wholesome than wasting money had over fist at “clubs'” alcohol blackouts, and making every day an excuse to get drunk.

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    • Different people have different responses to these drugs. One can have good trips and bad trips even on the same drug. Depends on a person and the state of mind they are in.

      In shamanism narcotics were used with care and people taking them were guided by a shaman who was there to make sure no harm occurs. Psychedelics can for sure help in overcoming personal crisis but they have to be used with care.

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  3. How do we interpret the fact that drugs like Cipro, Accutane, interferon, and barbiturates can create or cause serious depression in certain individuals? Is this not a “biochemical disorder”, even if it has been induced by a drug? It may induce the same symptoms that a stress induced or anger based or trauma based depression shows. How, then do we separate the two? One should not be labelled as depression? And, would “psychotherapy” address the drug-induced depression of there were no “issues”, but definitely brain dysfunction or an altered reality?

    Not sure depression can be simply characterized as a “manifestation of personality when too much anger gets directed at the self”? Seems like a rather one size fits all description for the cause of depression?

    I totally agree with your comments about how people are unnecessarily drugged, suffer withdrawal, or iatrogenic worsening of their “condition” culminating in poly drugging or shock. It is a nightmare happening to too many people, including teenagers, who are misdiagnosed or simply needing life style changed or a compassionate individual to listen to them and help them find ways to deal with their altered states or distressing emotions.

    Why has there been so much press lately about using LSD, magic mushrooms, and ketamine?
    Because the “other” toxic mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, benzos, etc. clearly do not work? And, the hallucinatory experience is being touted to “reduce hyper connectivity”, “reduce rumination”, ” treat addictions”. How do we put this ” research” into perspective?

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    • Most of this research can be summed up as “People feel better when they take drug X.” Until and unless there is a mechanism to explain what is wrong and how the drug is fixing it, they’re grasping at straws here. I feel more relaxed when I drink a beer, and I’m sure there are some biological reasons beer relaxes me, but it doesn’t mean it’s fixing something wrong. I am sure from your writing you agree, but that’s my answer to how we put this research into perspective. And I agree with your thought that they need new substances and processes to patent because the old lines are tapped out and won’t sell any more, since people are catching on to the scam.

      As to drugs causing pathological psychological states, this is certainly true, and I agree 100% that saying all forms of depression are psychological/spiritual is a generalization that is not always true. However, it does appear that MOST depressive episodes are amenable to being worked through by psychological counseling, coaching, changing life circumstances, rallying support, and taking time to develop new coping skills. I think it’s always good to check for signs of other problems like diabetes, low thyroid, sleep disturbances, dietary deficiencies, etc., but those are all things that can be tested for. And of course, drug side effects should always be suspected if someone is taking any medication at all, regardless of its purpose.

      Basically, I would say that none of it should be labeled as depression, except as a vernacular way of talking about how we feel. The big mistake is thinking or postulating that all “depression” has the same cause and that the same approach is needed regardless of the cause. But without that assumption, psychiatry doesn’t have much left to call psychiatry.

      — Steve

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  4. As someone who spent several excrutiating years trying to get off of SSRIs and was finally able to do so with the help of guided psychedelic work, I am inclined to disagree. Psychedelics (or hallucinogens) are not drugs you take every day or become addicted to, but, over the course of the several hours during which they are active (and have very minimal physiological effects), can help people to understand their own minds better and shift their way of thinking and consciousness more generally. I, for instance, was able to see and experience how depression is a lid under which anger and other strong emotions become burried, and also to see the depth of beauty and love that is available in the world and in my self, and carry that knowledge–I would say wisdom–with me and hopefully will never forget it.

    I have never used ketamine and do understand that it is different from other psychedelics, but everything I have read that is not ideologically driven and with a filled with pre-existing agenda, as this piece certainly seems to be, suggests that it can be very helpful for some people with serious depression. Surely it should be used with care and caution, as any treatment should be, but to dismiss it in this way seems closed-minded.

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  5. Ketamine is nothing like most psychedelics. It is both reckless and naive for you to dismiss the therapeutic value of hallucinogens. It also shows how sheltered you and most of the psychiatric profession are to the experience of altered states. Many of my friends tripped and went on to great success as adults. Those of us who did not uniformly came from the most broken and abusive homes. The psychedelics I did helped me, much like meditation, in coping with my onset of schizophrenia.

    When will you people
    Is not

    By a family
    The first
    10 years of my life
    Caused my

    Not any substance
    I tried
    In my adolescence
    In a futile
    To escape my past
    My present
    And a fear
    To face my future.

    This shit isn’t rocket science.

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    • Thank you, S, and especially for your comment about “altered states.” I find “hallucinogen” to be a misnomer and prefer “psychedelic,” which means mind-manifesting, because what these substances do is disrupt our normal protective, restrictive perceptual filters, this giving us a wider range of perceptual and experiential “data,” both internal and external (both, of course, moving through “mind). What you point to, I think, is that these states are simply altered, and arguably enhanced, rather than distorted or illusory, as the name hallucinogen would suggest. Most societies historically have recognized that these states can be extremely valuable. Only in the straightjacket of the modern, western, capitalist mindset are these states seen as inherently dangerous or wrong.

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  6. Imagine a number of severe looking, lab-coated people standing around a typewriter at which a chimpanzee is enthusiastically bashing away with reckless abandon, all regarding both the machine and the senseless garble coming out of it with matching expressions of puzzlement and wonder, while ignoring the primate entirely, and you’ve got a pretty clear view of what is wrong with psychiatry.

    As Doctor Berezin points out, the problem which lies at the heart of the matter is the misinterpretation of effect for cause. In most fields of research and science a theory is either vindicated, modified, or abandoned as the underlying postulate is subjected to methodical scrutiny in the pursuit of empirical evidence. Only when such evidence has been obtained is the theory considered a fact. Psychiatry is almost unique in that it has achieved almost complete legitimacy, both legally and in the public conscience, despite the fact that its “theories” remain entirely unproven. One need only sample the technical literature to see that this is the case. Psychiatric texts are universally replete with phrases such as “it is believed”, “we don’t yet fully understand”, “evidence is mounting that suggests” and “there is still much research to be done”. Ironically, this open admission that its claims are still largely mere assumptions seems to have little impact on the willingness of most concerned to take it all at face value. In fact, an entirely new set of standards seems to have evolved to deal exclusively with this subject. If psychiatry can be credited with having achieved something truly remarkable, it is not the discovery of the source of mental illness, but the wholesale corruption of the scientific process itself.

    One thing that HAS been proven is the relationship between the trust a person places in a cure for his or her maladies and the subsequent effectiveness of it. Trials pitting sugar pills against psychotropic drugs make a very strong case for the abandonment of the later altogether. This experiment could be extended. It would be interesting to see the results of a drug trial in which each patient is first administered their “medication”, then told it will have no effect at all on his or her condition. Such an experiment would of course be the height of cruelty, and thus entirely unethical; a fact that speaks volumes in its own right.

    As for those who claim that drugs have played a positive role in their own battles with mental illness, I would first point at the paragraph above, and then ask the question: at what price have these benefits come to others? Which is to say, if it is not understood why some benefit while others do not, and all risk serious side-effects either way, is there not a moral as well as scientific imperative to discontinue their use? After all, a “solution” which does more harm than good in the aggregate is, by definition, no solution at all.

    As for the debate about the nefarious relationship between psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry, why are we even having it? The real debate, the ONLY debate we should be having, is the one which, if honestly concluded, would relegate the entire hoax to the dustbin of history and open the door to the discovery of an actual solution.

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    • ” If psychiatry can be credited with having achieved something truly remarkable, it is not the discovery of the source of mental illness, but the wholesale corruption of the scientific process itself”

      And even more remarkable is that even though psychiatry’s corruption of the scientific process itself can be explained in language an eight year old can comprehend, psychiatry has successfully hijacked children suffering from rare diseases from their pediatric medical specialists on the grounds that these rare diseases so elude the rigors of scientific evidence to prove their existence, they must be psychiatric disorders. Should parents balk at this new belief of psychiatry that has already been translated into valid diagnostic criteria with enough weight to remove children from the custody of parents who are *unbelievers*, they [parents] will quickly find themselves in a vortex of suffering that produces the symptoms of *mental disorder* psychiatrists then use to validate their initial transgression from the scientific method’ and subsequent belief that the parents are really the problem [cause for child’s receiving unneeded care from real doctors].

      Beliefs are very powerful, as you point out in your discussion of the placebo effect, but it is the power of belief that supports the entire hoax, that, as you say, and I totally agree, should be relegated to the dustbin of history. The belief that scam artists and their life threatening hoaxes should be licensed to practice medicine, is a good topic for debate. The belief that psychiatry must continue to serve as minions for our flailing, corrupt capitalist system is another good topic for debate.

      We know that the nefarious relationship between psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry is a multi billion dollar proposition. What might a nefarious relationship between psychiatry and the health care insurance industry produce? I propose that the hijacking of complex medical patients, who are also high end medical insurance users, might be a service for which psychiatry would be greatly rewarded, by the second most wealthy industry in this country ?

      I agree with everything you have presented, but suggest there are a few steps that must be taken before we can open a door to the discovery of a solution, that is; BELIEVE in the integrity of our community of medical professionals [to oust psychiatry from their midst] and BELIEVE in our criminal justice system [to punish perpetrators of fraud, who have exhibited depraved indifference for human life].

      The value of ketamine as a mood or mind altering therapy for *depression* is a separate issue from psychiatry putting itself in the equation as authorities on the matter. As you say, enter psychiatry, exit scientific process and humanistic analysis.

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      • The complicity of medical doctors in proliferating the subscription of psychotropic drugs is indeed problematic. That there has been no unified stance by the medical community against the infiltration of their ranks and the perversion of their field is truly disappointing. Had such a stance been made at the outset, it might have had a significant impact. Sadly, the gate was opened and the integrity of the profession seems to have gone the way of Troy. I don’t know the technical details, but I’m assuming medical doctors are now legally obliged to reach for their prescription pads as soon as a patient utters one or more of the fateful words associated with mental illness. I know a woman who was prescribed a heavy tranquilizer by her MD to treat her growing anxiety at feeling constantly lethargic. Her mother, frightened into action by the list of potential side effects, took both her daughter and the medication into their local Accident and Emergency ward where she was quickly diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the white blood cells. Such examples abound, and will only grow in number with the increase of drugs and the “diseases” they claim to treat.

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  7. Reading this: “Dr. John H. Krystal, chairman of psychiatry at Yale and a pioneer in the study of ketamine for depression” – so Googled his name plus “…patent ketamine” and … guess what? http://patents.justia.com/inventor/john-h-krystal Note he also is editor of Biological Psychiatry where the experimercial is published http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3671489/ – enough said, it’s a marketing push, is the reason for it all. The names on the patents very revealing.

    Btw re Depression, this is invaluable: The Depths: The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic – http://www.amazon.com/The-Depths-Evolutionary-Depression-Epidemic/dp/0465022219

    best wishes to all, rob purssey

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  8. Ketamine I once probably works, if it does, by rapidly increasing intracellular magnesium. There is some evidence to suggest, what ever the psychocial origins of depression at the bio-cellular level, chronic stress may be wreaking havoc with glutamate and overloading the neurones with calcium. Magnesium, reduces the intracellular calcium, and reverses the effect. So why not just take some magnesium supplements or improve your diet? There is an interesting paper by Eby and Eby, Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatment, Medical hypothesis 2006, 67, 362-370 if anyone is interested. It makes a whole lot more sense than this macho, brain damaging medical culture of giving people a horse anaesthetic and calling it a treatment.

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    • Hi Jeremy,

      For the same reasons that patients are given fish oil to supplement Prozac instead of starting with the supplements first. Unfortunately, your colleagues seem to like to start with the heavy hitters first although in all fairness, regular doctors are getting to be like that also.

      Too bad folks like you can’t be cloned to knock some common sense into your profession.


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  9. “Once a person is unconflicted about being selfish and not caring, his so-called depression may seem to diminish. ”

    Ah, the old fashioned “blame the patient” approach. They’re depressed because they’re selfish. It was the condemnation of this extremely insensitive and outright obscene attitude toward mental illness that fostered psychiatries corruption in guiding us into this drug based paradigm of care. Even today the majority of people who side with psychiatry do so for that very reason; they’re afraid of being blamed for their problems. I’m quite sure that MY depression is caused by the multitudes of brain damage related problems I suffered throughout my childhood while being forced to take psych drugs. I would absolutely refuse to just brainwash myself into accepting what happened to me as O.K. and moving on. So, in that horribly obscene context, I guess you’re right. It’s all my fault.

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    • I didn’t interpret it the way you did. I think what he’s saying is that the effect of the so-called “antidepressants” is to numb us to the point that we become so far out of contact with our feelings and emotions that we become totally trapped in our own little world. The decisions we make no longer take into account how we might affect the lives of others around us. We are chemically spellbound and can no longer see what’s really going on.

      What he says agrees with my personal experience with these disgusting and dangerous drugs. I was on doses high enough to knock a horse to its knees. I ended up destroying my friendships because I did not, could not, care one bit about how my actions affected others. Your actions are really not under your own control. Some people would dispute this but this is what I experienced while taking these damned toxic drugs. I would be walking down the street and for no reason would walk right out into traffic, on purpose. Thankfully, all the drivers avoided me. When one of my truly good friends tried to stop me from doing this I cursed him out and told him to get the hell away from me! This is not how I would treat my friends if I was truly aware of what I was doing . These are dangerous drugs but the public think that they’re so benign and helpful. They are dangerous and destructive.

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      • I agree with Stephen, and I’ve seen this and heard this reported from SSRI users – one even had a name for it – she called it “Zolofting.” It’s basically a “I don’t give a rip” kind of state where normal social strictures on behavior don’t seem important. This might be a relief to someone who is constantly worried about what other people think, but if someone is not killing him/herself because his/her mother would be devastated, or is repressing a feeling of violent rage because s/he knows that there might be legal consequences, removing these social prohibitions can be deadly. I don’t think the drugs by themselves cause any particular behavior, but much like being extremely drunk, my observation is that they help mute one’s inhibitions and make it seem feasible to do things that otherwise might seem selfish, stupid, or dangerous.

        I don’t think that he is blaming the drug’s recipient for being selfish, just saying that normal social rules are often discarded in the “Zolofting” state of mind brought about by the drugs.

        —- Steve

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        • There’s a reason why these drugs are compared to chemical lobotomies. One of the effects of injuring person’s frontal lobes can be a partial or complete loss of responsibility and social inhibition.

          As to the issue of depression and selfishness I don’t think it’s only the drugs causing it. Unhappy people can act extremely selfish because they are so emotionally overwhelmed they don’t have the capacity to evaluate and accommodate others’ perspectives on top of that. But it’s the result of the emotional state not a “preexisting condition” and I think it may actually happen more to people who have been caring for others and taking all the burden for too long without being properly appreciated or the burden being relieved. At some point you feel so damn overstressed that you just don’t give a damn about anyone else because you need to finally think about yourself for a while. It’s often a symptom when people exist in toxic social environments and it’s their minds telling them to break free. So I think there is a “selfish” aspect to depression but I think it’s a transient compensation and a mechanism allowing the person to process their social circumstances.

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      • “I didn’t interpret it the way you did. I think what he’s saying is that the effect of the so-called “antidepressants” is to numb us to the point that we become so far out of contact with our feelings and emotions that we become totally trapped in our own little world. ”

        But his implication is that it is because it numbs people to their selfishness and apathy that it may seem to diminish depression. Along with something he says a paragraph or two above it about the symptom of depression being a manifestation of personality caused by anger toward oneself, he’s ultimately implying that depressed people are angry at themselves for being selfish and uncaring but when the drugs numbs them to their feelings they can go on being selfish and uncaring without being angry toward themselves.

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        • Yes, that was where I drew my conclusion from too.

          “Depression is not a biochemical disorder. It is actually a manifestation of personality when too much anger gets directed at the self and crosses the line into a symptom.”

          I find it difficult to accept that someone makes such fundamental generalizations about how and why EVERY person who is “depressed” is “depressed” because of a manifestation of their personality. Being told how you feel and that you are angry and need to deal with it, is quite unhelpful.

          and a little further down:

          “These are mind altering psychoactive drugs that numb and harden us. Once a person is unconflicted about being selfish and not caring, his so-called depression may seem to diminish.”

          I found the totality of the piece difficult/impossible to accept because of what I consider the offensiveness of the underlying stated assumptions which do not, I would venture to say, have any more of an evidence base than anything else in psychiatry.

          Should there be a clear evidence base for the claims I would be happy to review my opinion.

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  10. Good points. I never cease to be amazed at the number of people who wouldn’t touch cocaine, alcohol, cannabis, or any hallucinogen, but who will soak up benzos, SSRI anti-depressants, and even neuroleptics like they were candy, all because some name plate at a hospital desk is misinformed to the hilt. Did such a doctor think of cocaine, alcohol, cannabis, opiates, or hallucinogens as “medicine”, I don’t think the results would be any more promising than they are, but he would have some of these people who are presently soaking up approved prescription drugs, soaking up drugs that are presently seen as illicit, or recreational. In my book, the brain damage “cure” for “mental illness” labels is questionable on both counts.

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  11. A compelling argument with which I wholeheartedly agree but (and this is no small matter) I suffer from depression; it hurts. I had previously looked into ketamine infusions. If not for the cost I would have signed up in a New York minute. Does it matter if it works or doesn’t? Not really. After all, for many years I took multiple anti-depressants despite the knowledge that they were little better then placebos. Antidepressants were and are the treatment I can access.

    This was covered was reported in MIA’s In the News section, “Strong Placebo Response to Antidepressants Forms Even Before Drug Trials Start.” I’m willing to settle for similar with ketamine. I’ve simply been through so many antidepressants that I long ago ceased experiencing the placebo response which was better then no response at all. Still I am willing to put some belief in the hope that ketamine might lessen the pain. It doesn’t matter if the impact is organic or placebo I’ll accept either.

    Several months ago I weaned myself off multiple antidepressants and things did not get better or worse. I had expected the same. This, of course, meant that I no longer was accessing the treatment afforded me i.e. medication management. Yesterday, I decided to go back on antidepressants and was swabbed for the Genesight test. I want to believe that this approach will produce favorable results where all my trials of antidepressants frequently at dosages well above those approved by the FDA did nothing. If the choice was there I would have preferred the ketamine rather then diving back into the sea of antidepressants.

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    • Joe.

      Although I am an ardent advocate against the dangers of antidepressants and the practice of psychiatry in general, and while I also think the psychiatric model of mental illness is scientifically unfounded, this does not in any way mean that I also think mental illness is not a reality. Of course it is. And while my personal experience with mental anxiety, depression and compulsions has always been acute and easily explained, I can imagine what life must be like were such states to become a permanent or at least dominant fact of life.

      Alluding to your own views about treatment, you are of course free to make a choice in the matter of how you go about addressing your own issues. What I would say however, is that the informed choices you are making in this particular instance are not available to everyone. Thus millions of children and adults who simply do not know the facts consume these drugs on the understanding that they are no different in respect to their diagnosed condition than an antibiotic might be for an infection.

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    • Joe, If you are still interested in ketamine, look into intranasal (nasal spray). I believe it is at lower dose than intravenous and can be done with a prescription, and so much cheaper than the iv infusions. There’s been research on this at NYU and I know there are at least a few doctors working with it in New York and Boston. Good luck! Dan

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    • Why not take sugar pill instead? Or going for a meditation session? These at least won’t make you physically sick.
      Plus if you’ve been on psych drugs for so long you’ve probably developed tolerance to them and it’s hard to tell how much of your “depression” is you and how much the drugs.

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  12. SSRI anti-depressants, with all sorts of help from Big Pharma conducted studies, works no better than enhanced placebos. My feeling is that ketamine would not be likely to “work” any better than an enhanced placebo either. Of course, you could always go there, and have your fun…for awhile…while it lasted. I would worry a little though about the possible detrimental effects of that fun. People certainly have plenty of complaints when it comes to SSRI anti-depressants. Personally, I think there is a lot to be said for changing bad habits. Reliance on either drug, I imagine, could be construed a bad habit.

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  13. Dr. Berezin,

    Regarding depression, you wrote:

    ” It is actually a manifestation of personality when too much anger gets directed at the self and crosses the line into a symptom.”

    I beg to differ.
    Depression can be caused by numerous underlying physical conditions:


    And for depression that comes from psychological despair. It is certainly not *always* caused by “anger directed at self”… It’s not *always* caused by anything in particular! IMO, there are likely as many reasons for depression as there are people who suffer from the condition. Each person is unique in how the interpret, approach and deal with their life circumstances.

    You also wrote:

    “The brain does not lead anything. It follows.”

    Not always.
    A traumatic brain injury can lead to depression; so can a stroke…
    Alcohol affects the brain in a way that “leads”… ask any drunk.

    Lastly, you wrote:

    “Once a person is unconflicted about being selfish and not caring, his so-called depression may seem to diminish.”

    I guess Mother Teresa never got the memo.

    I look forward to the day when psychiatry is seen for what it is and disappears from the medical scene. But I remain concerned (beyond words) that it will one day be replaced by psychologists and other mental health professionals, who are anxious to fill a power void.

    In spite of having earned a master’s degree in counseling, and practicing for many years; I’ve come to the conclusion in (especially in recent years) that empathy and caring are best shown as *equals*. Psychiatrist don’t know squat about the human brain. Psychologists, counselors, social workers know even *less* about the human mind.

    Recover is unique for every person. Ask some of the folks on this site.

    Duane Sherry, M.S., CRC-R

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    • “Psychologists, counselors, social workers know even *less* about the human mind.”
      Mine experience too. And it comes directly from arrogance – they are not really trying to listen and understand because they have some preconceptions that can’t be questioned.

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  14. I would like to comment here to point out, as it seems to me others have as well, that psychedelic therapy, at least as they have been used in specific subsets of psychiatry and psychology – humanistic and transpersonal – work arguably in a very different way than “traditional” psychiatric drugs. In that they do not “numb” a person to their distress; it allows rather a more unfettered access to the distress, thus allowing for an often more rapid and complete processing of the psychological pain and assumptions causing the distress, and thus clearing of the “symptoms”.

    As modern, initial research with MDMA with PTSD shows (http://www.maps.org/research/mdma), often only a few sessions with MDMA (the effective ingredient in “ecstacy”) coupled with psychotherapy can be effective in taking drastic steps toward the healing PTSD.

    That being said, it can be very dangerous to do psychedelics like MDMA without caring people with personal experience of these states around you who can – if it comes to it – restrain you physically if you come in touch with very deep parts of your psyche containing aggression or deep anxiety; or at least provide an anchor to ordinary reality, and to take care of the physical needs of your body. I also think it can be dangerous to take these substances without being in the presence of people who know and have personal experiences with them, as profound, life-altering realisations can occur under the influence of them. Futher, it seems some people can become triggered to such an extent by psychedelics – perhaps people now labelled as having “psychotic disorders” or “anxiety disorders” that they would require a prolonged protective setting around them for them to be able to integrate the experience properly and return to the needs of their physical reality. For this subset of people, perhaps a few isolated psychedelic trips might do much more harm than good, and they ought not to engage with psychedelics until they can be provided with hospital-like quality and quantity of care.

    One “community” which induces “non-ordinary states of consciousness” without the use of psychedelics is the community of Holotropic Breathwork. There are groups who offer workshops in this in Europe, USA, Russia, Australia, and I think elsewhere as well. This is a kind of community where experiences and insights might be processsed without having to be labelled “crazy” by misled mainstream psychiatrists. Also, there is an essential social component to this practice, which involves sharing ones experiences in deeply humane, warm-hearted settings. I don’t think it can be stressed enough the importance of a trustworthy social setting with certified, experienced people when undergoing induced extreme states.

    I do think it would be literally disasterous if science did not take a very hard look at psychedelics and their potential for healing a lot of our human wounds. If you read the work of Stan Grof, for instance, you get the sense that the ideal approach to psychedelic psychotherapy is precisely one that allows for unconscious content to arise, with psychedelics functioning rather like an “initiator” of an awakening of the unconsious – indeed the literal meaning of “psychedelic” is “mind manifesting”, or “mind revealing.”

    Before we judge the onset of research into substances like LSD, psilocybin, MDMA, ayahuasca and more, we ought to really explore the literature around this subject with an open minded and critical attitude. I personally believe if we do, psychiatry and psychology will undergo a revolution in the way it treats “mental illness”; away from a “disease model” to a more humane, humanistic and even spiritual view of human distress. This may be several years up the road, however.

    Please reply to my comment if you have literature which suggests otherwise, or have objections to what I wrote.

    Here are several sources that can be explored.

    1. http://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-27/edition-9 – an edition that focuses on psychedelics.

    2. http://www.maps.org/

    3. http://reset.me/

    4. Stan Grof interview for the movie “Crazywise”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDlY5OcU_rI

    5. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/dr-robin-carhartharris-is-the-first-scientist-in-over-40-years-to-test-lsd-on-humans–and-youre-next-9667532.html

    6. Additionally, a trailer for the movie “Crazywise” which explores, it seems to me, the often spiritual content of mental states labelled as “psychosis”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDks1H2bzbo

    Wishing you all well

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    • Bluesky

      I agree totally. These drugs, used very carefully, may be highly valuable for healing things like trauma. As you pointed out, it’s very important to have people surrounding you who understand the drugs and their effects who can help you integrate your experiences using the drugs. I suspect that they have a lot more potential for help than all of psychiatry’s drugs combined. Of course, I may be biased since I came of age in the 60’s!

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  15. i always read with interest articles like this one. Whether its Ketamine, LSD, MDA, or EX. Psychiatry seems to always gravitate toward drugs for treatment.

    Was it John Lily that took Ketamine, in his isolation tank, with an IV drip so he could communicate with God…

    If drugs can cure you why are so many addicts uncured. And why are there so many addicted to psychiatric medications.

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    • Please consider a few things.
      1, I’m fairly sure that several people posting comments here and supportive of the potential benefits of psychedelics are not at all in line with mainstream psychiatry. I know for certain that is the case with me (see my comments above).
      2, Whoever John Lily is or was, are you suggesting that his experiment (which to my ear sounds, as you suggest, off base) is representative of other people’s experiences or aspirations? If so, why? If not, why is it relevant. My point is, of course, that there are plenty of whackos out there and using them as straw men doesn’t advance the discussion much.
      3, I’m not sure anyone above is suggesting drugs as a “cure,” but rather as potentially helpful. My own view is that they can be very helpful as part of a broader treatment strategy.
      4. The addicts you speak of are extremely unlikely to be working with psychedelics. Please note also that Bill Wilson, the founder of AA, was in favor of using LSD to treat addiction, having himself been helped to break his own addiction with pscyhoactive plants.

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  16. From what I heard they are going giving it to the ‘worst cases’ in the latest Australian trial, but I share other people’s concern.

    I can’t help feeling very skeptical about ‘clinical/major depression’, there’s just so many things that can cause a person to feel down and I really do wonder if ‘awareness’ of depression is not a plus, but a minus.

    Either way… ketamine ? So ‘patients’ will be injecting themselves ? Or coming in for a weekly injection ? Bleh. I guess it can be a case of whatever works but what is actually working ? heh.

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  17. When I was a young and probably quite crazy teenager, I spent time in this psychedelic subculture too. There were people using, or more often perhaps abusing some other substances that block NMDA receptors like ketamine does. This subculture had a term “afterglow” for that great feeling you sometimes have after a good trip. I experienced something like this when I experimented with these drugs. When I tried LSD or mushrooms, they were similar in intensity of experience compared to ketamine like drugs, though of course different. However, they kind of left me “drowned out” for the next day or two, maybe because all the stress, etc, that I went through in that experience. At that time I was quite depressed and anxious anyway.

    Those NMDA blocking drugs, however, often resulted in some sort of rebirth effect the following days, when the chemical itself had supposedly already disappeared. I don’t think it was at least entirely something more psychological that I had resolved during my trip. I think there’s some biological explanation to that rebirth or afterglow experience I got, though I don’t know what it was. It may have something to do with NMDA receptors, glutamate, inflammation, whatever. Because of this experience I had when I was young and too reckless, I think ketamine may ease depression through some mechanism we don’t yet understand. That is, I’m interested in what new studies say about ketamine relating to mental health treatment, and I acknowledge much of the stuff out there is financed and motivated by pharma.

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  18. Low dose ketamine is not an halloucinogenic/psychodelic medication. If you have known people that suffer with psychotic depression, you would understand why they are seeking something that works. I don’t know how they can tolerate living with the symptoms of the illness. Current medications are simply not effective for 30% or more of the patients.

    Here is a link to a doctor that has been treating patients with low dose ketamine for many years : painsandiego.com/

    The doctor has achieved some remarkable results with low rates of side effects.

    It is unbelievable how many “doctors” are trying to paint ketamine as some unpredictable medicine that has no legitimate use. Doctors are using scare tactics to keep folks from investigating a medicine that has as good or better of a chance at treating depression with fewer and less dangerous side effects than the medicines they are currently prescribing. I don’t know if it is Big Pharma or something else that is behind the misinformation campaign.

    With major depression, time is not on your side. Doctors will try one antidepressent/antipsychotic after another in hopes of finding something that provides some relief of symptoms without too many side effects. Side effects with some of these meds can be permanent.
    Why not try ketamine? Within a few days, you know if ketamine works and long term side effects are virtually non existent. That can’t be said for the other meds they are using.

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