Ketamine has sure come a long way since its humble beginnings in the 1960s. It started as an anesthetic for animals and people alike, went on to become a recreational club drug known as “Special K”, and finally medicine used to treat not only different types of pain but also severe depression cases. These days, it looks like it’s going to get a new purpose and that is to help treat patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Ketamine to Counteract Levodopa’s Side Effects
As you probably know, Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative motor system disorder which is characterized by tremors, slowness of movement, impaired balance, and movement coordination, and limb stiffness. Sadly, there is no known cure for this long-term disease, so the focus has been largely on helping Parkinson’s patients manage the symptoms, most often with a drug called levodopa.
And while levodopa does help with limb stiffness and slowness of movement, it comes with some unwanted side effects—40% of patients who take levodopa develop dyskinesia, which is an involuntary and uncontrollable movement of the limbs, the head, or even the entire body.
The severity of dyskinesia among patients can range from small jerky movements to strong, constant bursts, and unfortunately, the only way to make the side effects go away is for patients to stop taking levodopa. However, once a patient is taken off the levodopa treatment, their Parkinson’s symptoms come back in full swing.
Researchers from the University of Arizona believe that ketamine could be the solution to the problems caused by levodopa and its side effects. About five years ago, when treating Parkinson’s patients for pain with ketamine, the UA researchers noticed something interesting: ketamine noticeably reduced the involuntary movement of the limbs caused by levodopa.
This surprising side effect inspired them to do a test on rodents with Parkinson’s disease and soon they had proof that ketamine could, indeed, make the uncontrollable movement go away completely for 3 days, returning after 10 days as baseline involuntary movement.
According to Dr. Sherman of the University of Arizona, “Ketamine has been long overlooked. Now it could prove very useful for Parkinson’s patients.”
A small Phase 1 clinical trial is in the works, and the UA researchers will use 10 Parkinson’s patients to determine just how valuable ketamine could be for solving the levopoda-induced dyskinesia.
The Future of Ketamine Seems Promising
Ketamine is being provided legally off-label to almost 250 clinics across the US, to help them treat patients with depression. The FDA is yet to approve ketamine as an official treatment for mental health and pain disorders, but the potential this originally recreational drug has when it comes to PTSD, anxiety, depression, Parkinson’s, and a number of other diseases and disorders is enormous.
According to the latest findings, ketamine could also be used as a viable alternative to opioids in the ER, seeing that in contrast to opioids, ketamine is neither particularly addictive nor does it cause respiratory depression.
Dr. Best and his combination therapy of ketamine infusions and brain stimulation treatment have helped patients with severe depression get rid of suicidal thoughts for up to seven years. Each new therapy improves the effects of the last one, boosting the overall result and helping even treatment-resistant patients.
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