Scientists have found that ketamine can reduce a heightened fear response. The study conducted by Columbia University Medical Center implies that preventative treatment with ketamine administered one week prior to an event may prevent PTSD symptoms in soldiers and others who subsequently experience psychological trauma.
Ketamine is a drug commonly used as a general anesthetic or a rapid-acting antidepressant. The study authors noted that they did not advocate widespread use of ketamine for preventing or reducing PTSD symptoms. But, if the study results are repeatable, they note that a single dose of the drug may have significant benefit for people likely to experience significant stressors, such as military members or aid workers going into conflict zones.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that occurs in about 25% of those who experience psychological trauma. Symptoms of PTSD include reliving the trauma, repeated flashbacks, hyperarousal, hyperactivity, mood changes, psychological numbing and chronic physical symptoms like headaches.
The study tested when to administer ketamine in relation to a stressful event. The scientists focused on administering the drug one month, one week, and one hour prior to a stressful event. They found that one month was too long of a delay and one hour did not give enough time for drug uptake. At one week, the later impacts of the stressful event were minimized. The scientists note that there may be an intermediate time between one hour and one week that also provides some success but that it was not tested. They did, however, find that giving the drug immediately after the event did not help but giving it one hour after the event decreased fear expression, which suggests another potential window for effective treatment.
More study is planned.
For detailed information, Prophylactic Ketamine Attenuates Learned Fear, Josephine C McGowan, Christina T LaGamma, Sean C Lim, Melina Tsitsiklis, Yuval Neria, Rebecca A Brachman and Christine A Denny, Neuropsychopharmacology, doi: 10.1038/npp.2017.19,
PTSD is truly horrible in the opinion of this disability attorney. Having to re-experience a traumatic event and/or having the event impact your life even many years later is difficult to comprehend. I am hopeful that these studies provide additional useful information that minimizes the impact those, especially in our military, who suffer a traumatic event face later in life.