Understanding Where Ketamine Comes From

Understanding Where Ketamine Comes From

Ketamine’s popularity for medical purposes continues to grow. As the latest “trendy” psychedelic — showing great potential to help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety — that should continue. But understanding where ketamine comes from is important prior to trying the alternative treatment.

Ketamine is a class III drug that medical practitioners and veterinarians use as an anesthetic. In addition to the loss of consciousness (or anesthesia), it can produce relaxation and relieve pain in humans and animals. It may also control seizures in patients with status epilepticus, a type of epilepsy that can lead to brain damage or death.

The medical field refers to the psychedelic as Ketalar, Ketanest, and Ketaset. This anesthetic doesn’t need electricity supply, oxygen, or highly trained staff. This makes it a suitable option worldwide, even in third-world countries.

Ketamine’s History

The story of ketamine begins in the 1950s in Parke-Davis and Company’s laboratories in Detroit, Michigan. Searching for a perfect anesthetic agent, scientists discovered an interesting process. This led to the synthesis of a compound called phencyclidine or PCP, which created potent analgesia in animals.

The first human trials of PCP were by Dr. Greifenstein in 1958, a professor of anesthesiology at Wayne State University. Dr. Greifenstein and John Stirling Meyer, head of neurology at the college, concluded that PCP “produced a ‘centrally mediated’ sensory deprivation syndrome.”

In 1959, Johnstone and Evans published their clinical experience in the British Journal of Anaesthesia. The results reveal that, “Sernyl (PCP’s trade name) was undoubtedly the most potent general analgesic agent which had been used in clinical medicine.”

RELATED: How Is Ketamine Made?

Following The Research

Due to potential severe reactions in humans, it became clear that phencyclidine was not suitable for human anesthesia. Eventually, Dr. Cal Bratton, head of pharmaceutical research at Parke-Davis, promoted further synthesis of related compounds to reduce PCP side effects.

This research led to the discovery of an agent, synthesized in 1962 by Calvin Stevens, which produced excellent anesthesia and was short-acting. Following human trials, ketamine’s infant stage was born. And, in 1964, the first human administration began with volunteer prisoners at the Jackson Prison in Michigan.

In the end, ketamine began as a veterinary anesthetic in Belgium in 1963. After being patented by Parke-Davis for human and animal use in 1966, it became available by prescription in 1969 in the form of ketamine hydrochloride, using the name Ketalar.

The drug was officially approved for human consumption by the FDA in 1970. Due to its incredible properties and wide margin of safety, it was administered as a field anesthetic to soldiers during the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, that’s also when its abuse began and its psychedelic properties began to overpower some users.

Where Ketamine Comes From Presently

Ketamine is also a dissociative hallucinogen. This means it may make a person feel detached from sensations and surroundings — creating a sort of out-of-body experience. This is why it’s also a very popular club scene drug, creating a high also known as “k-hole.”

Researchers have been studying the effect of this dissociative drug on the human body for years. More recently, some studies have shown its efficacy on reducing PTSD symptoms, as well as a potential alternative therapy for treatment-resistant depression.

In 2019, the FDA approved Esketamine, a nasal spray form of ketamine treatment. This is specifically for those who are dealing with treatment-resistant depression and don’t see results from conventional treatment.

With many studies still underway, it appears we’re only scratching the surface on what ketamine therapy is and what it can become. Given its short history to this point, ketamine’s future offers an exciting alternative to standard treatments.

Karla Tafra

View all posts by Karla Tafra

Karla is a freelance writer, yoga teacher and nutritionist who's been writing about nutrition, fitness, yoga, mindfulness, and overall health and wellness topics for over seven years. She's written for numerous publications such as Healthline, Livesavvy, Psychology.com, Well + Good, and many others, sharing her love of storytelling and educating. She loves talking about superfoods and another amazing plant powers that people can benefit from if they learn how to use it properly. Her passion lies in helping others not only eat healthier meals but implement good eating habits, find a great relationship with food & achieve a balanced lifestyle. She believes that the only diet and lifestyle that's worth creating is the one you can stick to, so she aims to find what that means for each and every individual. Teaching WHY we eat, and not only WHAT we eat, is the premise of her approach.

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