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History of ketamine

Throughout the entire history, physicians and health care workers have been untiringly working to discover ways to make surgery and other medical-related issues less painful and improve the recovery period so that patients can return to their normal lives as early as possible. During the late 20th century, there were several breakthroughs in exploring better medicines and drugs that would give a more pain-free state and ancillary benefits. During the discovery of such types of drugs, ketamine was discovered to assist in several other ways than the standard anesthetic. In this article, we will be discussing the brief history of discovery and the purposes for which it is used.

Doctors were trying to develop a drug in the 1950s that will enable “ideal” anesthetic agents with analgesic features to be carried out in ways that can relieve the pain that occurs after surgeries and several other pain management situations too. Initially, Phencyclidine (or PCP) was discovered by Parke-Davis and the laboratories in the United States.

PCP was quite effective in providing analgesic effects in animals, however few problems developed during the testings in animals. Relaxation of muscles was poor among all the other symptoms. At that time, it was the hope that human trials of PCP might be more effective. During that time, Sernyl was the brand name given to PCP and from that onwards, it was started to be used. It proved to be a very strong anesthetic, however, a lot of side effects were reported related to this drug which proved to make the experience worse than with other drugs previously being used. Hence, it was decided that the drug was not suitable to be used.

With the advancement in research and technology, in the 1960s ketamine was developed by combining ketone with an amine. Then ketamine was investigated in 1964 on volunteer prisoners in which it was found that the patients describe experiencing feelings like they were floating in outer space and couldn’t feel anything in their limbs. The volunteers were experiencing what's described as a feeling of being disconnected. From that moment onwards, Ketamine was categorized as dissociative anesthesia.

Afterward in the 1970s, French researchers performed clinical trials for ketamine in which it was proved that ketamine is potent analgesia, but less potent and of shorter duration as compared to PCP. Additionally, one of the major concerns related to ketamine infusions was that it causes hallucinations which were considered unpleasant. The FDA approved the use of ketamine in the USA as a field anesthetic to Vietnam soldiers in the war.

Then by the end of the 1970s, there was a rise in the cases of drug abuse of ketamine with psychedelic effects plus the introduction of some other competitor drugs like Propofol lead to less use of Ketamine as a medical drug and therefore, ketamine was classified as Class III substance of the US-controlled substances act in 1999.

Recently in 2019, FDA approved ketamine therapy for treatment-resistant depression as well and since then it has been widely used. In the cases of depression, ketamine infusion therapy proved to be highly effective with positive reviews from the patients.

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