Why Doctors Are Having Patients Take Horse Tranquilizers

Our more adventurous reader may have heard of Special K — not the cereal, but the street name of party-drug ketamine, a horse tranquilizer. For some time now, it’s been used as a tried-and-true treatment for depression.

According to the New York Times, doctors and researchers at Yale, Mount Sinai and the National Institute of Mental Health are touting the benefits of ketamine, saying a few hours of tripping may cause immediate, significant effects on depression.

The drug’s usefulness is spawning a whole industry around ketamine, although the pharmaceutical industry isn’t quite caught up. Doctors are allowed to use off-label ketamine, since it’s been approved for use as anesthesia, and they’ll generally start patients off with treatments every few days, then winding down to twice a month or less. Insurance rarely covers the costs of the treatment, which runs from $300 to more than $1000.

Because ketamine is generic and drug companies can’t patent it into name brands, many of those same companies are raising questions about the drug’s safety. Despite the concerns, certain doctors continue to give patients ketamine while in the office, and watch over, or “trip-sit,” their patients while they endure a psychedelic trip.

One patient, named only as Maggie, told the Times that, upon taking her first dose, she was barely able to change the music on her iPod, and little else. She said she felt she was “transported into a completely different dimension… Everything there is completely vibrant or molten.”

“Never ever ever before have I felt like that,” said Maggie. “I woke up the next morning, and I didn’t take an antidepressant for the first time in 20 years.”

In the past, we wrote about psychedelic mushrooms working to help quit smoking. Is using psychedelic drugs as psychological treatments a new trend?