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FDA Approves a ‘Club Drug’ for Depression; 5 Nondrug Treatments to Try Instead

WTTW reports that an advisory committee for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recommended that federal regulators approve a nasal prescription form of a hallucinogenic “club drug” for treatment for depression that hasn’t responded to other drug treatment.


While it’s true that about a third of people on prescription drugs for depression don’t respond to them, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois-Chicago isn’t sure the use of the drug, ketamine, aka “Special K,” is the right move.

For one thing, this drug also fails to work in many cases, and often fails to provide long-lasting relief. When it comes to positive, nondrug treatment, lifestyle changes are often the most powerful, including:

1. Maintaining a regular sleep cycle

2. Exercising

3. Addressing your diet and avoiding stimulants such as caffeine, drugs and alcohol

4. Stress relief

5. Maintaining healthy emotional connections with family and friends

Scientists are also turning to more novel strategies in an effort to control the illness, seeking ways to possibly "preempt, fix or rewire" the patient's brain back to normal, such as: • Light therapy, aka optogenetics, which uses light and light-responsive proteins to dial down the activity to reduce anxiety in a specific gene-altered neuron

• Deep brain stimulation, which acts much like a pacemaker for the brain, using electrical impulses to stimulate certain brain areas to regulate mood

• Electroconvulsive therapy, which has been shown to induce remission in up to 80 percent of patients and appears particularly effective for those with bipolar depression. One significant drawback is the potential for permanent memory loss

• Transcranial magnetic stimulation, a noninvasive procedure using magnetic fields to stimulate brain cells

But such devices are not the only way to rewire your thought circuits. Talk therapy, meditation, prayer and "positive thinking" have also been shown to have a distinct and positive influence on the wiring in your brain.

Dr. Hyla Cass, a psychiatrist who uses integrative medicine in her practice, places great focus on nutrition and healthy lifestyle habits. One of Cass' mentors was Dr. Abram Hoffer, a co-founder of orthomolecular medicine, which refers to the concept of nutritional deficiencies being a source of mental illness.

In particular, Hoffer used high doses of niacin (B3) to successfully treat schizophrenics. Amazingly, he was able to get many of these severely ill mental patients well enough to get married and go on to lead normal lives.

Other researchers have found niacin may also be successfully used in the treatment of other mental disorders, such as attention deficit disorder, general psychosis, anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Food sensitivities can also play a role. For example, gluten can produce symptoms of depression if you're sensitive to it. Some researchers believe that gut bacteria also play a role in your mental health.

While scientists work to explore these options more, and to look for more nondrug solutions, one thing to be aware of is that ketamine has been found in chicken, specifically in Sanderson Farms' so-called "100 percent natural" chicken, arguably the most popular meat in America.

Some consumers may feel it's not a big deal, what with all the other questionable ingredients in foods nowadays, it certainly is something to be considered, particularly when you know that ketamine comes with side effects, including dizziness, light-headedness, changes in behavior and mental status, gastrointestinal problems and severe allergic reactions.

What’s worse, chicken isn’t the only thing food inspectors have found ketamine in. Of 4,313 beef and pork samples combined, 225 had ketamine above the threshold suggested by Consumer Reports, while 15 were above the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS) cutoff.

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