Scientists from the University of Geneva found that ketamine is unlikely to be addictive to people who use it for extended periods of time.
The research is published in Nature and was conducted by Rianne Campbell et al.
Ketamine (first created 1962) is a synthetic compound that is used as an anesthetic drug in clinical practice. It has also been found to be useful in some settings as an antidepressant therapy.
Ketamine has also become increasingly popular as an illegal hallucinogen.
Because of its possible use as a treatment for depression and because of its use by the non-medical community, interest has arisen regarding how addictive the drug may be.
In the study, the team reported the impact of the synthetic compound on the brains of mice and what they learned about its impact on different brain regions.
They compared the impact of ketamine on the behavior of mice with no prior exposure to it or cocaine. They found that given the choice, mice had no preference of one over the other.
The team then examined the way the drug impacts two parts of the mouse brain—the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the nucleus accumbens (NAc).
The researchers found that as with other drugs, exposure of the VTA to ketamine led to increases in production of dopamine. That dopamine made its way to the NAc where nerve cells were activated.
In taking a closer look at the impact of raised levels of dopamine due to ketamine exposure on the NAc, the researchers found it lasted longer for cocaine.
They also found that ketamine reduced the activity of some neurons in the VTA that inhibit the neurotransmitter GABA.
The team then conducted addictive behavioral tests with mice, comparing their desire for more ketamine versus cocaine.
They say that the findings all point to the same conclusion—ketamine is very unlikely to have much of an addictive impact on mice (and by extension people) who use it on a regular basis.
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