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Doctors at the San Diego Hospice and The Institute for Palliative Medicine are putting the "special" back in the hallucinogen known as "Special-K," or ketamine.

Doctors at the hospice center are studying the use of the powerful hallucinogenic to help battle depression.

The drug has had a variety of uses since surgeons began using it as an anesthetic for surgeries in the 1960's and during the Vietnam War; from horse tranquilizer to a popular drug among "ravers" and other people searching for a high.

But now, new research shows that low doses of the drug can ease depression by reaching areas of the brain that other anti-depressants do not.

“We know that ketamine has been used as an anesthetic during surgical procedures for decades and has solid evidence for use in cancer pain,” says Chief of Psychiatry at San Diego Hospice and The Institute for Palliative Medicine, Dr. Scott Irwin.

“When evidence surfaced about five years ago for ketamine’s effectiveness in depression, the research team at San Diego Hospice and The Institute for Palliative Medicine began investigating the benefits of ketamine for helping our patients affected by severe depression.”

Irwin says more than 30 patients have been given ketamine. He plans to work with researchers across the country to show the benefits of ketamine as an anti-depressant.

“Our goal at San Diego Hospice and The Institute for Palliative Medicine is to prevent and relieve suffering and promote quality of life,” says Irwin. “Standard antidepressants do not work often enough or fast enough for relieving the tremendous suffering associated with depression for patients. Ketamine promises to work better and faster, allowing us to achieve this goal.”

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Image from San Diego Hospice and The Institute for Palliative Medicine's Facebook page

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