PEOPLE suffering with depression in Oxfordshire are being treated with Class B drug ketamine.

More than 100 people in the Oxford area have been treated with about 1,000 infusions of the horse tranquiliser and recreational drug over the past six years.

Researchers at Oxford University and medics in Oxfordshire’s NHS have been exploring ways to test ketamine as a treatment for severe depression.

Now they have published a paper in The Lancet Psychiatry highlighting the need for ethical testing by setting out the key qualities of a responsible clinicial ketamine treatment.

Rupert McShane, consultant psychiatrist at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and lead on Oxford’s ketamine treatment programme, said: “I have seen ketamine work where nothing has helped before but ketamine is a drug, not a miracle, and maintaining the benefit is a challenge.”

His team’s paper recommends that clinics routinely submit data to a national registry.

Dr McShane, also a researcher in Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry, said: “We think patients’ treatment should be in specialist centres and formally tracked in national or international registries.

“This will help us pick up any safety or abuse problems with longer term use and narrow down what dose, frequency, route and duration of treatment works best.

“Getting the right level of oversight is important. Not enough and we risk overuse and an inevitable backlash, too much and we leave patients in misery unnecessarily.”

Ketamine is a Class B banned substance for recreational use but is a licensed drug in the UK that can be prescribed by any doctor.

Private ketamine clinics have burgeoned in the United States, with patients reporting feeling more ‘stable’.