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Ketamine shows promise as a treatment for depression.

The dissociative party drug Ketamine helped Sabrina Misra overcome her suicidal thoughts and severe depression, Misra said. Although the FDA has not approved the drug, psychiatrists are administering ketamine as a depression treatment. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)

Sabrina Misra suffered from depression for most of her life, but last summer, it became almost too heavy to bear.

Despite years of therapy and a trove of medications, Misra, 36, had become so despondent that she started planning her suicide. But before she acted, her psychiatrist introduced her to a new treatment with an unusual back story.

The treatment was ketamine, an anesthetic used to sedate both people and animals before surgery. It’s also a notorious street drug, abused by clubgoers seeking a trancelike, hallucinatory high.

But in recent years, numerous studies have found that ketamine can be an effective and speedy treatment for people with depression — particularly those who, like Misra, have found little relief from traditional medications.

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