What exactly is wearable ketamine?
Wearable ketamine either sounds like a fashion brand named by a teenager or a street name for ketamine cut with other drugs, but in fact it is neither of those things. Wearable ketamine is a medical device for to be used for the purposes of pain management.
The wearable version of the anesthetic drug, commonly known for its dissociative effects as a party drug, is not intended for the treatment of depression rather it is meant to be used as a tool for pain management
Ketamine therapy is currently in use in hospitals for postoperative pain management, especially in the U.S where it is now becoming preferable to use instead of highly addictive opioids, like oxytocin, commonly prescribed for postoperative pain relief. Ketamine was also recently approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a breakthrough drug for the treatment of depression, because studies have shown it can have a remarkable effect on the alleviation and reversal of the symptoms of depression, at least in the short term.
But the wearable version of the anesthetic drug, commonly known for its dissociative effects as a party drug, is not intended for the treatment of depression rather it is meant to be used as a tool for pain management, particularly of the postoperative kind. As reported by Vice News, California based company, Bexson Biomedical is in the process of creating a wearable ketamine device for pain management.
The device will be a patch that can be stuck onto the body, probably in the stomach region, and will function similarly to an insulin pen in that it will be a subcutaneous injection. The patch will be a bluetooth controlled device loaded with a disposable cartridge of liquid ketamine, which will be injected into the body through a tiny needle. The needle will inject the ketamine into the layer fat that exists between the skin and the muscles, in the same manner as insulin injected into the body. Each cartridge will hold 70 to 200 milligrams of ketamine, released slowly through the course of day. The effect of wearable ketamine will not be as intense as when its taken as a party drug, because only 4 mgs of ketamine will be released by the device into the body per hour. Whereas a typical dose of Ketamine used for recreational purposes is around 125 mg. So, Bexson Biomedical says the effect of the device will be a little less potent than the effect of drinking a glass of wine.
Bexson Biomedical worked with ketamine researcher Jason Wallach to create a new formulation of ketamine that reduces the issues associated with the insertion of ketamine into the body via injections. Normally, ketamine injections cause swelling, pain and redness on the injection site because of the drug’s high salt and acid content. But, Bexson and Wallach have come up with ketamine formula “BB106” that has lower salt and higher PH levels, making it more comfortable for a steady stream of infusions. “A lot of people suffer from pain and it’s no secret we need better and varied approaches,” said Wallach.
This wearable ketamine device will also democratise pain management, in that it will make it accessible to the wider population as it will be cheaper and easier to use than ketamine injections
Bexson Biomedical is pitching its device as a tool to help combat the ongoing opioid crisis in the U.S. According to the CDC, opiate overdoses claimed 50,042 lives in 2019, with over 40% of deaths involving a prescription opioid like oxycontin. Whereas ketamine is a powerful anesthetic, which some studies have shown can have the same effect as morphine on acute pain. Ketamine does not impact memory the same way opioids do which is component in making it comparatively less addictive than opioids. “Pain is a learned experience,” said Jeffrey Becker, a Bexson Biomedical co-founder and ketamine researcher. “Ketamine creates a psychological distance from pain so that it is [a] signal but not necessarily having a grip on your consciousness,” said Becker, “while opioids accelerate the development of chronic pain”.
Postoperative opioid use is a gateway to opioid abuse and addiction, and Bexson Biomedical hopes their wearable ketamine device will target this gateway and help reduce opioid dependency. This wearable ketamine device will also democratise pain management, in that it will make it accessible to the wider population as it will be cheaper and easier to use than ketamine injections and possibly covered by medical insurance in the U.S, if the FDA approves the device. Presently, ketamine therapy is only available at hospitals and is prohibitively expensive.
Ketamine is not a miracle drug without negative side effects. It too can cause addiction if used in the long term, and it can lead to kidney and heart problems, as well as memory loss
However, it is important to remember that ketamine is not a miracle drug without negative side effects. It too can cause addiction if used in the long term, and it can lead to kidney and heart problems, as well as memory loss. Stanford University published a study stating that ketamine’s antidepressant effect might also work along the brain’s opiate receptors like opiods do. But, Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse stated that people are still much likelier to get addicted to opioids than ketamine. Additionally she also said, “Pain is very challenging to treat and saying this is the solution that can address the opiate crisis is very simplistic, It’s much more complex than that”. Bexson Medical has stated that they will institute safety measures to ensure more than one patch at a time cannot be worn on the body.
A wearable ketamine device would certainly provide a much needed low-cost alternative for opioids for these in need of relief from severe pain, however it must not be considered a miracle drug for this purpose lest its use also spiral out of control like opioids and cause another crisis.