Being a social animal can be a real chore sometimes. But, for anyone who suffers from clinical social anxiety, those interactions can be more than just awkward. They can be psychologically crippling.

Normally, these folks are shipped off to a psychiatrist’s office and dealt with through regular cognitive-behavioral therapy sessions. That, or doctors hurl benzos at them like major league pitchers practicing their fastball.

Recently, though, scientists have found a radical new psychedelic treatment option: ketamine.

Yes, the schedule III tranquilizer — most commonly found at vet clinics and music festivals around the world — has some hopeful applications for treating social anxiety, and mental health at large.

Ketamine, also known as Ketalar, Ket, K, Special K, Kitty, Horse/Dog/Vet Tranquilizer or Ketanest, is a dissociative hallucinogen most often used as an anesthetic. But it has some surprising alternative uses as well: ketamine has been proven to help resolve depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and excessive compulsive disorder. It’s even used by some elderly and terminal patients to therapeutically prepare for death.

It’s a pretty diverse drug.

Understanding this, researchers from Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania decided to test the efficacy of using ketamine to treat social anxiety. If it can fix sadness, heal mental trauma, and help people confront their own mortality, why can’t it also ease one’s social stress?

The question was worth testing.

So, they did the only responsible thing they could: collected a group of 18 highly anxious people and started pumping them full of drugs.

The study was a “double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled crossover trial.” Infusions of both ketamine and a placebo were injected into the subjects randomly at 28-days intervals. They then measured the patient’s anxiety levels three hours post Special-K dose, and monitored them for 14 days.

Not only did the patients experience immediate anxiety relief following their ketamine infusion, but they also showed increased social engagement for weeks afterward.

“Our study provided proof-of-concept that [ketamine, and] ketamine-like agents may be useful for anxiety.” The authors of the study, Jerome H. Taylor and Michael H. Bloch, told PsyPost.

These findings are K-lossal. They could change the game for people suffering from social anxiety, and could potentially open the doors for even more ketamine research, inching the drug one step closer towards the realm of accepted psychological medicine.

But the researchers were quick to urge caution: “Ketamine is a drug that can abused when given at higher doses over shorter periods of time than used in this study. As such, we consider that ketamine should only be used in research studies related to anxiety at this time.”

So, according to Taylor and Bloch, the concept needs further testing. As should be expected. When it comes to any substance so strange and powerful and versatile as ketamine, scientists are never quick to jump to conclusions. God forbid a drug like that falls into the hands of degenerates who’ll take it for fun. That would be sooo dangerous.

[cover photo by Alexandre Chambon on Unsplash // originally published February 08, 2018]