Tharcila Chaves is a pharmacist with a master’s degree in medicine and sociology of drug abuse. Currently, she is a PhD student at the University of Groningen (Netherlands) and also an editor of the OPEN Foundation (Netherlands). In her master’s degree, she conducted a qualitative study about cravings in crack cocaine users in the city of Sao Paulo (Brazil). She has worked with harm reduction teams at music festivals, providing psychological, emotional and psychedelic support (Brazil/Netherlands). The use of ketamine to treat pain and depression is the focus of her current research.
“Ketamine on mood, pain catastrophing and central sensitisation – The mask study”
NMDA receptor antagonists, such as ketamine, have shown to effectively alleviate pain-related behaviour. An important reason to focus on NMDA receptor antagonists is that current treatment paradigms are only effective in 30% of patients. Therefore, there is the urgent need for additional treatments that will cover a larger percentage of patients. The Anesthesiology Pain Center (APC) offers an esketamine treatment consisting of an infusion of 100 mg of esketamine in the course of 4 hours. We are investigating the influence of it on the pain sensitisation process in the central nervous system, a process called central sensitisation (CS), using a standardised Quantitative Sensory Testing (QST) battery elaborated by our research team. Pain catastrophising has shown to be relevant, because it is one of the most consistent risk factors for chronic pain development and reflects an individual’s “psychological vulnerability”. Besides that, there has been growing interest in the observation that ketamine has a rapid positive effect on depressive symptoms. The MASK study is investigating whether the induction and maintenance of CS could be prevented by a low-dose of esketamine. It is also assessing whether pain sensitivity and pain catastrophising are associated with persistent pain and disability after esketamine infusion. This is an ongoing study and we intend to present some preliminary data at Beyond Psychedelics 2018.