Paradigm shift in the treatment of serious depression and bipolar disorder.
Ketamine and related drugs can treat major depressive disorder and bipolar depression inside 24-hours, the latest studies are finding.
It rapidly reduces suicidal thoughts.
Some doctors have begun to use the drugs ‘off-label’ to help people with treatment-resistant depression.
Ketamine is a type of anaesthetic that studies have shown produces a rapid antidepressant effect, a new review of the research finds.
Two hours after being injected the drug begins to work and its effects reach their peak after 24 hours.
While SSRI antidepressants can be beneficial, it can take weeks for the effects to take hold.
Drugs like ketamine could ease psychological pain much quicker.
Esketamine is a similar drug, related to ketamine, that the FDA has given “breakthrough therapy” status.
Ketamine-like drugs appear to work by deactivating parts of the brain that produce the negative emotions in depression.
Most current antidepressants target a neurotransmitter called serotonin.
Ketamine-like drugs target glutamate, which is the most common neurotransmitter in the body.
Glutamate is known as an ‘excitatory’ neurotransmitter: it generally increases activity in the brain and elsewhere in the body.
Ketamine-like drugs tend to damp down this activity.
The study’s authors conclude that…
“…rapid antidepressant effects are indeed achievable in humans.
This paradigm shift lends additional urgency to the development of novel treatments for MDD and bipolar depression, particularly for patient subgroups that do not respond to currently available therapies.”
Ketamine is far from a perfect wonder drug, though.
It is highly addictive and has various side-effects, including hallucinations — hence its sometime use as a club drug.
The drug also needs to be injected into muscle.
The study was published in the journal Harvard Review of Psychiatry (Henter et al., 2018).