Published: Mon, April 16, 2018
Medical | By Johnnie Horton

Ketamine 'shows promise' in treatment of depression, study claims

Ketamine 'shows promise' in treatment of depression, study claims

They see it as depression treatment that can be applied intravenously.

"The interesting United States study confirmed the findings from successful studies into intravenous ketamine", said Dr James Stone from Royal College of Psychiatrists, "The main reason for its significance is because this is being developed by a drug company and it's potentially quite likely that this medication might become available as a treatment available on the NHS for depression".

Ketamine has "shown promise" in rapidly treating the symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts, a study has said. Most standard anti-depressants take four to six weeks for the effects to be fully felt, by which time the individual at risk could potentially have already taken their own life. "The results of this study reinforce the potential of esketamine as an acute treatment for patients in crisis".

Researchers compared the effects of two treatment options: the first was standard treatment with antidepressants in hospital plus a nasal spray containing esketamine (part of the ketamine molecule); while the other was standard treatment plus a placebo. The researchers then analysed its effects four hours, 24 hours and 25 days after first treatment. The results of the study support nasal spray esketamine as a possible effective rapid treatment for depressive symptoms in patients assessed to be at imminent risk for suicide, researchers said.

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Canuso and colleagues found a significantly greater improvement in depression among patients who received esketamine compared with those who received placebo after 4 hours (effect size = 0.61) and at 24 hours (effect size = 0.65). The findings leveled for both groups after 24 hours and at 25 days of undergoing Ketamine treatment.

Recorded side effects include dizziness, dissociation, unpleasant taste, and headache. "The incidence of attempted suicide in these patients is approximately 20-fold higher than that of the general population", Carla M. Canuso, MD, of Janssen Research & Development, told Healio Psychiatry. Ketamine as a treatment for depression is now in its phase 3 clinical trial. Further research is needed before the drug can be approved for use in the US. "Such steps initiated early in the development of ketamine and other drugs whose therapeutic potential is complicated by the potential for abuse would not be meant to deny therapeutic help to patients with significant need", Freedman and colleagues wrote. "Protection of the public's health is part of our responsibility as well, and, as physicians, we are responsible for preventing new drug epidemics", said Dr. Robert Freedman, the current editor in chief for the AJP.

Researchers have previously questioned the safe use of ketamine nasal spray.

It is also identified as a party drug. Ketamine was first used as recreational drug in the 1970s due to its dissociative and hallucinogenic effects. The user is nearly fully sedated and described as having an out-of-body or a near-death experience.

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