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Ketamine Reduces Suicidality In Depressed Patients

September 10, 2009

Drug treatment options for depression can take weeks for the beneficial effects to emerge, which is clearly inadequate for those at immediate risk of suicide. However, intravenous (IV) ketamine, a drug previously used as an anesthetic, has shown rapid antidepressant effects in early trials.

Researchers have now explored ketamine’s effects on suicidality in patients with treatment-resistant depression, and are publishing their results in the September 1st issue of Biological Psychiatry. Ketamine acutely reduced suicidal thoughts when patients were assessed 24 hours after a single infusion. This reduction in suicidality was maintained when patients received repeated doses over the next two weeks.

Corresponding author Rebecca Price commented on these encouraging findings: “If these findings hold up in larger samples of high-risk suicidal patients, IV ketamine could prove an attractive treatment option in situations where waiting for a conventional antidepressant treatment to take effect might endanger the patient’s life.”

Since this was a preliminary study in a small group of depressed patients, further research is needed to replicate these results. However, the findings are promising and could result in improved treatment for suicidal patients in the future.

“Effects of Intravenous Ketamine on Explicit and Implicit Measures of Suicidality in Treatment-Resistant Depression” by Rebecca B. Price, Matthew K. Nock, Dennis S. Charney, and Sanjay J. Mathew. Price, Charney, and Mathew are affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York. Charney is also with the Departments of Neuroscience, and Pharmacology & Systems Therapeutics, also at Mount Sinai. Price is also from the Department of Psychology, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, Piscataway, New Jersey. Nock is affiliated with the Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. The article appears in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 65, Issue 5 (September 1, 2009), published by Elsevier.

The authors’ disclosures of financial and conflicts of interests are available in the article.

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