Ketamine nasal spray shows promise in the fast treatment of major depression symptoms and suicidal thoughts, a new study revealed. According to research published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, despite being known as a party drug, it yielded significant improvements when used to relieve symptoms of depression in the first 24 hours.
Ketamine gained its negative reputation when it became a popular street drug that offers a trancelike, hallucinatory high effect. Party and club-goers abused this drug so it is a medicine that was always frowned upon.
Although it may have a not-so-good reputation, this drug is actually a licensed medicine – an anesthetic that is usually used to prevent pain during surgeries. It is being legally used in the field of medicine for starting and maintaining anesthesia but in the recent years, it has been subjected to studies for other potential uses.
Now, after a number of trials, researchers at Janssen Research and Development in New Jersey and the Yale School of Medicine determined that ketamine could be an effective treatment for depression, too. They found that it is a good anti-depressant, but further clinical trials are still needed so it can be approved as a psychiatric medication by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
During the study, 68 people who were on the verge of committing suicide were treated with anti-depressants. Half of them were given esketamine – a substance that is part of the mind-altering ketamine molecule – twice a week for four weeks and the other half were treated with a placebo.
All the participants received treatment throughout the trial and researchers recorded their observations after four hours, 24 hours, and 25 days from the time the anti-depressants were given.
At just four hours after treatment, those who were placed in the esketamine group already showed significant improvement – their depression levels and suicidal thoughts dramatically decreased – while those in the placebo group only showed better results after 25 days.
Overall, the results of the study indicate that the Ketamine nasal spray has the potential to be a fast and effective treatment for patients displaying depressive symptoms and those at imminent risk for suicide. With its fast-relief effect, esketamine could be an important depression drug since most anti-depressants available today take four to six weeks to be effective.
BBC reported that scientists in the U.K. are also looking into ketamine. They see it as depression treatment that can be applied intravenously.
Dr. James Stone of the Royal College of Psychiatrists told the news publication that the U.S. research about ketamine is “interesting.”
“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,” Dr. Stone added.
Meanwhile, due to potential abuse of Ketamine, scientists noted that more research is necessary to protect users. “Protection of the public’s health is part of our responsibility as well, and as physicians, we are responsible for preventing new drug epidemics,” AJP editor Robert Freedman, M.D. said in a press release published via the American Psychiatric Association.