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Antidepressants are well-known to take many weeks before effectiveness can be felt or seen. A new research study now provides insights into why that is and how more rapidly effective medications could be developed.
By blocking NMDA receptors with the drug ketamine, researchers could create a rapid antidepressant effect in patients with treatment–resistant depression. Ketamine was developed as an anesthetic. It is better known publicly as the party drug “Special K”. Because ketamine has strong side effects including hallucination and is easily addicting, researchers are now looking to create something with similar properties.
Memantine, FDA-approved for treating moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease, is a promising therapy for treatment-resistant depression. Memantine works on the same neural receptors at ketamine but does not have the same fast acting ability. “Although, both ketamine and memantine have similar actions when nerve cells are active, under resting conditions, memantine is less effective in blocking nerve cell communication when compared to ketamine. This fundamental difference in their action could explain why memantine has not been effective as a rapid antidepressant,” explained Dr. Lisa Monteggia, Professor of Neuroscience, UT Southwestern Medical Center. Her lab is seeking to alter signals emanating from NMDA receptors to improve memantine’s efficacy.
Antidepressants are the third most common prescription drug taken by Americans. According to the CDC, comparing antidepressant use from 1988-1994 with use from 2005-2008, demand has increased over 400%. Nearly 8% of people over age 12 report being depressed with women reporting higher rates than men in every age group.
Source: MedicalNewsToday, UT Southwestern Medical Center
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