Ketamine may rapidly treat bipolar depression


Bipolar disorder is a debilitating condition where individuals swing in mood from mania to depression. Cycles can last days or months. The suicide risk is high and treatments are unpredictable with very serious side effects.

Antidepressants are commonly prescribed to treat the depressive episodes but they don’t work for everyone all the time. When they do it can many weeks of trial and error to find the right dosage.

Researchers are constantly searching for better treatment, either independently or in conjunction with other drugs. Ketamine might be one of these new treatments.

Researchers have previously found that a single dose of ketamine produced rapid antidepressant effects in depressed patients with bipolar disorder. In a second study, they have replicated that finding in an independent group of depressed patients with bipolar disorder. This second test give more credence and credibility to the findings.

A single dose of ketamine and a single dose of placebo was given to a group of patients on two different days two weeks apart. The patients were monitored and rated on depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts.

With ketamine, patients’ depressive symptoms significantly improved within 40 minutes and stayed that way over three days. Suicidal thoughts also decreased. As many as 79% of the patients improved with ketamine. The placebo group experienced no change.

“We think these findings are of true importance given that we only have a few treatments approved for acute bipolar depression, and none of them have this rapid onset of action,” stated Dr. Carlos Zarate of the National Institute of Mental Health.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, NIMH


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