Ketamine Quickly Lessens Suicidal Thoughts In Study

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In a recent study, the drug ketamine was substantially more effective than a frequently used sedative for diminishing suicidal ideation (thoughts) in depressed patients. Further, the anti-suicidal effect happened within hours of giving ketamine.

The research findings from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) were published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

“There is a critical window in which depressed patients who are suicidal need rapid relief to prevent self-harm,” said study leader Michael Grunebaum, M.D., a research psychiatrist at CUMC. “Currently available antidepressants can...take weeks to have an effect. Suicidal, depressed patients need treatments that are rapidly effective...when they are at highest risk. Currently, there is no such treatment for rapid relief of suicidal thoughts in depressed patients.”

Information on the effectiveness of antidepressants for reducing suicidal thoughts is limited since suicidal individuals are often excluded from antidepressant trials. However, earlier studies using ketamine led to rapid reductions in depressive symptoms, and suggested a potential for reducing suicidal ideation.

Eighty depressed adults participated in the CUMC study. Each was randomly assigned to either a low-dose ketamine infusion, or the sedative midazolam. The ketamine group, within 24 hours, had a clinically significant lessening of suicidal thoughts—greater reduction than in the sedative group. The beneficial effects in the ketamine group appeared to continue for up to six weeks.

The participants on ketamine also had more improvement in overall mood, fatigue, and depression than those taking midazolam. Mild to moderate side effects included dissociation (sense of detachment), and increased blood pressure during infusion. The side effects generally resolved minutes to hours after receiving the drug.

“Additional research to evaluate ketamine’s antidepressant and anti-suicidal effects may pave the way for the development of new antidepressant medications that are faster acting and have the potential to help individuals who do not respond to currently available treatments,” said Dr. Grunebaum.

Source: Science Daily
Photo credit: Boudewijn Berends

 
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