The anesthetic drug Ketamine has shown promising results in the treatment of symptoms of depression. Researchers say the effects can be seen in as fast as four hours.
Results of the proof-of-concept clinical study indicated that the nasal-spray based esketamine or Ketamine can rapidly reduce suicidal thoughts and suicidal ideations in patients with a major depressive disorder.
While most antidepressants take up one month to six weeks to become fully effective, results from ketamine were observed by researchers four hours after the drug was administered.
The clinical trial, led by Yale University School of Medicine, involved 68 adults with the current major depressive disorder, and are taking antidepressant medication. Patients who are also at risk of suicidality were randomly assigned to receive Ketamine or a placebo nasal spray twice a week for a period of four weeks.
Effects of the treatment were observed at four hours, at 24 hours, and at 25 days after first treatment. In the study, the researchers compared the efficacy of standard antidepression treatment with added intranasal ketamine or placebo nasal spray.
The researchers measured a patient's score depending on the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale, a psychological rating scale to measure the severity of depression symptoms as well as the Suicide Ideation and Behavior Assessment Tool.
A Promising Antidepressant
The results showed significant improvement in the MADRS score of patients that took Ketamine compared to patients in the placebo group four hours after the first treatment. The findings leveled for both groups after 24 hours and at 25 days of undergoing Ketamine treatment.
"Intranasal esketamine may result in significantly rapid improvement in depressive symptoms, including some measures of suicidal ideation, among depressed patients at imminent risk for suicide," the study stated.
Recorded side effects include dizziness, dissociation, unpleasant taste, and headache.
This study on Ketamine is being supported by Janssen Research and Development. Ketamine as a treatment for depression is now in its phase 3 clinical trial. In 2016, Ketamine was granted with a breakthrough therapy designation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
However, AJP gave caution to the drug's potential for abuse and the need for effective controls.
"Protection of the public's health is part of our responsibility as well, and, as physicians, we are responsible for preventing new drug epidemics," says Dr. Robert Freedman, editor of AJP.
Known Party Drug
Ketamine is a known painkiller. It has a longstanding legal pharmaceutical use as an anesthetic. It was patented in 1968 and was used as a battlefield anesthetic by U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War. Veterinarians also use Ketamine as an animal tranquilizer.
It is also identified as a party drug. Ketamine was first used as recreational drug in the 1970s due to its dissociative and hallucinogenic effects. Sedation through Ketamine is referred by recreational drug users as K-hole. The user is almost fully sedated and described as having an out-of-body or a near-death experience.
A single dose of one to two milligrams of Ketamine per kilogram of body weight produces an intense experience lasting about an hour.
The abstract of the study is published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.