Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States across most age groups. This highlights the seriousness of depression and the need for a greater number of options for treatment. A ketamine-based alternative has undergoing Phase 2 clinical trials and the results are promising.
What is Ketamine?
Ketamine was developed in 1962 as an anesthetic. It is included on the World Health Organization’s list of Essential Medicines as one of the best options for both pain relief and anesthesia. The organization has even lobbied to prevent the drug from being made a controlled substance because the benefits of the medicine far outweigh the potential for abuse. Over the years, the psychological side effects of the drug have been noted and it has been used recreationally under the name Special K. When used recreationally, the effect is typically felt within 10 minute,s and hallucinations may last up to several hours depending on how it is administered.
There are several contributing factors that have resulted in very few new treatments for depression making it to the general public over the past several years. In part, this is due to the many side effects that tend to go along with pharmaceuticals that change brain chemistry. It is an expensive process to treat the various causes of depression and when the side effects of the treatment make it unsuitable for further development, the research investments are lost. Due to the cost and complexity of the issue, many in the field have simply moved away from developing antidepressants.
Hope with Eskatmine
As an antidepressant, ketamine works very quickly. It is the basis for the new treatment for individuals with major depressive disorder, esketamine. The FDA recently granted esketamine a breakthrough therapy designation, giving it the potential to be one of the first drugs approved to treat this type of disorder in nearly 50 years. This is important because esketamine appears to be especially beneficial for individuals at risk of suicide.
Major Depressive Disorder
The type of depression esketamine targets is major depressive disorder. There are several types of medications currently available to treat depression, however, none of them work as quickly or in the same way as the new treatment. The ability to have a medication that could show significant improvements in days rather than weeks could drastically reduce the number of suicides associated with the condition.
Developments with esketamine should be closely monitored by healthcare professionals in the mental health field as well as by those who suffer with depression.