One Ketamine Dose Wipes out Bipolar Depression

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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Researchers say a single dose of intravenous ketamine treated depression from bipolar disorder in a new study. One dose of ketamine was found by researchers to reduce depression within 40 minutes among patients with bipolar disorder who failed to respond to multiple drug treatment.

The drug ketamine causes a mental dissociation and is used in veterinary medicine and as a short acting anesthetic that allows patients to remain awake, breathing without assistance and pain free. Timothy Leary, the LSD advocate of the 70's, used "Vitamin K", a slang name for ketamine, insisting the drug was good for mental health. Now researchers are exploring ketamine for depression treatment, finding out that the drug works fast, has a lasting effect and was effective for treating bipolar depression when other drugs had failed in a new study.

Ketamine Targets Key Area of the Brain to Relieve Depression

One of the reasons traditional therapy fails for depression treatment is because scientists weren't sure about the underlying mechanisms in the brain that leads to bipolar disorder and depression. Newer research suggests dysfunction of glutamatergic system that plays a role in information processing and memory formation plays a role. Ketamine targets the glutamatergic system.

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Ketamine for treating depression findings are important

"These findings are particularly noteworthy because a substantial proportion of study participants had been prescribed complex polypharmacy regimens in the past with substantial treatment failures," the authors write. "The mean [average] number of past antidepressant trials was seven, and more than 55 percent of participants failed to respond to electroconvulsive therapy. The toll of this protracted and refractory illness on the subjects was evident, in that two-thirds of participants were on psychiatric disability and nearly all were unemployed." Ketamine relieved depression symptoms within 40 minutes and results were sustained. Additionally, there were no adverse side effects.

Researchers studied 18 participants with bipolar depression whose symptoms failed to respond to lithium or valproate. The group either received an intravenous infusion ketamine or a placebo on two test days two weeks apart. Seventy one percent of the study group responded to the drug compared to 6 percent of those who received placebo.

The study supports the notion that dysfunction of glutamatergic system contributes to the development of bipolar disorder. The researchers plan further studies for ketamine use to sustain relief of depression associated with bipolar disorder. The researchers also plan to explore whether intravenous administration, given in the current study, is necessary for the rapid antidepressant effect experienced by the participants. The new study showed ketamine produced "robust and rapid antidepressant effects" and was well tolerated.

Archives of General Psychiatry

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Comments

I'd like to be kept informed about this. Granted the study was far too limited to be a significant finding but considering the devastating effect of this mental disorder it does create hope.