Treating depression with medication can be a precarious approach. The physician is faced with a dilemma as the patient may be suicidal and needs medication to take rapid affect. At the same time, the patient may be prone to addiction and prescribing something for the depression could lead to other problems.
The Science Daily recently reported that specific drug treatment options for depression can take weeks to deliver the desired beneficial effects. This is clearly a risk factor when the depressed individual is prone to be suicidal.
To address this challenge, researchers examined the possibility of using ketamine to treat this depression in suicidal patients. When the drug, previously used as an anesthetic, is administered intravenously, it has been shown to rapidly deliver antidepressant effects.
In early trials of this type of administration, researchers explored the effects of the drug on patients with the tendency to commit suicide. When administered intravenously, ketamine acutely reduced suicidal thoughts in patients who were assessed 24 hours after a single infusion. This same reduction in suicidal tendencies was maintained when patients received repeated doses over the next two weeks.
Rebecca Price, corresponding author, commented on the findings in Science Daily: “If these findings hold up in larger samples of high-risk suicidal patients, IV ketamine could prove an attractive treatment option in situations where waiting for a conventional antidepressant treatment to take effect might endanger the patient’s life.”
These findings are the result of a preliminary study in a small group of depressed patients. Additional research in this area is needed in order to replicate these results. At the same time, additional focus must be placed on a depressed individual’s risk for dependence and addiction of the ketamine over time.