New Ketamine Findings Give Hope To People Seeking Relief From Suicidal Thoughts

By Victoria Kim 12/22/17

New research brings ketamine further away from its notoriety as “Special K” the club drug. 

man opening curtain and letting sunshine in.

New results from a ketamine study offer a glimmer of hope for people who need fast relief from depression and suicidal ideation.

New research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that ketamine can help relieve depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation in just a 24-hour period. Pending further research, study author Michael Grunebaum said these findings bring us closer to “the development of new antidepressant medications that are faster acting” that can help people who do not respond to traditional antidepressants.

The study, from the Columbia University Medical Center and the New York Psychiatric Institute, observed 80 participants with clinical depression and clinical suicidal ideation. Half of participants was given ketamine, while the other half was given midazolam, a sedative.

The ketamine group reported “significant changes in symptoms (suicidal thoughts, depressive symptoms and fatigue) compared to those receiving midalozam”—and in very little time: within 24 hours. Certain negative side effects of ketamine (e.g. a sense of detachment or higher blood pressure) wore off “within minutes or hours,” according to the study.

Meanwhile, the study team observed, participants felt the benefits of ketamine for up to six weeks. 

This isn’t the first time ketamine has been found to provide fast relief for depressive symptoms, but it’s now apparent that its effect on alleviating suicidal ideation functions in addition to depression relief. 

“Adjunctive ketamine demonstrated a greater reduction in clinically significant suicidal ideation in depressed patients within 24 hours compared with midazolam, partially independently of antidepressant effect,” concluded the researchers.

The quick response to the ketamine treatment, when given in the proper dosage, offers hope to people who suffer from suicidal ideation. “There is a critical window in which depressed patients who are suicidal need rapid relief to prevent self-harm,” said study author Grunebaum.

“Currently available antidepressants can be effective in reducing suicidal thoughts in patients with depression, but they can take weeks to have an effect. Suicidal, depressed patients need treatments that are rapidly effective in reducing suicidal thoughts when they are at highest risk.”

Some doctors already offer ketamine treatments to patients who don’t find other antidepressants effective. This new research brings ketamine further away from its notoriety as “Special K” the club drug. 

In a 2014 blog post, Thomas Insel, former director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) wrote: “Recent data suggest that ketamine, given intravenously, might be the most important breakthrough in antidepressant treatment in decades.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr