In patients with severe depression and thoughts of suicide, ketamine is emerging as a potential treatment. Patients are given roughly 5 to 6 injections of the party drug and have reported almost immediate relief from suicidal thoughts and major depressive disorder.
One such patient, Alan Ferguson, had been battling depression his whole life and had attempted suicide multiple times. In the midst of a major depressive episode, the 54-year-old was put in touch with Dr. Kevin Lane, an anesthesiologist who is currently administering ketamine treatments. After receiving one treatment of intravenous ketamine therapy, Ferguson claims to have woken up the next day with no thoughts of suicide. Receiving three of the injections in total, he describes the drug as a “medical marvel”.
Ketamine is an anesthetic drug used in hospitals. It’s also sometimes used, illicitly, as a club drug. But, it’s showing new promise in treating people with severe depression and suicidal thoughts — when nothing else has worked. https://t.co/p6VIYzaQ6I pic.twitter.com/Rt2trsjMQd
— Dr. Sanjay Gupta (@drsanjaygupta) August 4, 2018
Ferguson’s mood chart portrays ketamine’s profound effect on his mental health, with his PHQ-9 scores, reflecting his mental wellbeing, elevating immediately after his first injection (black lines indicate injections). He rated his depression as severe prior to his first treatment, moderate before his second, and nonexistent at the time of his third.
Doctors are viewing ketamine as an extremely useful drug in not only preventing suicidal thoughts but aiding in use of other antidepressants as well. With a volatile condition like depression, suicide could put an end to all treatment efforts at any given time. By providing such immediate symptom relief, ketamine may be able to stop suicidal thoughts for enough time to allow standard antidepressants to take effect. Kane refers to this the “six-week time window” that it typically takes antidepressants to kick in.
Dr. Gerard Sanacora of the Yale School of medicine claims there is little, if any, doubt remaining about ketamine’s effectiveness in treating depression, and feels that maintenance and deciding which patients are candidates are the biggest areas of interest going forward. In a consensus statement he penned in JAMA Psychiatry, Sanacora claims that “While ketamine may be beneficial to some patients with mood disorders, it is important to consider the limitations of the available data and the potential risk associated with the drug when considering the treatment option.”
This is not the first time that a drug commonly used for recreational use has been found to provide medical benefit via its dissociative properties, with many soldiers with PTSD finding dramatic relief from ecstasy treatment. Though these treatments are effective, doctors caution that serious risks associated with these drugs must be considered prior to patient administration.