Medicine

Ketamine shown to 'significantly improve' symptoms of depression

Ketamine shown to 'significantly improve' symptoms of depression

For the study, a small group of participants randomly assigned to one of two groups - either receiving esketamine or placebo twice a week for four weeks, and found a significant improvement in depression scores and decreased suicidal ideation in the esketamine group compared to the placebo group at four hours and at 24 hours.

Ketamine - which has a reputation as a party drug - has "shown promise" as a quick treatment for major depression and suicidal tendencies, according to researchers.

"The interesting USA study confirmed the findings from successful studies into intravenous ketamine", said Dr James Stone from Royal College of Psychiatrists, "The main reason for its significance is because this is being developed by a drug company and it's potentially quite likely that this medication might become available as a treatment available on the NHS for depression". Half of them also received intranasal esketamine which is a substance from the ketamine molecule.

Dr. James Stone of the Royal College of Psychiatrists told the news publication that the USA research about ketamine is "interesting".

The trial analysed 68 people said to be at immediate risk of suicide.

BBC reported that scientists in the United Kingdom are also looking into ketamine.

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The study found those using esketamine had a much greater improvement in depression symptoms at all points over the first four weeks of treatment.

Because it is so fast-acting, the study authors suggested that the esketamine nasal spray could become an important treatment for those at imminent risk of suicide.

If approved for use on the NHS, Stone said, the spray "would be aimed at people with severe depression as a second or third line of treatment if other drugs haven't worked", including as a potential alternative to electroconvulsive therapy.

The main reason for its significance is because this is being developed by a drug company and it's potentially quite likely that this medication might become available as a treatment available on the NHS for depression.

Dr Stone did warn, however, that far bigger studies are needed to look out for any rare side-effects of using the drug, either nasally or intravenously.

Because the drug is already licensed as a medicine for its anaesthetic effects, it is already being prescribed for depression "off label" in private clinics, the BBC reports. This is already happening in private clinics in the United States and the UK.