Ketamine for Treatment-Resistant Unipolar Depression

ketamine for unipolar depression

Ketamine for Treatment-Resistant Unipolar Depression

Unipolar depressive disorder affects more than 16 million individuals in the US, while 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression. It is considered as one of the leading sources of disability. To make matters worse, currently approved medications have no effect on one third of patients diagnosed with unipolar depression, while they typically take several weeks to achieve any noteworthy effect in those patients who do respond to it.  

As a promising agent for treating depression in patient resistant to other types of treatments that uses an action mechanism completely different from other available treatments, ketamine today has full attention of researches. So far, research has shown its undeniable potential to offer significant benefits to people suffering from treatment-resistant depression.

Ketamine Mechanism of Action

Ketamine has traditionally been used as anesthetic, but has also been prescribed off-label for depression, mood disorders, and chronic pain. Its effect is based on a multistep mechanism that affects number of receptors, triggering a flow of neuroplastic changes in the brain cells, which leads to formation of new synapses and new membrane receptors.

Who is Ketamine For?

Fifty to seventy percent of patients who suffered from treatment resistant depression and underwent clinical trials with intravenous administration of ketamine, reported symptom relief after 2 hours following the treatment and the improvement lasted up to two weeks. The duration of the positive effects depends on many factors, such as gender, age, presence of comorbidities and duration of depression, to name just a few. The studies suggest that the beneficial effects of ketamine last longer in patients with unipolar depression than those with bipolar depression.

Some results indicate that ketamine has rapid antisuicidal effect in both acute and chronic settings, which makes it a potentially life-saving treatment.

Role of Ketamine in the Future

Ketamine has already shown impressive results in patients suffering from suicidal tendencies and depression, which opens a wide range of promising opportunities and applications in the future treatments of these illnesses.

Researchers are examining possibility of using ketamine combined with psychotherapy. One such clinical trial, where ketamine was administered concurrently with cognitive behavioral therapy treatment, showed much better reception of the therapy. It is known that people who suffer from extreme depression have great difficulty to engage in psychotherapy in any meaningful manner.  Ketamine, serving as an agent that can achieve rapid short-term results in lifting depression, can thus facilitate patients’ engagement in therapy and overall healing.

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