Ketamine improved bipolar depression within minutes

May 30, 2012, Elsevier

Bipolar disorder is a serious and debilitating condition where individuals experience severe swings in mood between mania and depression. The episodes of low or elevated mood can last days or months, and the risk of suicide is high.

Antidepressants are commonly prescribed to treat or prevent the , but they are not universally effective. Many patients still continue to experience periods of depression even while being treated, and many patients must try several different types of before finding one that works for them. In addition, it may take several weeks of treatment before a patient begins to feel relief from the drug's effects.

For these reasons, better treatments for depression are desperately needed. A new study in this week confirms that scientists may have found one in a drug called ketamine.

A group of researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health, led by Dr. Carlos Zarate, previously found that a single dose of ketamine produced rapid antidepressant effects in with . They have now replicated that finding in an independent group of depressed patients, also with bipolar disorder. Replication is an important component of the scientific method, as it helps ensure that the initial finding wasn't accidental and can be repeated.

In this new study, they administered a single dose of ketamine and a single dose of placebo to a group of patients on two different days, two weeks apart. The patients were then carefully monitored and repeatedly completed ratings to 'score' their and suicidal thoughts.

When the patients received ketamine, their significantly improved within 40 minutes, and remained improved over 3 days. Overall, 79% of the patients improved with ketamine, but 0% reported improvement when they received placebo.

Importantly, and for the first time in a group of patients with bipolar depression, they also found that ketamine significantly reduced . These antisuicidal effects also occurred within one hour. Considering that bipolar disorder is one of the most lethal of all psychiatric disorders, these study findings could have a major impact on public health.

"Our finding that a single infusion of ketamine produces rapid antidepressant and antisuicidal effects within one hour and that is fairly sustained is truly exciting," Dr. Zarate commented. "We think that these findings are of true importance given that we only have a few treatments approved for acute bipolar depression, and none of them have this rapid onset of action; they usually take weeks or longer to have comparable antidepressant effects as ketamine does."

Ketamine is an N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist, which means that it works by blocking the actions of NMDA. Dr. Zarate added, "Importantly, confirmation that blocking the NMDA receptor complex is involved in generating rapid antidepressant and antisuicidal effects offers an avenue for developing the next generation of treatments for depression that are radically different than existing ones."

Explore further: Ketamine helps see how the brain works in clinical depression

More information: The article is "Replication of Ketamine's Antidepressant Efficacy in Bipolar Depression: A Randomized Controlled Add-On Trial" by Carlos A. Zarate Jr., Nancy E. Brutsche, Lobna Ibrahim, Jose Franco-Chaves, Nancy Diazgranados, Anibal Cravchik, Jessica Selter, Craig A. Marquardt, Victoria Liberty, and David A. Luckenbaugh (doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2011.12.010). The article appears in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 71, Issue 11 (June 1, 2012)

Related Stories

Ketamine helps see how the brain works in clinical depression

June 16, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- In a new study published in Nature, Lisa Monteggia from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center looks at how the drug ketamine, typically used as an anesthetic or a popular recreational drug ...

Recommended for you

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Reducing sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy does not affect effectiveness

January 17, 2018
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients treated with as few as five sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy find it equally effective as receiving 12 sessions.

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

How past intentions influence generosity toward the future

January 17, 2018
Over time, it really is the thought that counts – provided we know what that thought was, suggests new research from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.

Tracking the impact of early abuse and neglect

January 17, 2018
Children who experience abuse and neglect early in life are more likely to have problems in social relationships and underachieve academically as adults.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.