Ketamine improved bipolar depression within minutes

May 30, 2012

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

Communicating in a foreign language takes emotion out of decision making

August 16, 2017
If you could save the lives of five people by pushing another bystander in front of a train to his death, would you do it? And should it make any difference if that choice is presented in a language you speak, but isn't your ...

Precision medicine opens the door to scientific wellness preventive approaches to suicide

August 15, 2017
Researchers have developed a more precise way of diagnosing suicide risk, by developing blood tests that work in everybody, as well as more personalized blood tests for different subtypes of suicidality that they have newly ...

US antidepressant use jumps 65 percent in 15 years

August 15, 2017
(HealthDay)—The number of Americans who say they've taken an antidepressant over the past month rose by 65 percent between 1999 and 2014, a new government survey finds.

Child's home learning environment predicts 5th grade academic skills

August 15, 2017
Children whose parents provide them with learning materials like books and toys and engage them in learning activities and meaningful conversations in infancy and toddlerhood are likely to develop early cognitive skills that ...

Obesity and depression are entwined, yet scientists don't know why

August 15, 2017
About 15 years ago, Dr. Sue McElroy, a psychiatrist in Mason, Ohio, started noticing a pattern. People came to see her because they were depressed, but they frequently had a more visible ailment as well: They were heavy.

Givers really are happier than takers

August 15, 2017
(HealthDay)—Generosity really is its own reward, with the brain seemingly hardwired for happiness in response to giving, new research suggests.

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.