The most common current drug therapies for depression, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) -- like Prozac, Celexa, Luvox, Zoloft, Paxil, and Lexapro – typically take weeks before patients begin benefiting from the drugs’ therapeutic effects. Those pills work by eventually blocking the brain’s absorbtion of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which facilitates the normal firing of synapses, and affects mood.
Here’s the major issue with SSRIs: during the time it takes for them to become effective, patients may become MORE suicidal. Dr. Ken Robbins, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explains:
Sometimes what happens is that a person’s energy improves before their mood improves. So if you still feel horribly depressed and hopeless, but have a return of your energy, your risk of being suicidal increases. If it pans out that a shot of ketamine will temporarily pull someone out of their depression, that would still be incredibly helpful. If someone is feeling horrible to the point where you’re concerned they’re suicidal, this could fill the time lapse that regular anti-depressants take to kick in.Studies are underway. Researchers at Houston’s Ben Taub General Hospital are testing the drug’s short-term effects after a single intravenous dose. If results look promising, those researchers will begin a second test – administering ketamine three times a week, to test its effectiveness over longer periods.
The drug has been used for a long time in hospitals as an anesthetic. Recently, it has made its way onto the streets, where it is known as “Special K.”
Here’s a slightly shaky clip from that ABC News report:
So often, we see exciting claims about new therapies, and the pulse quickens. We’re at the very beginning of this story, and I’ll follow developments with interest.