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Ketamine Helps Relieve Suicidal Thoughts, Study Says

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Ketamine is more effective than other sedatives in reducing depressive thoughts, a new study found.

In addition, the effects of ketamine were felt more rapidly, only a few hours after being taken, New York Daily News reports.

Michael Grunebaum, lead author on the study, said,

There is a critical window in which depressed patients who are suicidal need rapid relief to prevent self-harm.

He further explained, “Currently available antidepressants can be effective in reducing suicidal thoughts in patients with depression, but they can take weeks to have an effect. Suicidal, depressed patients need treatments that are rapidly effective in reducing suicidal thoughts when they are at highest risk. Currently, there is no such treatment for rapid relief of suicidal thoughts in depressed patients.”

According to the study, most medical trials for antidepressants don’t include people who have suicidal thoughts and actions, so it becomes difficult for scientists to assess how successful a drug is.

But even low doses of ketamine, a powerful drug usually combined with anesthesia to sedate patients, had fast-acting effects on people who had suicidal thoughts, reducing their symptoms of depression.

Eighty clinically depressed adults were randomly assigned into two groups for this experiment. One group received ketamine while the other group received midazolam, a sedative.

Within 24 hours, the group that took ketamine reported feeling a significantly greater reduction of their suicidal thoughts than those in the other group, an effect that lasted for up to six weeks.

The people in the ketamine group also had better moods, felt less depressed and were more awake than the other group. There were side effects, though, such as mild dissociation and increased blood pressure that resolved after a few hours.

Grunebaum said, “This study shows that ketamine offers promise as a rapidly acting treatment for reducing suicidal thoughts in patients with depression. Additional research to evaluate ketamine’s antidepressant and anti-suicidal effects may pave the way for the development of new antidepressant medications that are faster acting and have the potential to help individuals who do not respond to currently available treatments.”


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