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Ketamine May Ease Suicidal Thoughts in Major Depression

Small study found that the drug worked quickly in patients with treatment-resistant depression

WEDNESDAY, May 11, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Low doses of ketamine may quickly reduce suicidal thoughts in patients with treatment-resistant depression, according to a study published online May 10 in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

All of the study volunteers were being treated for major depressive disorder with current, stable (at least three months) suicidal thoughts. Eleven of the 14 volunteers were female, and their mean age was 50 years. Two weekly intravenous infusions of ketamine were given over three weeks. After initial treatment, the dose was increased. Patients were checked before, during, and after treatment, and every other week during three months of follow-up.

The researchers found that of the seven patients who stopped having suicidal thoughts, two continued to be free of both thoughts of suicide and symptoms of depression during the three-month follow-up. No serious side effects from the drug were seen. Two patients dropped out of the study. One dropped out because of the drug’s side effects, and the other had a scheduling conflict.

“In this preliminary study, repeated doses of open-label ketamine rapidly and robustly decreased suicidal ideation in pharmacologically treated outpatients with treatment-resistant depression with stable suicidal thoughts,” the authors conclude.

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