Major depression affects more than 16 million American adults each year, nearly a third of whom don't find relief fromantidepressants and other traditional treatments. When depressionisn't treated, it increases the chance of alcohol and drug dependence, as well as suicide.
The anesthetic ketamine could offer hope for people who don't have other depression treatment options. The most recent research on ketamine, as well as a statement from experts on its use published in April, finds the drug works quickly, makes dramatic improvements in mood, and can work on people who haven’t gotten better with otherdepression treatments.
The evidence is so enticing that the FDA has granted two ketamine-based drugs breakthrough therapy status and fast-tracked them to market. Yet the studies done so far on ketamine have been small, and its availability is so far limited mainly to ketamine clinics and research studies.
Researchers still have a lot to learn about how well it treats depression and its long-term side effects, yet they say ketamine could be very helpful.
"It is potentially the most exciting development in my lifetime for the treatment of mood disorders, but there is still a way to go before this is ready for prime time," says Gerard Sanacora, MD, PhD, director of the Depression Research Program at Yale University.
What is ketamine?