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Call NOVA Health Recovery at 703-844-0184 for a free consultation for a Ketamine infusion. No referral needed. We offer intranasal Ketamine follow up therapy as well. Alexandria, Va 22306.

Call NOVA Health Recovery at 703-844-0184 for a free consultation for a Ketamine infusion. No referral needed. We offer intranasal Ketamine follow up therapy as well. Alexandria, Va 22306.

From Popular Anesthetic to Antidepressant, Ketamine Isn’t the Drug You Think It Is

An hour before we spoke, Darragh O’Carroll, an emergency room physician from Hawaii, had just given an elderly patient a sedating shot of ketamine. The man had pneumonia and was acting confused and fidgety, making him hard to treat.

“Not only it was a pain control for him when I was putting needles into his neck, but it also kept him still,” O’Carroll says. “And with very minimal risk of lowering his blood pressure.”

Ketamine’s use as an anesthetic — and not as a party drug — is widespread, though not commonly known. In fact, the World Health Organizationestimates ketamine is the most widely used anesthetic in the world and keeps it on their list of essential medicines, a category of drugs that all developed countries should have on hand.

O’Carroll has described ketamine as his “favorite medicine of all time” in an article for Tonic, not only because the anesthetic is incredibly safe and effective, but also because of its versatility. It’s most widely used in surgery, but could also help treat severe asthma, chronic pain, and may even possess anti-tumor properties. In the last two decades, ketamine has also emerged as a potent antidepressant, able to treat symptoms of some mental illnesses in less than 72 hours.

“I think the more research that goes into ketamine, the more uses that we find for it,” O’Carroll says.

From PCP to Painkiller

Ketamine’s story begins with a drug called PCP. Yes, that PCP — phencyclidine or so-called “angel dust,” a drug that when smoked can cause a trance-like state, agitation and out-of-body hallucinations. After it was first synthesized by medicinal chemist Victor Maddox in 1956, the drug was briefly approved as an anesthetic by the FDA for its sedative properties. In tests with a wild rhesus monkey, for example, researchers put their fingers in the previously aggressive animal’s mouth and watched its jaw remain slack.

But while it was safe and effective for pain relief, the side effects of PCP soon became too obvious to ignore.

Some patients under the influence of PCP would feel like they lost their arms or legs or that they were floating in space. It could also cause seizures and delirium. Scientists began seeking a shorter-acting anesthetic without convulsant properties. In 1962, chemistry professor Calvin Stevens discovered a PCP analogue that fit the bill: ketamine.

Ketamine is a potent, sedating painkiller that can cause amnesia and is mostly used in surgery and veterinary medicine. During the Vietnam Invasion, ketamine saw widespread use in the U.S. military because it has several advantages over opioids. First, unlike morphine, ketamine doesn’t suppress blood pressure or breathing. It also doesn’t need to be refrigerated, making it useful in the field or in rural areas that don’t have access to electricity.

Ketamine’s benefits extend beyond use as an anesthetic, though — in some cases it can serve as a balm for the mind as well. A 2008 analysis found that burn victims who were given ketamine were less likely to develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, even if their injuries were more severe. Those findings have been replicated, such as a 2014 clinical trial of 41 patients, who saw their PTSD symptoms diminish within 24 hours, an effect that lasted for two weeks.

“When somebody gets one of their limbs dramatically blown off or is shot in the face, it’s a very traumatic event,” O’Carroll says. In such a situation, giving ketamine not only provides instant pain relief, it could prevent long-lasting trauma.

Because its chemical structure is so similar to PCP, ketamine can still give lucid hallucinations, such as feeling that your mind has separated from the body — a dissociative state users sometimes call a “K-hole.” One recent study based on users’ written reports even indicated that this kind of experience might be a close analogue to a near-death experience. However, these dissociative states only happen at high doses — the amount of ketamine used to for surgery and to treat depression is typically much lower.

But ketamine’s side effects are less common and easier to manage than PCP. In fact, ketamine is one of the safest drugs used in medicine today and can even be given to young children. For example, ketamine was used to sedatethe boys’ soccer team trapped in a cave in Thailand last year. Putting the kids in a tranquilized state made it easier to rescue them, and ketamine is safer than the opioids or benzodiazepines that are also commonly used as sedatives.  

Ketamine as Antidepressant

But it wasn’t until the 1990s that what could turn out to be ketamine’s most important function was discovered. A team from Yale University School of Medicine was examining the role of glutamate, a common neurotransmitter, in depression, and discovered something remarkable: ketamine could rapidly relieve depression symptoms.

“To our surprise, the patients started saying, they were better in a few hours,” Dennis Charney, one of the researchers, told Bloomberg. This rapid relief was unheard of in psychiatry.

Glutamate is associated with neural plasticity, our brain’s ability to adapt and change at the level of the neuron. Ketamine blocks certain glutamate receptors, but not others, and the end effect could be to promote the growth of new neurons while protecting old ones. This could explain how ketamine can help reset the brain, though the theory hasn’t yet been definitively proven.

The prescription meds currently on the market for depression have some major drawbacks. Drugs like Prozac or Wellbutrin can take a few weeks or months to kick in while worsening symptoms in the short term — not a good combination, especially for someone who is extremely depressed, or even suicidal.

It took around a decade for mainstream science to take notice of these early ketamine-depression studies. But once it did, ketamine clinics began popping up all across North America, offering fast relief for depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses. Patients are given an infusion — an IV drip that lasts about an hour — and many people, but not everyone, have seen rapid relief of their symptoms.

Suddenly, ketamine infusions became trendy, though the science to back up some of the medical claims is still inconclusive, according to STAT. However, ketamine infusions are rarely covered by insurance, although that is changing. A typical session can run $700, with many patients taking six sessions or more. But many of these patients have so-called treatment-resistant depression. They’ve tried other medications or therapies without success and some see ketamine as a last resort.

Steven Mandel, a clinical psychologist and anesthesiologist, has used ketamine on patients since it first came on the market around 50 years ago. In 2014, he began using it for patients with depression and opened Ketamine Clinics of Los Angeles, one of the oldest and largest clinics in the country. They’ve done over 8,000 infusions so far.

“Our success rate is better than 83 percent,” Mandel says. For his clinic, success means a 50 percent improvement of depression symptoms for longer than three months.

Ketamine’s success as an antidepressant couldn’t help but attract the attention of major pharmaceutical companies as well. In 2009, Johnson & Johnson began developing their own version of the drug they called esketamine. Rather than an infusion through a vein, it’s dispensed through a nasal spray. The FDA approved their formulation in early March. It was thefirst drug in 35 years to fight depression using a different approach than traditional drugs.

“Esketamine is a giant step forward,” Mandel says. “It means we’re not going to be demonizing mind-altering substances used for therapeutic purposes. It opens the door to research on LSD, on psilocybin, on MDMA and many other agents that could possibly relieve a great deal of suffering.”

But many clinicians have raised concerns about long-term side effects, such as heart and bladder toxicity. Others have been critical of esketamine, saying there isn’t enough data yet to suggest the drug is safe or effective. Husseini Manji, a neuroscientist who helped develop the drug for Johnson & Johnson at their subsidiary Janssen, has pushed back against these claims.

“When you line up the totality of the studies, it was really an overwhelming amount of data that was all in the same direction,” Manji says in a call. Though just two of the five late-state clinical trials showed significant results, the changes in mood in the three that fell short were “almost identical in magnitude” to the others, Manji says. It was enough for the drug to meet standards for FDA approval.

We can probably expect other ketamine-related drugs to come to market soon. ATAI Life Sciences, a company funding research on the use of magic mushrooms for depression, is developing their own ketamine depression drug. The pharmaceutical company Allergan also developed rapastinel, another ketamine-like drug, though it failed to show any real benefits for patients in later trials. Manji says this is unfortunate for people who could be helped by these kinds of drugs.

“From a patient standpoint, we were hoping it would work,” he says, even though he was not involved in rapastinel’s development. “But sometimes if you really haven’t got the mechanism right and you haven’t really threaded the needle, then sometimes you don’t see these results.”

Drug of Abuse?

Even though ketamine’s medical uses are well-established, most people have only heard of ketamine in the context of a party drug. Because of this bad reputation — and what’s perceived as growing misuse of the drug — several countries, such as China and the UK, have tried to place greater restrictions on ketamine. This would make it harder to study and more expensive in clinical use.

“If it was to ever be rescheduled, places that would be first affected would be you know places that need it most,” O’Carroll says. The WHO has asked at least four times for countries to keep access to ketamine open. “The medical benefits of ketamine far outweigh potential harm from recreational use,” Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant director general for Health Systems and Innovation at WHO, said in 2015.

So far, no countries have put greater restrictions on ketamine, and that’s probably a good thing. Ketamine has a rich history, but its future is still being written.

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‘Special K’ Drug vs Ketamine Therapy: The Differences in Intentions, Use and Application

‘Special K’ Drug vs Ketamine Therapy: The Differences in Intentions, Use and Application

The Differences Between ‘Special K’ and Ketamine Therapy

Some know it as a veterinary tranquilizer, others know it as a party drug. For others still, it might be a life-line, the only hope to get their life back from the throes of crippling depression. We are talking about a drug called ketamine or ‘Special K’.

Ketamine’s many names and uses make it a difficult drug to understand. The scientific research on ketamine is evolving so rapidly that not even medical professionals can’t agree on how it should be used.

This article takes all of the information about ketamine, or ‘Special K’, and breaks it down so that it’s simple, accurate, and concise. If you’re wondering about the many differences between using ketamine as a street drug and using it therapeutically, then you’ve come to the right place.

Special K: Ketamine as a Street Drug

Most people first learn about ketamine when they hear about the street drug called ‘Special K’. Other names for the drug when used recreationally are: Ketalar, Ketaject, Vitamin K, and Super K. While this drug is not as widely used as Marijuana or some other illicit substances, it has a strong hold on certain niche markets, like the clubbing and raving scenes.

Although doctors and veterinarians began using ketamine in the 1960s, it wasn’t introduced into the party scene until much later. The trend actually began in India, in the Goa trance music scene of the 1980s, and made its way to the western world from there. By the 1990s, ketamine was a major force in the psychedelic drug scene throughout Europe and the United States.

Despite small ups and downs since its introduction in the ‘90s, Special K has remained a steadily popular drug among high school and college students. The US’s National Institute on Drug Abuse has found that 1.2 percent of high school seniors report that they’ve used ketamine in the last year. While that’s much lower than some other drugs, it’s still significant given the seriousness of ketamine’s effects and the dangers of its potential side effects.

An overdose of ketamine can lead to death. Even non-lethal doses can cause side effects like chest pain, memory loss, and trouble breathing. Those who use Special K recreationally often become addicted, and eventually lose their jobs, relationships, and lives to the drug.

Ketamine Therapy: How Doctors Are Using Ketamine to Change Lives

“At this point, any new depression treatment that makes it to the finish line is a huge win.” That’s Dr. George Papakostas speaking to Time Magazine about the desperate need that medical providers have for depression medications. He says that whatever drug does make across that finish line is “going to have a major impact.”

That drug may very well be ketamine.

Despite its reputation as a street drug or a horse tranquilizer, multiple scientific studies have found the drug is a very effective remedy for a number of ailments (such as PTSD), but especially depression.

Ketamine, along with drugs like phencyclidine (popularly known as PCP) and dextromethorphan (often called DXM or ‘Robo’), belongs to a class of drugs called dissociative anesthetics. These kinds of drugs tend to give the users a ‘floating’ sensation, as if they’re detached from their bodies and their surroundings.

Special K is a particularly fast acting form of dissociative anesthetic, which is why it works so well as both a party drug and a numbing agent in surgeries. In medical settings, Ketamine is often used as an initial anesthetic before other, more powerful painkillers like morphine can kick in. But it’s not these anesthetic effects that make the ketamine drug so effective as an antidepressant.

In fact, doctors aren’t entirely sure what it is about ketamine that helps people overcome their depression. Many think that it has something to do with starting up the ‘synaptic plasticity’ of the brain. This is the part of the brain that has the ability to grow and change over time, and increased plasticity is a common effect of other antidepressant medication.

However it works, the scientific results are pretty clear: regular, therapeutic doses of ketamine helps eliminate the symptoms of depression.

One study from February of 2018 observed “significant improvement of depressive symptoms” in a double-blind clinical trial of 67 adults with treatment-resistant depression (a type of depression that doesn’t respond to other medications like Prozac). Further, the study found that the improvements in the patients were sustained throughout the entire 9-week period of the study. That’s not just a good finding, it’s a breakthrough for treating a condition that has long eluded medical professionals.

Although ketamine has not yet been approved in a prescription pill or nasal spray form for treating depression, there are treatment centers that can offer completely legal ketamine therapy for depression. One of these centers, based in Los Angles, is called Ketamine Clinics.

At these centers doctors are able to administer ketamine drugs in a controlled and calm setting through intravenous or infusion methods.

Why People Use Ketamine Drugs: Therapy Vs. Thrill Seeking

Although the ketamine drug used in therapy is technically the same as the Special K drug used in wild raves, the motivations and outcomes of the experiences are very different.

Using Special K to Get High:

When people use Special K as a street drug, they are looking for a high. Some might be seeking a thrilling experience at a rave, while others might be trying to escape from a life that they find overwhelming. Many end up dangerously addicted to the drug after repeated use.

Almost immediately after the drug is ingested, the user begins to feel the effects of the ketamine. At lower doses, ketamine may merely make the user feel ‘dreamy’. But, at higher doses, ketamine can have extreme euphoric and hallucinogenic effects. When these effects are at their most extreme, the user can become immobilized and go into a ‘K-Hole’.

Ketamine’s effects on mobility and memory are so drastic that it is often used as a date rape drug. In this way, the high of Special K can quickly turn into a horrible low.

This dark side of ketamine is made more dangerous by the fact that recreational users are often getting their supply from unregulated sources, like the Chinese black market or the ‘dark web’. Unregulated drugs like this can be cut with toxic chemicals or other drugs, and they can have very inconsistent potencies, making it nearly impossible to determine a safe dose.

In short, ketamine is like many other street drugs when it’s used illicitly: it offers a quick, dangerous high that can easily lead to addiction.

Using Ketamine as Therapy:

John Abenstein, MD, the president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, has said that “Outside of the clinic, ketamine can cause tragedies, but in the right hands, it is a miracle.”

It’s this miracle, and not a fun ‘high’, that people are seeking when they use ketamine for therapy.

Many people’s lives have been plagued by depression, bipolar disorder, and PTSD. People lose their jobs because they can’t find the will to leave their beds in the morning. Their friendships fall apart and their marriages often end in divorce. Some severely depressed people end up taking their own lives. These tragedies are all too common.

Ketamine therapy offers real hope for millions of people who struggle with these psychological problems daily. It’s especially important for those ‘treatment resistant’ patients who have found no relief from other treatments like SSRIs.

Even though there is not yet a prescription ketamine medication for depression, many people’s lives have already been changed by ketamine therapy in clinics. In fact, there is a whole Ketamine Advocacy Network whose mission is to “spread awareness of ketamine therapy for treatment-resistant depression, bipolar, and PTSD, and to make this treatment available and affordable for all who need it.”

Ketamine therapy is about so much more than a fun party or a weekend escape. It’s about healing lives that have been fractured by crippling disorders.

Intravenous Infusions for Therapy Vs. Snorting or Injecting to Get High

In its recreational drug form, ketamine tends to be a white powder or a crystallized chunk that can be broken apart. In order to get high, people snort the drug as lines of powder, take it orally in pill forms, or inject it intravenously using hypodermic needles.

All of these forms of recreational use present their own dangers, such as infection, the spread of disease through used needles, or incorrect dosing.

Using ketamine in a medical facility is a very different sort of experience.

The ‘route of administration’ (ROA), or how the drug gets into the body, is very important for ketamine’s therapeutic qualities to work. Most therapeutic doses of the ketamine drug are given intravenously.

The intravenous infusions are given over an elongated period, usually about a half an hour in length. This method allows the practitioners to control the dosage and to spread out the rate of delivery so that the drug can enter the bloodstream in a consistent and steady manner, rather than all at once.

Intravenous infusions also allow the drug to enter directly into the bloodstream. Other ROAs, like pills, can lead to a large percentage of the drug being metabolized by the body before reaching the brain. You can read more about why intravenous infusions are most effective on the Ketamine Advocacy Network website.

How It Feels to Take Ketamine Therapeutically

Therapeutic doses of ketamine definitely won’t send you into a K-Hole, but they can make you a bit woozy. In some cases, people have reported feeling dissociated, but these feeling are usually minor and can even be pleasurable. Still, patients must make sure to arrange a ride home with a friend or family member because they won’t be able to drive.

Many people find that they can go right back to work or school after their ketamine therapy appointment. Others prefer to head home and take a short nap. Either way, the anesthetic effects of the ketamine should be gone shortly after the session.

Although it varies from patient to patient, many people only require ketamine therapy once a week or less in order to see a significant or total reduction in their symptoms!

K-Hole: The Risks of a Special K Drug Overdose

As we’ve mentioned above, a ketamine overdose is not pleasant, and can even be deadly. Although you don’t have to worry about this if you’re just taking therapeutic doses, those who use the drug recreationally must be very careful.

When someone takes high amounts of the Special K drug they can end up in a sort of catatonic state where they can’t move or talk. This is called a K-hole. Some describe it as a near death experience, and that’s not a good thing. It can be a terrifying and even traumatizing experience.

But a K-Hole is not the worst thing that can happen if you take too much ketamine. A ketamine overdose can also lead to vomiting, chest pain, seizures, and even death.

The Future of Ketamine

Depression has plagued humans for millennia. It was first described by Hippocrates as “Melancholia”, and although we know much more about the disease these days, the treatments that are widely available are far from perfect. This is why the advances in ketamine therapy are so exciting.

Doctor Thomas Insel has said that ““Recent data suggest that ketamine, given intravenously, might be the most important breakthrough in antidepressant treatment in decades.” That’s a big deal coming from the director of the Institute of Mental Health.

Ketamine may continue to be a dangerous street drug for some, but for others it’s a beacon of shining hope.

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The Psychopharmacology of Depression: Strategies, Formulations, and Future Implications


With well over two dozen traditional antidepressants available in the US, and an ever-growing list of other psychotropic compounds with apparent antidepressant properties, pharmacological options for treating clinical depression today are broad and vast. However, recent findings suggest that the magnitude of efficacy for most antidepressants compared with placebo may be more modest than previously thought.1Most depressed patients do not respond fully to a first antidepressant trial, and with each consequent trial, there is less chance of symptom remission.2 About one-third of patients receiving long-term treatment report persistent moderate-to-severe depression.3 Hence, there remains more than a little room for improvement.

Since the late 1950s, the traditional view of treating depression has focused on the role of monoamines (serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine) as the main targets for medications. Newer treatments are looking beyond effects on monoamines as potential strategies to leverage depressive symptoms.

A major challenge for progress in novel pharmacotherapies has been our lack of a full understanding about the causes of depression. Advances in functional neuroimaging and genetic markers have begun to shed new light on brain regions and pathways associated with aberrant neural functioning in depression, but not in ways that have led to treatments aimed at remedying its pathogenesis. This makes it hard to think of antidepressant medications as “treating” the pathophysiology of depression (as when antibiotics eliminate the cause of an infection); rather, antidepressant relieve symptoms by counteracting or compensating for depression’s consequences (as when diuretics alleviate peripheral edema regardless of its etiology).

Gone are the days of oversimplified theories that depression is caused by a “chemical imbalance.” More likely, depression involves changes in brain architecture and the interplay of complex circuits in which chemicals, or neurotransmitters, are the messengers of information, rather than the causes of faulty functioning. Table 1 summarizes some of the major conceptual shifts that have occurred in thinking about the probable causes of depression (or at least its neurobiological context), which sets the stage for new ways to consider innovative treatment strategies. Looking beyond the role of monoamines as treatment targets in depression, a number of novel therapeutic strategies have begun to receive growing interest in preclinical and clinical trials. Key points about emerging novel depression pharmacotherapies are summarized in Table 2, and described more fully below.

Subanesthetically dosed intravenous (IV) ketamine currently represents perhaps the most dramatic and innovative antidepressant pharmacotherapy to emerge in decades.4,5 It is pharmacodynamically unique in its rapid onset (hours rather than days to weeks) and its potential ability to reduce suicidal ideation after a single dose, independent of its antidepressant properties.6 (While both lithium and clozapine have been shown to reduce suicidal behaviors, neither has been shown to reduce ideation, much less in the same day after a single dose.) Meta-analyses suggest that 0.5 mg/kg IV ketamine produces nearly a 10-fold greater likelihood of response than placebo at day 1 and a 4- to 5-fold likelihood of sustained response after one week.7

The exact psychotropic mechanism of action of ketamine remains elusive. Initial work focused on blockade of ionotropic N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors as accounting broadly for its antidepressant effects. However, subsequent negative randomized trials with other NMDA receptor antagonists (such as riluzole8) redirected interest toward ketamine’s other, non-NMDA receptor-related mechanisms, such as sigma receptor agonism, mu opioid receptor antagonism, or midbrain monoaminergic inhibition. Other authors have suggested that at low doses, ketamine’s antidepressant effects may derive from an increase in glutamate transmission with increased α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptor expression, leading to increased release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).9Murrough and colleagues10 recently observed the necessity of AMPA receptor activation for the antidepressant effects of ketamine. They reported that “directly targeting the NMDA [receptor] may not be required.” As noted by the American Psychiatric Association Council on Research Task Force on Novel Biomarkers and Treatments,11 future advances will depend on a better understanding of the many mechanisms of action relative to the antidepressant properties of ketamine.

Ketamine is currently not approved by the FDA as a treatment for depression. Uncertainty remains as to whether repeated dosing is safe, effective, and necessary to avoid relapse and, if so, when, at what frequency, and for how long. The aforementioned APA Council on Research Consensus Statement on ketamine treatment for depression11 stated that while some clinics already offer 2- to 3-week courses of ketamine delivered 2 to 3 times per week, “there remain no published data that clearly supports this practice, and . . . the relative benefit of each ketamine infusion [should] be considered in light of the potential risks associated with longer term exposure to ketamine and the lack of published evidence for prolonged efficacy with ongoing administration.” 11 Thus far, studies of other pharmacotherapies to sustain an initial ketamine response (such as riluzole or lithium) have proven no better than placebo.

Enantiomeric esketamine remains investigational as a possible easier-to-administer intranasal (IN) antidepressant, although IN bioavailability is only about half that of IV ketamine’s 100%. Two randomized multi-site trials of IN esketamine added to antidepressants showed dose-related better efficacy than placebo: Daly and colleagues12 found that 28 mg to 84 mg of IN ketamine twice weekly over two weeks produced significant improvement in depressive symptoms as compared to placebo beginning after 1 week and continuing through week 9 for the majority of responders. A study by Canuso and colleagues13 demonstrated a significant reduction in depressive symptoms within 4 hours of administration (56 mg to 84 mg insufflated over 15 minutes) and a medium to large effect size, sustained after 25 days; suicidal ideation reduced significantly at 4 hours but not beyond that time. Another recent randomized pilot trial of IN racemic ketamine (the mixture of S- and R-ketamine) was prematurely discontinued due to poor tolerability (including cardiovascular and neurological adverse effects) and highly variable absorption across subjects.14

Modulation of the endogenous opioid system has long been a target of interest in the treatment of mood disorders, but it is limited by safety risks, tolerance, and addiction potential. Recent work has focused on a proprietary combination of the μ-opioid partial agonist/kappa antagonist buprenorphine plus the μ-opioid receptor antagonist samidorphan (ALKS 5461). The potent blockade of μ-opioid receptors in samidorphan, which prevents buprenorphine access to these receptors, effectively renders buprenorphine a selective kappa opiate receptor (KOR) antagonist, which is its putative antidepressant mechanism. After initial favorable Phase II trials, in 2013 the FDA granted ALKS 5461 fast track status for accelerated regulatory review as an antidepressant adjunct. Subsequent randomized trials in treatment-resistant major depression revealed statistically significant differences from placebo on some, but not all, depressive symptom outcome measures and at some, but not all, doses studied.15,16 The FDA initially refused to review the new drug application for ALKS 5461 as an adjunctive therapy for depression because of concerns about bioavailability and lack of evidence, but then reversed its position. ALKS 5461 is currently under regulatory review and a decision regarding its possible approval is expected by early 2019.

Antiinflammatories and immunomodulators

There has been growing recognition of complex interrelationships between depression and inflammation. Some but not all patients with clinically significant depression appear to have elevated serum markers of systemic inflammation, such as high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) and inflammatory cytokines. While causal relationships between depression and inflammation are poorly understood and questions remain whether depression causes inflammation or vice versa, randomized trial data suggest potential antidepressant value of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), particularly the COX-2 inhibitor celecoxib. A pooled meta-analysis of 5447 participants from 10 NSAID trials and 4 cytokine inhibitors (as mono- or add-on therapy for depression) revealed statistically significant advantages over placebo, with small to medium effect sizes, for response (odds ratio = 6.6; 95% confidence interval=2.2-19.4) or remission (odds ratio = 7.9; 95% confidence interval=2.9-21.1)17It has not been established whether adding celecoxib or other NSAIDs to an antidepressant may be more useful only in the setting of elevated serum markers of inflammation. Elsewhere, preliminary studies reveal that inflammatory depressive subtypes (ie, high baseline hs-CRP) may respond better to a tricyclic than SSRI,18 adjunctive L-methylfolate,19 or the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) antagonist infliximab (admnistered IV at 5 mg/kg over 3 doses).20

The antimicrobial minocycline exerts anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties and has been preliminarily studied mostly in small or open/nonrandomized trials. A meta-analysis of 3 randomized controlled trials found an overall significantly greater effect than placebo with a medium to large effect size and good tolerability, although the small number of well-designed studies and samples sizes (total N = 158) limits their generalizability.21

Anticholinergic muscarinic agents

Harkening back to the 1970s hypothesis that depression could reflect cholinergic-adrenergic dysregulation, interest has turned to the possible antidepressant effects of the muscarinic cholinergic antagonist scopolamine. Preliminary studies of intravenous scopolamine dosed at 4 µg/kg in both unipolar and bipolar depression have produced remission rates from 45% to 56% (Cohen’s d ranged from 1.2-3.4) typically within several days of administration, with persistence for 10 to 14 days.22Antimuscarinic adverse effects such as sedation, dry mouth, and blurry vision are common but transient. Neurocognitive measures reaction time during selective attention tasks reveal no significant delays following IV scopolamine infusion.23 Analogous to IV ketamine, questions remain about the optimal number of infusions to minimize relapse as well as the use of nonparenteral formulations.

Brexanolone (SAGE-547), also known as allopregnanolone, is a positive allosteric modulator of GABA-A receptors. It is a progesterone metabolite that exerts neuroprotective, pro-cognitive, and possible antidepressant/anxiolytic properties. Precipitous drops in progesterone and allopregnanolone after childbirth prompted interest in the use of allopregnanolone specifically in postpartum depression. A small (N = 21) initial trial of brexanolone (administered intravenously because of its short half-life and poor oral bioavailability) or placebo for severe postpartum depression yielded a substantial reduction in depressive symptom severity within 60 hours (effect size = 1.2).24 Further data remain pending. SAGE-217 is reformulated brexanolone that has good oral bioavailability, allowing for oral administration, as well as a longer half-life allowing once-a-day dosing. It is currently being studied as an adjunctive agent for treatment resistant depression.

PPAR-γ agonists and incretins

Thiazolidinediones are insulin sensitizers that also demonstrate antidepressant properties in animal studies and appear to possess anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, antioxidant and anti-excitatory properties. Pioglitazone, a PPAR-γ agonist thiazolidinedione, has been studied versus placebo or metformin in major depression, both as monotherapy and in combination with antidepressants or lithium. A meta-analysis of 4 trials revealed significantly higher remission rates than controls (27% versus 10%, respectively; odds ratio of remission in major depression = 5.9 (95% confidence interval=1.6-22.4), p = .009), with an NNT = 6.25 Even though PPAR-γ agonists can decrease insulin resistance, weight gain can be an undesired adverse effect that is possibly a result of a combination of fat cell proliferation, fluid retention, and increased appetite. Pioglitazone also carries serious adverse risks for congestive heart failure and bladder cancer.

Glucagon-like peptide 1

Another class of antidiabetic drugs known as glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) agonists mimic the action of insulin (so-called incretins) and are of interest as a potential target for depression. GLP-1 agonists such as liraglutide possess neuroprotective and antiapoptotic properties, and animal studies suggest it has antidepressant and pro-cognitive effects, particularly involving reward and motivation. Human studies have thus far focused more on weight-reducing and possible cognitive benefits of liraglutide more than its potential antidepressant efficacy, but its mechanism represents a promising direction for further study.

Future directions

This brief overview has focused on emerging novel pharmacotherapies for depression. While the provisional nature of proof-of-concept studies may be encouraging, they are far from definitive. The aforementioned findings are largely preliminary and meant more to prompt larger randomized trials to establish efficacy, safety, and generalizability rather than inspire premature immediate uptake into clinical practice.

Given the focus on neuroprotection and enhanced neuroplasticity as proposed targets of treatment, it would seem remiss not to at least mention the neurobiological impact of depression-specific psychotherapies, mindfulness meditation, and related psychosocial interventions. Psychotherapy is, among other things, a behavioral learning paradigm, presumably rendering alterations in cognitive functions (memory, attention, and decision-making), fear extinction, and emotional processing. Evidence-based psychotherapies for depression have been shown to produce changes in brain network connectivity26 (recapitulating the idea of Hebbian synapses, where “neurons that fire together wire together”) and upregulation of intracellular transcription factors involved in neuronal plasticity.27Enhanced neuroplasticity may represent a common denominator target for effective biological or psychosocial treatments for depression.

Increasingly, drugs we call antidepressants are diversifying to include broader classes of molecules. A more neuroscience-based nomenclature for psychotropic drugs has already been proposed28 and will no doubt invoke more novel drug mechanisms, supplanting older concepts about depression as a chemical imbalance as perspectives continue to evolve about how antidepressants impact neuronal viability and brain microarchitecture.


1. Cipriani A, Furukawa TA, Salanti G,et al.Comparative efficacy and acceptability of 21 antidepressant drugs for the acute treatment of adults with major depressive disorder: a systematic review and network meta-analysis. Lancet 2018; S0140-6736:32802-7. [Epub ahead of print]

2. Trivedi MH, Rush AJ, Wisniewski SR, et al. Evaluation of outcomes with citalopram for depression using measurement-based care in STAR*D: implications for clinical practice. Am J Psychiatry. 2006;163:28-40.

3. Cartwright C, Gibson K, Read J, et al. Long-term antidepressant use: patient perspectives of benefits and adverse effects. Patient Prefer Adher. 2016;10:1401-1407.

4. Zarate CA Jr., Singh JB, Carlson PJ, et al. A randomized trial of an N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist in treatment-resistant major depression. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2006;63:856-864.

5. Murrough JW, Iosifescu DV, Chang LC, et al. Antidepressant efficacy of ketamine in treatment-resistant major depression: a two-site randomized controlled trial. Am J Psychiatry. 2013;170:1134-1142.

6. Wilkinson ST, Ballard ED, Bloch MH, et al. The effect of a single dose of intravenous ketamine on suicidal ideation: a systematic review and individual participant data meta-analysis. Am J Psychiatry. 2018;175:150-158.

7. Newport DJ, Carpenter LL, McDonald WM, et al. Ketamine and other NMDA antagonists: early clinical trials and possible mechanisms in depression. Am J Psychiatry. 2015;172:950-966.

8. Mathew SJ, Gueorguieva R, Brandt C, et al. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, sequential parallel comparison design trial of adjunctive riluzole for treatment-resistant major depressive disorder. Neuropsychopharmacol 2017;42: 2567-2574.

9. Duman RS, Li N, Liu RJ, et al. Signaling pathways underlying the rapid antidepressant actions of ketamine. Neuropharmacol. 2012;62:35-41.

10. Murrough JW, Abdallah CG, Mathew SJ. Targeting glutamate signalling in depression: progress and prospects. Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2017;16:472-486.

11. Sanacora G, Frye MA, McDonald W, et al. A consensus statement on the use of ketamine in the treatment of mood disorders. JAMA Psychiatry. 2017;74:399-405.

12. Daly EJ, Singh JB, Fedgchin M, et al. Efficacy and safety of intranasal esketamine adjunctive to oral antidepressant therapy in treatment-resistant depression: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Psychiatry. 2018;75:139-148.

13. Canuso CM, Singh JB, Fedgchin M, et al. Efficacy and safety of intranasal esketamine for the rapid reduction of symptoms of depression and suicidality in patients at imminent risk for suicide: results of a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Am J Psychiatry. April 2018; Epub ahead of print.

14. Gálvez V, Li A, Huggins C, et al. Repeated intranasal ketamine for treatment-resistant depression – the way to go? Results from a pilot randomised controlled trial. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2018;32:397-407.

15. Ehrich E, Turncliff R, Du Y, et al. Evaluation of opioid modulation in major depressive disorder. Neuropsychopharmacol. 2015;40:1448-1455.

16. Fava M, Memisoglu A, Thase ME, et al. Opioid modulation with buprenorphine/samidorphan as adjunctive treatment for inadequate response to antidepressants: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Am J Psychiatry. 2016;173:499-508.

17. Köhler O, Benros ME, Nordentoft M, et al. Effect of anti-inflammatory treatment on depression, depressive symptoms, and adverse effects: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71:1381-1391.

18. Uher R, Tansey KE, Dew T, et al. An inflammatory biomarker as a differential predictor of outcome of depression treatment with escitalopram and nortriptyline. Am J Psychiatry. 2014;171:1278-1286.

19. Papakostas GI, Shelton RC, Zajecka JM, et al. Effect of adjunctive L-methylfolate 15 mg among inadequate responders to SSRIs in depressed patients who were stratified by biomarker levels and genotype: results from a randomized clinical trial. J Clin Psychiatry. 2014;75:855-863.

20. Raison CL, Rutheford RE, Woolwine BJ, et al. A randomized controlled trial of the tumor necrosis factor antagonist infliximab for treatment-resistant depression: the role of baseline inflammatory biomarkers. JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;70:31-41.

21. Rosenblat JD, McIntyre RS. Efficacy and tolerability of minocycline for depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials. J Affect Disord. 2018;227:219-225.

22. Drevets WC, Zarate CA Jr, Furey ML. Antidepressant effects of the muscarinic cholinergic antagonist scopolamine: a review. Biol Psychiatry. 2013;73:1156-1163.

23. Furey ML Pietrini P, Haxby JV, et al. Selective effects of cholinergic modulation on task performance during selective attention. Neuropsychopharmacol 2008; 33:913-923.

24. Kanes S, Colquohoun H, Grunduz-Bruce H, et al. Brexanolone (SAGE-547 injection) in post-partum depression: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2017;390:480-489.

25. Colle R, de Larminat D, Rotenberg S, et al. Pioglitazone could induce remission in major depression: a meta-analysis. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat 2016;13: 9-16.

26.Yang CC, Barrós-Loscertales A, Pinazo D, et al. State and training effects of mindfulness meditation on brain networks reflect neuronal mechanisms of its antidepressant effect. Neural Plast. 2016;2016:9504642.

27. Koch JM, Hinze-Selch D, Stingele K, et al. Changes in CREB phosphorylation and BDNF plasma levels during psychotherapy of depression. Psychother Psychosom. 2009;78:187-192.

28. ECNP Neuroscience Applied. Neuroscience-based Nomenclature. https://www.ecnp.eu/research-innovation/nomenclature.aspx. Accessed June 6, 2018.

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Ketamine for Chronic Pain & Depression

Intravenous Ketamine is proving to be a tremendous treatment for intractable depression as well as chronic pain.  About half the patients treated respond positively with results lasting up to a week in most of the responders.

It has emerged as a treatment option for a variety of chronic pain conditions including fibromyalgia, small fiber neuropathy, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) and psychiatric conditions including depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), suicidal ideation, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Ketamine in the News

Remarkable secrets of ketamine’s antidepressant effect unlocked by scientists

Could Party Drug Ketamine Be a Treatment for Depression?

‘The fog is gone’: How ketamine could help lift hard-to-treat depression

Ketamine Research

Ketamine for Depression, 1: Clinical Summary of Issues Related to Efficacy, Adverse Effects, and Mechanism of Action.

Ketamine safety and tolerability in clinical trials for treatment-resistant depression.

Low-dose ketamine for treatment resistant depression in an academic clinical practice setting.

Symptomatology and predictors of antidepressant efficacy in extended responders to a single ketamine infusion.

How does ketamine elicit a rapid antidepressant response?

The use of ketamine as an antidepressant: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Ketamine for rapid reduction of suicidal ideation: a randomized controlled trial.

Do the dissociative side effects of ketamine mediate its antidepressant effects?

Rapid and longer-term antidepressant effects of repeated ketamine infusions in treatment-resistant major depression.

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CAll 703-844-0184 for an immediate appointment to evaluate you for a Ketamine infusion:

Ketaminealexandria.com    703-844-0184 Call for an infusion to treat your depression. PTSD, Anxiety, CRPS, or other pain disorder today.

email@novahealthrecovery.com  << Email for questions to the doctor

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Ketamine has ‘truly remarkable’ effect on depression and is effective in elderly patients, scientists say

Ketamine Infusions | 703-844-0184 | Fairfax, Va | 22304 | ketamine for depression

Ketamine can have a “truly remarkable” effect on people with depression, researchers have said after a new study showed promising results among elderly patients.

Colleen Loo, a professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia, led the world’s first randomised control trial into the drug’s effect on people over 60 with treatment-resistant depression.

“This trial has shown ketamine can be used safely in the elderly and it tends to be effective,” she told The Independent, adding that a similar effect was observed in this age group as in younger patients.

It is important to test how people of different ages respond to a new treatment before it can be offered by doctors, she said: “Sometimes depression in the elderly can be harder to treat, especially with medication.

“Also, they tend to have more medical problems, which can interfere with medication.”

Ketamine was discovered in 1962 and is licenced for medical use in the UK as an anaesthetic, but is also used illegally as a recreational drug.

Of the study’s 16 participants, 11 reported an improvement in their condition while being treated with the drug, according to the research published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

After six months, 43 per cent of the subjects said they had no significant symptoms of depression – a high rate given that the participants had not responded to previous treatment, said Professor Loo.

“It is truly remarkable the way ketamine can work,” she said. “Other people have also found you get a rapid and powerful effect after a single dose of ketamine.”

“Some people mistakenly think we are inducing a temporary, drug-induced euphoria and people are ‘out of it’, which is why they’re not depressed.

“But the effects take place in the first hour, and they’re not euphoric at all. In fact, all of our research participants disliked them. They considered them adverse effects.

“The antidepressant effect kicks in a few hours later and are maximised about 20 hours later, when you’re fully alert and in your usual state of mind.”

While research into the use of ketamine to treat mental health problems is still in its early stages, scientists at Oxford University have said their studies show the drug can provide relief to patients with severe depression “where nothing has helped before”.

Rupert McShane, the consultant psychiatrist who is leading Oxford’s ketamine treatment programme, told The Independent it was “good to see that, contrary to some reports, some older people do respond to ketamine.”

“This study highlights that ketamine can be given in a variety of ways (not just intravenous), that it’s a good idea to adjust the dose, and that the more resistant someone’s depression is, the higher the dose that they are likely to need,” he said.

Professor Loo and her colleagues delivered ketamine to the patients using a small injection under the skin – similar to the insulin jabs given to diabetes patients.

This makes the drug easier and quicker to administer than the intravenous infusions used in other trials, which require a machine pump to regulate the dose and takes up to an hour to complete.

Participants received increasing doses of ketamine over a period of five weeks, with the dose personalised for each patient.

However, she warned that while the research is one step closer to providing a model for how doctors could prescribe ketamine as a treatment for depression in future, it would still be “premature to jump into clinical practice”.

“There are ‘super-responders’, who after a single treatment can be well for several months,” said Professor Loo, giving the example of a subject who, in 2014, remained free of depressive symptoms for five months after just one dose of ketamine.

But “most people are well but then they relapse over around three to seven days,” she said. “That’s where repeated dosing comes in.”

Ketamine Injections May Help Older Adults With Depression

Repeated subcutaneous injections of ketamine significantly improved symptoms in a small group of older adults with treatment-resistant depression, researchers found in a pilot study published online in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

The randomized controlled trial is the first to assess the efficacy and safety of ketamine in the geriatric patient population.

“These findings take us a big step forward as we begin to fully understand the potential and limitations of ketamine’s antidepressant qualities,” said lead author Colleen Loo, MD, a professor in the School of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

Psychiatrists Issue ‘Much-needed’ Consensus on Ketamine for Mood Disorders

“Not only was ketamine well-tolerated by participants, with none experiencing severe or problematic side effects, but giving the treatment by a simple subcutaneous injection (a small injection under the skin) was also shown to be an acceptable method for administering the drug in a safe and effective way.”

Overall, the response and remission rate for older adults receiving ketamine was 68.8%.

Australian researchers tested individualized dosing of ketamine using a dose-titration method in 16 adults age 60 and older. Participants received increasing doses over 5 weeks. The double-blind, placebo-controlled trial included 1 session in which participants received an active treatment substitute that, similar to ketamine, caused sedation.

Why Not Make Ketamine a First-line Treatment?

After the randomized controlled trial, participants received 12 ketamine doses in an open-label phase.

At a 6-month follow-up, 7 of 14 older adults who had completed the randomized controlled trial had depression remission — 5 of whom remitted at doses below the common ketamine dose of 0.5 mg/kg, researchers reported. Repeated treatments, they added, resulted in a higher likelihood of remission or a longer time to relapse.

“Elderly patients with severe depression face additional barriers when seeking treatment for the condition. Many medications may cause more side effects or have lower efficacy as the brain ages,” said researcher Duncan George, MBBS, School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales. “Older people are also more likely to have comorbidities like neurodegenerative disorders and chronic pain, which can cause further complications due to ketamine’s reported side effects.

“Our results indicate a dose-titration method may be particularly useful for older patients, as the best dose was selected for each individual person to maximize ketamine’s benefits while minimizing its adverse side effects.”

—Jolynn Tumolo


George D, Gálvez V, Martin D, et al. Pilot randomized controlled trial of titrated subcutaneous ketamine in older patients with treatment-resistant depression. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 2017 June 13;[Epub ahead of print].

World-first ketamine trial shows promise for geriatric depression [press release]. Sydney, Australia: University of New South Wales; July 24, 2017.


Poster Number: EI 5
Ketamine in Late Life Treatment-Resistant Depression
Erika Heard, MD1
; Yousuf Sohail, MD1
; Anusuiya Nagar, MD1
; Oliver M. Glass, MD2
; Adriana P. Hermida, MD1

Introduction: Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic, which provides antagonism on the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)
receptor. Several studies have demonstrated rapid anti-depressant and anti-suicidal effects from the administration of ketamine
in adult patients but studies in late life patients are lacking. While ketamine may increase sympathetic stimulation and cause
decreased respiratory rate in geriatric patients, it is still nonetheless considered a safe agent. Low-dose intravenous infusion of
ketamine is gaining popularity in the treatment for treatment-resistant depression (TRD) in late life patients. We provide a case
report on a patient in late life who suffered from TRD and was treated with ketamine.
Methods: A case report of the use of intravenous ketamine to treat a geriatric patient with TRD along with a literature review
of the subject.
Results: A 76-year-old female with a history of hypertension and arthritis presented with worsening depressive symptoms for the
past two years. She endorsed neuro-vegetative symptoms of depressed mood, poor appetite, unintentional 25-pound weight loss,
and conflicted feelings about wanting to live. She also reported difficulties with concentration and memory, feelings of
worthlessness, and psychomotor retardation. Her daughter stated she was more vegetative and had a strong desire not to live alone.
QIDS (Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology) baseline was 23. She had previous trials of multiple medications including
paroxetine, fluoxetine, sertraline, escitalopram, buproprion, and venlafaxine. This patient showed poor tolerance to all the
medications and at the time of assessment was taking mirtazapine 7.5 mg and duloxetine 60 mg. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
was recommended; however, the patient was found to be not a good candidate as per anesthesiology due to multiple comorbidities.
As a result, mirtazapine was titrated to 15 mg nightly while duloxentine was continued at 60 mg daily. Patient was started on
intravenous ketamine infusions of 20 mg (0.5 mg/kg) over 40 minutes. Patient tolerated the acute course of ketamine, which was
administered twice per week. Patient and daughter reported clinicial improvement after the first infusion with noticeable
improvement in QIDS (23 to 12) after 6 acute sessions without adverse effects. Improved symptoms included brighter affect,
increased energy, decreased anhedonia, increased daily activity, improved appetite (gained 40lbs), and being more engaged in the
community. Additionally, she began to take care of herself again. She has received 17 ketamine treatments with latest QIDS score of
1. After 6 acute infusion sessions, she was tapered to once per week, then once per 10 days, once per 2 weeks and then to a once
every three week schedule before discontinuing. The patient continued to report improvements. The literature on intravenous
ketamine infusions has shown effectiveness in reducing depressive symptoms in cases of TRD. The patient presented in this study
demonstrates promise of the use of ketamine in late life depression patients. This case also highlights that ketamine can be an
alternative option for elderly patients with TRD who do not qualify for ECT. Within the geriatric population, comorbid medical
conditions and polypharmacy may increase the chance of morbidity and mortality. Ketamine infusions at a low dose must be
monitored closely over a course of time. Therefore, ketamine infusions should only be administered to TRD patients in facilities
where appropriate medical monitoring can occur. Geriatric patients who are given ketamine infusions should be assessed for the
development of dependency, and addiction given its abuse potential. Further research on this novel therapy will yield greater
knowledge of how to best utilize ketamine infusions in geriatric patients.
Conclusions: The literature on intravenous ketamine infusions has shown effectiveness in reducing depressive symptoms in cases of
TRD. Similarly, our patient had a decline in depressive symptoms and a positive outcome. The case highlights that ketamine can be
used as an alternative for the TRD population that may not qualify for ECT. Within the geriatric population, comorbid pathology
and poly-pharmacy increase the chance of morbidity and mortality. Ketamine infusions at a low dose can be a potential treatment if
monitored closely over a course of time. Therefore, ketamine infusions offer a safe and effective alternative option for TRD patients
in psychiatric facilities where close monitoring can occur. Patients on ketamine treatments should be continually monitored for
addiction potential and adverse effects to ketamine infusions, none of which were seen with our current patient. Further research on
this novel therapy will yield greater knowledge of how to best utilize ketamine infusions for the general population and more
specifically for the geriatric subset that encompasses the majority of TRD patients.


Exploring Ketamine Use in Geriatric Patients Suffering From Treatment-Resistant Depression

Introduction: Ketamine is a glutamate NMDA receptor antagonist and is commonly used as an anesthetic. Low-dose
subanesthetic intravenous ketamine is fairly new and an increasingly popular treatment for treatment-resistant depression
(TRD) in the adult population; however, there is a scarcity of evidence of ketamine’s use among geriatric patients. Previously,
psychotropics and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) have been used in the geriatric TRD population. Ketamine provides a
possible new treatment modality for those patients concerned with ECT-induced cognitive effects and may also allow for use in
patients with significant cardiovascular co-morbidities, who would likely not quality for ECT.
Methods: We provide a literature review on the use of ketamine for TRD in the geriatric population.
Results: Studies and case series have shown the use of ketamine as a monotherapy and augmented therapy with
electroconvulsive therapy in the adult and geriatric population. Literature supports efficacy with monotherapy and questionable
benefit from augmentative therapy. Dosing ranges from 0.2 mg/kg to 0.5 mg/kg, with evidence showing remittance with
ketamine dosing less than 0.5 mg/kg. Some studies have shown cognitive protection as compared to other TRD treatment
modalities, while the majority of studies have not thoroughly analyzed systemic adverse risk profiles including cognitive and
cardiovascular effects.

Conclusions: There is evidence in the literature for the use of intravenous ketamine in the TRD geriatric population. Larger
randomized control trials are needed to provided guidance regarding dosing, cognitive and systemic effects, and treatment

USe of Ketamine in agitated delirium in the ELderly:

Treatment of Behavior Disturbances with Ketamine in a Patient Diagnosed with Major Neurocognitive Disorder

Ketamine has been shown to be beneficial for some
depressed patients, but it is not known whether it could
be beneficial for agitated demented patients who are
not depressed.


Augmentation of response and remission to serial intravenous ketamine in TRD

Background: Ketamine has been showing high efficacy and rapid antidepressant effect. However, studies of ketamine infusion wash subjects out from prior antidepressants, which may be impractical in routine practice. In this study, we determined antidepressant response and remission to six consecutive ketamine infusions while maintaining stable doses of antidepressant regimen. We also examined thetrajectory of response and remission, and the time to relapse among responders.

Methods: TRD subjects had at least 2-month period of stable dose of antidepressants. Subjects completed
six IV infusions of 0.5 mg/kg ketamine over 40 min on a Monday–Wednesday–Friday schedule during a
12-day period participants meeting response criteria were monitored for relapse for 4 weeks

Results: Fourteen subjects were enrolled. Out of twelve subjects who completed all six infusions, eleven(91.6%) achieved response criterion while eight (66.6%) remitted. After the first infusion, only three andone out of twelve subjects responded and remitted, respectively. Four achieved response and sixremitted after 3 or more infusions. Five out of eleven subjects remain in response status throughout the 4weeks of follow-up. The mean time for six subjects who relapsed was 16 days.Limitations: Small sample and lack of a placebo group limits the interpretation of efficacy.

Conclusions: Safety and efficacy of repeated ketamine infusions were attained without medication-free state in patients with TRD. Repeated infusions achieved superior antidepressant outcomes as compared to a single infusion with different trajectories of response and remission. Future studies are needed to elucidate neural circuits involved in treatment response to ketamine.



Why Treat Depression besides feeling better? It is associated with increased risk of DEATH:

Anxiety, Depression Linked With Higher Cardiovascular Risk

Adults with mood disorders like anxiety and depression may be more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than people without mental illness, a new study suggests.

Researchers enrolled 221,677 people age 45 and older without any history of heart attack or stroke and tracked them for an average of nearly five years.

More than 90% of participants were ages 45 to 79. In this age group, compared to men without mental health issues at the start, men with moderate psychological distress were 28% more likely to have a heart attack during the study and 20% more likely to have a stroke. Men in this age group with high levels of distress were 60% more likely to have a heart attack and 44% more likely to have a stroke.

Women ages 45 to 79 with moderate psychological problems were 12% more likely to have a heart attack and 28% more likely to have a stroke than women without any mental distress. Women with high psychological distress were 24% more likely to have a heart attack and 68% more likely to have a stroke.

“The stronger association between psychological distress and heart attack in men compared to women could be due to women being more likely than men to seek primary care for mental and physical health problems, thus partly negating the possible physical effects of mental health problems,” said lead study author Caroline Jackson of the University of Edinburgh in the U.K.

“Alternatively, it could reflect the known hormonal protection against heart disease in women since the study population included a large number of younger women,” Jackson said by email. “We did however find a strong association between psychological distress and stroke in women, perhaps suggesting different mechanisms exist between psychological distress and different types of cardiovascular disease in women.”

Overall, the study participants suffered 4,573 heart attacks and 2,421 strokes.

The study wasn’t designed to prove whether or how depression or anxiety might directly cause heart attacks or strokes, researchers note in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality Outcomes.

Another limitation is that researchers assessed psychological factors at a single point in time, making it impossible to know if worsening cardiovascular health contributed to mood disorders or if mental illness caused heart problems.

However, it’s possible that lifestyle factors like poor eating and exercise habits, smoking, or inactivity might independently influence both the risk of mental health problems and heart issues, the study authors note.

“It is also possible that symptoms of depression or anxiety directly affect the body’s physiology through mechanisms such as hormonal pathways, inflammatory processes in arteries and increased risk of blood clotting,” Jackson said. “It is vital that further research seeks to identify the underlying mechanisms so that we can better understand the link between mental health and subsequent physical health and inform intervention strategies.”

Researchers assessed psychological distress using a standard set of questions designed to reveal symptoms of mood disorders. The questions asked, for example, how often people felt tired for no reason, how often they felt restless or fidgety, and how frequently they felt so sad that nothing could cheer them up.

Overall, about 16% of the study participants had moderate psychological distress and roughly 7% had high or very high levels of mental distress.

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2PfAJjd    Psychological Distress and Risk of Myocardial Infarction and Stroke in the 45 and Up Study

Psychological Distress and Risk of MI and stroke in the 45 and up study


Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes 2018.


Psychological distress, physical illness, and risk of coronary heart disease 2005



Resistance Training Reduces Depressive Symptoms

Weightlifting and muscle training significantly reduced depressive symptoms among adults regardless of their age and health status, the amount of training, and whether they grew stronger, researchers found in a meta-analysis.

The study, published online in JAMA Psychiatry, spanned 33 randomized clinical trials with more than 1800 participants.

The best improvement appeared to be in participants with mild or moderate depression, suggesting resistance training could be an alternative or add-on treatment option.

Trivia: How Much Exercise Is Needed to Prevent Depression?

“For general feelings of depression and the beginning phases of major depression, antidepressants and medications may not be very effective. There also is a shift toward finding options that do not require someone to start a drug regimen they may be on for the rest of their lives,” said researcher Jacob Meyer, PhD, assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University in Ames.

“Understanding that resistance training appears to have similar benefits to aerobic exercise may help those wading through daunting traditional medication treatment options.”

The meta-analysis did identify smaller reductions in depressive symptoms in randomized clinical trials with blinded allocation or assessment. Better quality trials that compare resistance training with other proven treatments for depression are needed, researchers advised.

—Jolynn Tumolo


Gordon BR, McDowell CP, Hallgren M, Meyer JD, Lyons M, Herring MP. Association of efficacy of resistance exercise training with depressive symptoms. JAMA Psychiatry. 2018 May 9;[Epub ahead of print].

Motivation to move may start with being mindful [press release]. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University; May 14, 2018.

Resistance exercise training may reduce symptoms of depression. Psychiatric News Alert. May 15, 2018.


Neurologic Changes and Depression

 The assessment of late-life depression with comorbid cognitive impairment can be challenging and requires a clear clinical history and a thorough medical and cognitive assessment.

 There are several neuropsychological changes associated with late-life depression, ranging from subjective cognitive complaints to mild cognitive impairment to dementia.

 Changes on neuroimaging and in several biomarkers (eg, apolipoprotein E e4 allele, beta amyloid, tau, neurotrophins, and so forth) have been associated with late-life depression.

 Multiple psychotherapeutic techniques have been found effective in the treatment of late life depression as well as holistic/nontraditional, pharmacologic, and brain-stimulation


Why Does Ketamine Work?

Ketamine and Ketamine Metabolite Pharmacology Insights into Therapeutic Mechanisms.


Ketamine, a racemic mixture consisting of (S)- and (R)-ketamine, has been in clinical use since 1970. Although best characterized for its dissociative anesthetic properties, ketamine also exerts analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antidepressant actions. We provide a comprehensive review of these therapeutic uses, emphasizing drug dose, route of administration, and the time course of these effects. Dissociative, psychotomimetic, cognitive, and peripheral side effects associated with short-term or prolonged exposure, as well as recreational ketamine use, are also discussed. We further describe ketamine’s pharmacokinetics, including its rapid and extensive metabolism to norketamine, dehydronorketamine, hydroxyketamine, and hydroxynorketamine (HNK) metabolites. Whereas the anesthetic and analgesic properties of ketamine are generally attributed to direct ketamine-induced inhibition of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors, other putative lower-affinity pharmacological targets of ketamine include, but are not limited to, γ-amynobutyric acid (GABA), dopamine, serotonin, sigma, opioid, and cholinergic receptors, as well as voltage-gated sodium and hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated channels. We examine the evidence supporting the relevance of these targets of ketamine and its metabolites to the clinical effects of the drug. Ketamine metabolites may have broader clinical relevance than was previously considered, given that HNK metabolites have antidepressant efficacy in preclinical studies. Overall, pharmacological target deconvolution of ketamine and its metabolites will provide insight critical to the development of new pharmacotherapies that possess the desirable clinical effects of ketamine, but limit undesirable side effects.

Mechanisms of ketamine action as an antidepressant.

Ketamine administration during a critical period after forced ethanol abstinence inhibits the development of time-dependent affective disturbances.

Article Link::

Ketamine administration during a critical period after forced ethanol abstinence inhibits the development of time-dependent affective disturbances

We find
that ketamine prevents the development of affective disturbances
when administered at the onset of forced abstinence, and not
shortly thereafter (2–6 days).Studies suggest that the GluN2B subunit of the N- methyl- Daspartate
(NMDA) receptor participates in regulating affect and in
the antidepressant actions of ketamine [9, 14, 16]. Chronic ethanol
administration and early withdrawal increase expression of
GluN2B in several brain areas, particularly within the central
nucleus of the amygdala and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis
(BNST) [17], both of which are heavily involved in regulating affect
[18–21]. Previously, we found that knockdown of GluN2B-within
the BNST produces antidepressant-like actions similar to ketamine
[22] and that GluN2B is necessary for long-term potentiation (LTP) within the BNST [23]. Furthermore, we have previously shown that
non-contingent chronic intermittent ethanol enhances LTP within
the BNST which is dependent on the GluN2B subunit [23].
However, no studies have looked at LTP within the BNST during
withdrawal after contingent 2-bottle choice ethanol drinking. Here
we show that withdrawal from 2BC ethanol drinking decreases the
early component of LTP within the BNST. Further, administration
of ketamine at the onset of forced abstinence, but not shortly
thereafter (2–6 days) facilitated later LTP induction.

Ketamine administered at the onset of
abstinence, but not 6 days later rescued the STP deficit and overall increased the capacity for plasticity within the BNST. Our results suggest, for the first time to our knowledge, that ketamine may need to be administered at a specific time point during abstinence in order to effectively treat and manage alcohol use dependent affective disturbances. These data thus suggest a “critical period” during which ketamine is effective in preventing the development of alcohol abstinence induced affective


Ketamine and MAG Lipase Inhibitor-Dependent Reversal of Evolving Depressive-Like Behavior During Forced Abstinence From Alcohol Drinking

Introduction: Ketamine has emerged as a safe and effective treatment option for treatment refractory depression (TRD) and
suicidal ideation. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a well established treatment for refractory depression, but this treatment is often deferred or terminated before response due tolerability or medical concerns.
Methods: We present a case series of TRD patients who were unable to receive ECT and offered intravenous ketamine at a dose
of 0.5 mg/kg infused over the course of forty minutes for up 3 treatment sessions within two weeks. Most of these patients
were hospitalized older patients with sufficient medical conditions that increased ECT risks.

Results: Ketamine appears to be a safe and effective alternative for these patients, leading to resolution of suicidality, adherence
to antidepressant treatment, and prompt hospital discharge.

Conclusions: In conclusion, for TRD patients unable to undergo ECT, availability of intravenous ketamine, as an adjunct to
an ECT service, can not only avert the prospect of a prolonged and costly course of hospitalization, but also quickly improve
patients’ quality of life.


Why magnesium is important in treating depression:

Magnesium for treatment-resistant depression A review and hypothesis

Sixty percent of cases of clinical depression are considered to be treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Magnesium-deficiency causes N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) coupled calcium channels to be biased towards opening, causing neuronal injury and neurological dysfunction, which may appear to humans as major depression. Oral administration of magnesium to animals led to anti-depressant-like effects that were comparable to those of strong anti-depressant drugs. Cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) magnesium has been found low in treatment-resistant suicidal depression and in patients that have attempted suicide. Brain magnesium has been found low in TRD using phosphorous nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, an accurate means for measuring brain magnesium. Blood and CSF magnesium do not appear well correlated with major depression. Although the first report of magnesium treatment for agitated depression was published in 1921 showing success in 220 out of 250 cases, and there are modern case reports showing rapid terminating of TRD, only a few modern clinical trials were found. A 2008 randomized clinical trial showed that magnesium was as effective as the tricyclic anti-depressant imipramine in treating depression in diabetics and without any of the side effects of imipramine. Intravenous and oral magnesium in specific protocols have been reported to rapidly terminate TRD safely and without side effects. Magnesium has been largely removed from processed foods, potentially harming the brain. Calcium, glutamate and aspartate are common food additives that may worsen affective disorders. We hypothesize that – when taken together – there is more than sufficient evidence to implicate inadequate dietary magnesium as the main cause of TRD, and that physicians should prescribe magnesium for TRD. Since inadequate brain magnesium appears to reduce serotonin levels, and since anti-depressants have been shown to have the action of raising brain magnesium, we further hypothesize that magnesium treatment will be found beneficial for nearly all depressives, not only TRD.


Does oral administration of ketamine accelerate response to treatment in MDD


Altogether, our results suggest that oral ketamine may be considered as suitable adjuvant to sertraline
in relieving depressive symptoms.

Patients received sertraline (150 mg a day). As an adjuvant, they
received either 50 mg/day ketamine or placebo. Formulation of ketamine capsules used in this study is delineated elsewhere. Different doses of oral ketamine have been used in previous studies; a number of studies have used a fixed dose 0.5 mg/kg or 150 mg/day (Irwin et al., 2013; Jafarinia et al., 2016) whereas others titrated the drug in a rangefrom 0.5 mg/kg to 0.7 mg/kg or 25–300 mg/day (Al Shirawi et al., 2017; Hartberg et al., 2017). The frequency of administration also varies from once daily usage to three times a day (Irwin et al., 2013;
Jafarinia et al., 2016). For IV administration, previous trials recommendan injection once every two or three days (Andrade, 2017).
Here, we used ketamine as an adjuvant and thus a fixed low dose was chosen to minimize adverse effects. Sertraline was initiated at 25 mg/day and increased by 25 mg every three days. The maximum dose reached 150 mg. Ketamine prescription started with initial dose ofsertraline and was prescribed at 25 mg twice daily. During the course of the trial, patients were not allowed to participate in psychotherapeutic sessions or receive any other medication, such as other antidepressants, anxiolytics or hypnotics. They were followed for six weeks and were asked to inform their therapist in case they experienced any adverse effects. Vital signs were recorded and physical examination was performed at the screening session and at each of the post-baseline visits. Upon high clinical suspicion for cardiovascular disease, electrocardiogram monitoring was performed and positive findings were excluded.

Ketamine IV reduces depression in Adolescents |703-844-0184 | Ketamine therapy for Anxiety and Depression| IV Ketamine for depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and others | Ketamine therapy for depression | 703-844-0184 | Fairfax, Va 22304 |

NOVA Health Recovery  <<< Ketamine Treatment Center Fairfax, Virginia

CAll 703-844-0184 for an immediate appointment to evaluate you for a Ketamine infusion:

Ketaminealexandria.com    703-844-0184 Call for an infusion to treat your depression. PTSD, Anxiety, CRPS, or other pain disorder today.

email@novahealthrecovery.com  << Email for questions to the doctor

Ketamine center in Fairfax, Virginia    << Ketamine infusions

Ketamine – NOVA Ketamine facebook page – ketamine treatment for depression

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NOVA Health Recovery  << Ketamine clinic Fairfax, Va  – Call 703-844-0184 for an appointment – Fairfax, Virginia

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Ketamine doctors in Fairfax, Va | 703-844-0184

Below is a recent study regarding the treatment of adolescents with Ketamine for refractory depression. There seems to be good success and longer lasting results:

Intravenous Ketamine for Adolescents with Treatment-Resistant Depression: An Open-Label Study

The average response rate in published studies testing ketamine for adult TRD is 67% (Wan et al. 2015), which is considerably higher than TRD interventions (e.g., the average response rate for transcranial magnetic stimulation is 45%
(Conelea et al. 2017).

Background: Novel interventions for treatment-resistant depression (TRD) in adolescents are urgently needed. Ketamine has been studied in adults with TRD, but little information is available for adolescents. This study investigated efficacy and tolerability of intravenous ketamine in adolescents with TRD, and explored clinical response predictors.

Methods: Adolescents, 12–18 years of age, with TRD (failure to respond to two previous antidepressant trials) were administered six ketamine (0.5 mg/kg) infusions over 2 weeks. Clinical response was defined as a 50% decrease in Children’s Depression Rating Scale-Revised (CDRS-R); remission was CDRS-R score ≤28. Tolerability assessment included monitoring vital signs and dissociative symptoms using the Clinician-Administered Dissociative States Scale (CADSS).

Results: Thirteen participants (mean age 16.9 years, range 14.5–18.8 years, eight biologically male) completed the protocol. Average decrease in CDRS-R was 42.5% (p = 0.0004). Five (38%) adolescents met criteria for clinical response. Three responders showed sustained remission at 6-week follow-up; relapse occurred within 2 weeks for the other two responders. Ketamine infusions were generally well tolerated; dissociative symptoms and hemodynamic symptoms were transient. Higher dose was a significant predictor of treatment response.

Conclusions: These results demonstrate the potential role for ketamine in treating adolescents with TRD. Limitations include the open-label design and small sample; future research addressing these issues are needed to confirm these results. Additionally, evidence suggested a dose–response relationship; future studies are needed to optimize dose. Finally, questions remain regarding the long-term safety of ketamine as a depression treatment; more information is needed before broader clinical use.

Intravenous Ketamine for Adolescents – PDF


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Ketamine IV reduces suicidal thinking in depressed patients |703-844-0184 | Ketamine therapy for Anxiety and Depression| IV Ketamine for depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and others | Ketamine therapy for depression | 703-844-0184 | Fairfax, Va 22304 |

NOVA Health Recovery  <<< Ketamine Treatment Center Fairfax, Virginia

CAll 703-844-0184 for an immediate appointment to evaluate you for a Ketamine infusion:

Ketaminealexandria.com    703-844-0184 Call for an infusion to treat your depression. PTSD, Anxiety, CRPS, or other pain disorder today.

email@novahealthrecovery.com  << Email for questions to the doctor

Ketamine center in Fairfax, Virginia    << Ketamine infusions

Ketamine – NOVA Ketamine facebook page – ketamine treatment for depression

facebook Ketamine page

NOVA Health Recovery  << Ketamine clinic Fairfax, Va  – Call 703-844-0184 for an appointment – Fairfax, Virginia

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Ketamine has much support in the use of hard-to-treat depression and suicidal behaviors. Below are studies and their links, including a meta-analysis, which demonstrate the effect of Ketamine. Also a recent trial by Carlos Zarate shows the heterogenous nature of response to Ketamine . It is difficult to say who is going to be lifted from their depression completely or partially respond, but in the study, Dr. Zarate showed that patients with a long history of suicidal thinking and self-harm will have less of a response in some cases.

NOVA Health Recovery | 703-844-0184 | Fairfax, Virginia 22304
NOVA Health Recovery | 703-844-0184 | Fairfax, Virginia 22304

Intravenous ketamine may rapidly reduce suicidal thinking in depressed patients << Article link 

Intravenous ketamine may rapidly reduce suicidal thinking in depressed patients

Repeat intravenous treatment with low doses of the anesthetic drug ketamine quickly reduced suicidal thoughts in a small group of patients with treatment-resistant depression. In their report receiving Online First publication in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, a team of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators report the results of their study in depressed outpatients who had been experiencing suicidal thought for three months or longer.

“Our finding that low doses of ketamine, when added on to current antidepressant medications, quickly decreased suicidal thinking in depressed patients is critically important because we don’t have many safe, effective, and easily available treatments for these patients,” says Dawn Ionescu, MD, of the Depression Clinical and Research Program in the MGH Department of Psychiatry, lead and corresponding author of the paper. “While several previous studies have shown that ketamine quickly decreases symptoms of depression in patients with treatment-resistant depression, many of them excluded patients with current suicidal thinking.”

It is well known that having suicidal thoughts increases the risk that patients will attempt suicide, and the risk for suicide attempts is 20 times higher in patients with depression than the general population. The medications currently used to treat patients with suicidal thinking — including lithium and clozapine — can have serious side effects, requiring careful monitoring of blood levels; and while electroconvulsive therapy also can reduce suicidal thinking, its availability is limited and it can have significant side effects, including memory loss.

Primarily used as a general anesthetic, ketamine has been shown in several studies to provide rapid relief of symptoms of depression. In addition to excluding patients who reported current suicidal thinking, many of those studies involved only a single ketamine dose. The current study was designed not only to examine the antidepressant and antisuicidal effects of repeat, low-dose ketamine infusions in depressed outpatients with suicidal thinking that persisted in spite of antidepressant treatment, but also to examine the safety of increased ketamine dosage.

The study enrolled 14 patients with moderate to severe treatment-resistant depression who had suicidal thoughts for three months or longer. After meeting with the research team three times to insure that they met study criteria and were receiving stable antidepressant treatment, participants received two weekly ketamine infusions over a three-week period. The initial dosage administered was 0.5 mg/kg over a 45 minute period — about five times less than a typical anesthetic dose — and after the first three doses, it was increased to 0.75 mg/kg. During the three-month follow-up phase after the ketamine infusions, participants were assessed every other week.

The same assessment tools were used at each visit before, during and after the active treatment phase. At the treatment visits they were administered about 4 hours after the infusions were completed. The assessments included validated measures of suicidal thinking, in which patients were directly asked to rank whether they had specific suicide-related thoughts, their frequency and intensity.

While only 12 of the 14 enrolled participants completed all treatment visits — one dropped out because of ketamine side effects and one had a scheduling conflict — most of them experienced a decrease in suicidal thinking, and seven achieved complete remission of suicidal thoughts at the end of the treatment period. Of those seven participants, two maintained remission from both suicidal thinking and depression symptoms throughout the follow-up period. While there were no serious adverse events at either dose and no major differences in side effects between the two dosage levels, additional studies in larger groups of patients are required before any conclusions can be drawn.

“In order to qualify for this study, patients had to have suicidal thinking for at least three months, along with persistent depression, so the fact that they experienced any reduction in suicidal thinking, let alone remission, is very exciting,” says Ionescu, who is an instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “We only studied intravenous ketamine, but this result opens the possibility for studying oral and intranasal doses, which may ease administration for patients in suicidal crises.”

She adds, “One main limitation of our study was that all participants knew they were receiving ketamine. We are now finishing up a placebo-controlled study that we hope to have results for soon. Looking towards the future, studies that aim to understand the mechanism by which ketamine and its metabolites work for people with suicidal thinking and depression may help us discover areas of the brain to target with new, even better therapeutic drugs.”


Rapid and Sustained Reductions in Current Suicidal Ideation Following Repeated Doses of Intravenous Ketamine: Secondary Analysis of an Open-Label Study  << Article in Clinical Psychiatry

Ketamine for Rapid Reduction of Suicidal Thoughts in Major Depression: A Midazolam-Controlled Randomized Clinical Trial Article link for below:

Ketamine was significantly more effective than a commonly used sedative in reducing suicidal thoughts in depressed patients, according to researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). They also found that ketamine’s anti-suicidal effects occurred within hours after its administration.

The findings were published online last week in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates in the U.S. increased by 26.5 percent between 1999 and 2015.

“There is a critical window in which depressed patients who are suicidal need rapid relief to prevent self-harm,” said Michael Grunebaum, MD, a research psychiatrist at CUMC, who led the study. “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.”

Most antidepressant trials have excluded patients with suicidal thoughts and behavior, limiting data on the effectiveness of antidepressants in this population. However, previous studies have shown that low doses of ketamine, an anesthetic drug, causes a rapid reduction in depression symptoms and may be accompanied by a decrease in suicidal thoughts.

The 80 depressed adults with clinically significant suicidal thoughts who enrolled in this study were randomly assigned to receive an infusion of low-dose ketamine or midazolam, a sedative. Within 24 hours, the ketamine group had a clinically significant reduction in suicidal thoughts that was greater than with the midazolam group. The improvement in suicidal thoughts and depression in the ketamine group appeared to persist for up to six weeks.

Those in the ketamine group also had greater improvement in overall mood, depression, and fatigue compared with the midazolam group. Ketamine’s effect on depression accounted for approximately one-third of its effect on suicidal thoughts, suggesting the treatment has a specific anti-suicidal effect.

Side effects, mainly dissociation (feeling spacey) and an increase in blood pressure during the infusion, were mild to moderate and typically resolved within minutes to hours after receiving ketamine.

“This study shows that ketamine offers promise as a rapidly acting treatment for reducing suicidal thoughts in patients with depression,” said Dr. Grunebaum. “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.”

Ketamine for Rapid Reduction of Suicidal Thoughts in major depression – A midazolam controlled trial PDF article

Ketamine for depression | PTSD | 703-844-0184 | NOVA Health Recovery | Fairfax, Virginia 22304
Ketamine for depression | PTSD | 703-844-0184 | NOVA Health Recovery | Fairfax, Virginia 22304


Ketamine as a Potential Treatment for Suicidal Ideation A Systematic Review of the Literature 2015

Objective To review the published literature on the efficacy
of ketamine for the treatment of suicidal ideation (SI).
Methods The PubMed and Cochrane databases were
searched up to January 2015 for clinical trials and case
reports describing therapeutic ketamine administration to
patients presenting with SI/suicidality. Searches were also
conducted for relevant background material regarding the
pharmacological function of ketamine.
Results Nine publications (six studies and three case
reports) met the search criteria for assessing SI after
administration of subanesthetic ketamine. There were no
studies examining the effect on suicide attempts or death
by suicide. Each study demonstrated a rapid and clinically
significant reduction in SI, with results similar to previously
described data on ketamine and treatment-resistant
depression. A total of 137 patients with SI have been
reported in the literature as receiving therapeutic ketamine.
Seven studies delivered a dose of 0.5 mg/kg intravenously
over 40 min, while one study administered a 0.2 mg/kg
intravenous bolus and another study administered a liquid
suspension. The earliest significant results were seen after
40 min, and the longest results were observed up to
10 days postinfusion.
Conclusion Consistent with clinical research on ketamine
as a rapid and effective treatment for depression, ketamine
has shown early preliminary evidence of a reduction in
depressive symptoms, as well as reducing SI, with minimal
short-term side effects. Additional studies are needed to
further investigate its mechanism of action, long-term
outcomes, and long-term adverse effects (including abuse)
and benefits. In addition, ketamine could potentially be
used as a prototype for further development of rapid-acting
antisuicidal medication with a practical route of administration
and the most favorable risk/benefit ratio.
Key Points
Preliminary data from randomized controlled trials
have demonstrated that ketamine may rapidly and
effectively control treatment-resistant depression,
though the effects are transient.
A small subset of studies has demonstrated similar
results in the effects of ketamine on suicidal ideation.
Ketamine has potential as a rapid treatment for
suicidal ideation and/or a possible model compound
for future drug development.

4 Discussion
With an estimated prevalence of mood disorders ranging
from 3.3 to 21.4 % and the substantially increased risk of
suicide among patients with mood disorders, treatment is
certainly warranted [19]. Current treatment options for
suicidality are limited. They include brain stimulation
therapeutics, such as ECT, and pharmacological intervention
(lithium, clozapine). The efficacy of lithium in treating
suicidality has been documented [20, 21] and has recently been reviewed and pooled in a recent meta-analysis of 48
studies [22]. Clozapine has also been shown to reduce
suicide risk in patients with schizophrenia [23, 24]. The
limitations of both lithium and clozapine include a longer
time to efficacy in this psychiatric emergency/urgency,
compared with the early response to ketamine [25]. Ketamine
seems to be gaining substantial evidence as a pharmacological
option for depression with a fast onset of
action, but its long-term effects need further investigation.
In addition, ketamine probably offers a faster onset of
action in terms of SI, but further work is certainly needed
in this area. Given the risk of suicide and even the
increasing rates of suicide in certain subgroups, such as
soldiers and veterans [26, 27], there is an urgent need for
faster therapeutics for SI and TRD. Importantly, suicidality
and suicide pose a high global burden of patient suffering
to families and society. Although several small-to-moderate
sized studies, in addition to several reviews, have been
published that have examined the efficacy of ketamine in
TRD, there are considerably fewer published data
specifically examining ketamine in patients presenting with
SI. Notably, only three studies have directly examined SI
as the primary outcome [11, 16, 17], while the rest
examined SI as the secondary outcome [4, 15, 18], not
including case reports. This review summarizes the current
published literature regarding ketamine as a treatment for
SI. The data so far show promising trends of ketamine
being an effective and rapid treatment with minimal side
Pharmacologically, ketamine is an N-methyl-D-aspartate
(NMDA) receptor antagonist. It has been used for anesthesia
in the USA since the 1970s. At subanesthetic doses,
ketamine has been shown to increase glutamate levels [3].
This mechanism is relevant, as glutamate regulation and
expression are altered in patients with major depressive
disorder (MDD). Studies have also demonstrated an
abnormal glutamate–glutamine–gamma-aminobutyric acid
cycle in patients with suicidality [28]. Furthermore, ketamine
has also been shown to work on nicotinic and opioid
receptors [29]. No other class of antidepressant medication
works to modulate the glutamatergic system, and research
continues into this, with the goal of characterizing the full
mechanism of action of ketamine and perhaps developing
other compounds that would have similar effects. Thus,
even if the approval and marketing of ketamine as a rapidacting
antisuicidal and antidepressant medication is not
realized, it could well be a prototype for development of
other medication(s) that retain the mechanism of action
with more favorable qualities and a lesser adverse effect
profile (such as a longer duration of action or less or no
addictive potential). Although the mechanisms explaining
the antisuicidal effect and the NMDA receptor antagonism
of ketamine are still unclear, some of the initial evidence
points to an anti-inflammatory action via the kynurenic
acid pathway. Strong suggestions as to the causal relationship
between inflammation and depression/suicidality
has come from studies demonstrating that cytokines [30,
31] and interferon-b [32] induce depression and suicidality.
Other recent studies have added to the notion of implicating
brain immune activation in the pathogenesis of suicidality.
For instance, one study showed microglial
activation of postmortem brain tissue in suicide victims
[33]. Another study found increased levels of the cytokine
interleukin-6 in cerebrospinal fluid from patients who had
attempted suicide [34]. Higher levels of inflammatory
markers have been shown in suicidal patients than in nonsuicidal
depressed patients [33, 35]. Inflammation leads to
production of both quinolinic acid (an NMDA agonist) and
kynurenic acid (a NMDA antagonist). An increased
quinolinic acid to kynurenic acid ratio leads to NMDA
receptor stimulation. The correlation between quinolinic
acid and Suicide Intent Scale scores indicates that changes
in glutamatergic neurotransmission could be specifically
linked to suicidality [36].
Small randomized controlled trials have demonstrated
the efficacy of ketamine in rapidly treating patients with
both TRD and/or bipolar depression [4, 8, 9, 11, 16–18].
Some studies have also examined suicide items as a secondary
measure in their depression rating scales [4, 7]. In
total, the studies examining ketamine and TRD have nearly
consistently demonstrated that ketamine provides relief
from depressive and suicidal symptoms, starting at 40 min
and lasting for as long as 5 days. Questions still remain as
to the long-term effects of this treatment, how much should
be administered and how often, any serious adverse effects,
and the mechanism of action.
Pharmacologically, ketamine has poor bioavailability
and is best administered via injection [37]. In their landmark
study, Berman et al. [4] found that a subanesthetic
dose (0.5 mg/kg) rapidly improved depressive symptoms.
Most of the subsequent studies have delivered ketamine as
a constant infusion for 40 min at a rate of 0.5 mg/kg.
Others have examined its efficacy after multiple infusions
and observed similar results [8, 13, 16, 38]. Currently, it is
recommended that ketamine be administered in a hospital
setting [39].


Characterizing the course of suicidal ideation response to ketamine

Characterizing the course of suicidal ideation response to ketamine PDF

2018 article from Carlos Zarate discussing the variable course outcomes with Ketamine for suicidality and correlations to serum markers and behavior and longevity of self-harm prior to treatment:


Background: : No pharmacological treatments exist for active suicidal ideation (SI), but the glutamatergic
modulator ketamine elicits rapid changes in SI. We developed data-driven subgroups of SI trajectories after
ketamine administration, then evaluated clinical, demographic, and neurobiological factors that might predict SI
response to ketamine.
Methods: : Data were pooled from five clinical ketamine trials. Treatment-resistant inpatients (n = 128) with
DSM-IV-TR-diagnosed major depressive disorder (MDD) or bipolar depression received one subanesthetic
(0.5 mg/kg) ketamine infusion over 40 min. Composite SI variable scores were analyzed using growth mixture
modeling to generate SI response classes, and class membership predictors were evaluated using multinomial
logistic regressions. Putative predictors included demographic variables and various peripheral plasma markers.
Results: : The best-fitting growth mixture model comprised three classes: Non-Responders (29%), Responders
(44%), and Remitters (27%). For Responders and Remitters, maximal improvements were achieved by Day 1.
Improvements in SI occurred independently of improvements in a composite Depressed Mood variable for
Responders, and partially independently for Remitters. Indicators of chronic SI and self-injury were associated
with belonging to the Non-Responder group. Higher levels of baseline plasma interleukin-5 (IL-5) were linked to
Remitters rather than Responders.
Limitations: : Subjects were not selected for active suicidal thoughts; findings only extend to Day 3; and plasma,
rather than CSF, markers were used.
Conclusion: : The results underscore the heterogeneity of SI response to ketamine and its potential independence
from changes in Depressed Mood. Individuals reporting symptoms suggesting a longstanding history of chronic
SI were less likely to respond or remit post-ketamine.

1. Introduction
Suicide poses a serious threat to public health. Worldwide, suicide
accounts for approximately 1 million deaths, and 10 million suicide
attempts are reported annually (World Health Organization, 2014). In
the United States, the national suicide rate has increased by approximately
28% over the last 15 years (Curtin et al., 2016). At the same
time, relatively few interventions for suicide risk exist. While treatments
such as clozapine and lithium have demonstrated effects on
suicidal behavior over weeks to months, these effects may be limited to
specific diagnoses (Cipriani et al., 2005; Griffiths et al., 2014). Currently,
no FDA-approved medications exist to treat suicidal ideation
(SI), leaving those who experience a suicidal crisis with limited options
for a reprieve of symptoms. Consequently, a critical need exists for
rapid-acting treatments that can be used in emergency settings.
A promising off-label agent for this purpose is the rapid-acting antidepressant
ketamine, which past studies have suggested reduces suicidal
thoughts (Diazgranados et al., 2010a; Murrough et al., 2015; Price
et al., 2009). A recent meta-analysis of 167 patients with a range of
mood disorder diagnoses found that ketamine reduced suicidal
thoughts compared to placebo as rapidly as within a few hours, with
effects lasting as long as seven days (Wilkinson et al., 2017). These
results are reinforced by newer findings of reduced active suicidal
ideation post-ketamine compared to a midazolam control(Grunebaum et al., 2018). As the efficacy literature develops in the era
of personalized medicine, two important issues must be addressed.
First, little is known about the acute course of SI following ketamine.
The speed with which antidepressant response occurs, and how much
improvement can be expected on average, has been documented for
single administrations of ketamine (Mathew et al., 2012; Sanacora
et al., 2017); in the limited available literature, researchers have
emulated previous studies examining antidepressant effect, where a
cutoff of 50% improvement demarcated response (Nierenberg and
DeCecco, 2001). Nevertheless, it remains unknown whether this categorization
accurately reflects the phenomenon of suicidal thoughts.
Empirically-derived approaches to the description of SI trajectory after
ketamine may be useful in operationalizing “response” in future clinical
Second, identifying demographic, clinical, or biological predictors
of SI response to ketamine would allow researchers and clinicians to
determine who is most likely to exhibit an SI response to ketamine. A
broad literature describes clinical and demographic predictors for suicide
risk (Franklin et al., 2017), and a smaller literature connects suicidal
thoughts and behaviors to plasma markers such as brain-derived
neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and cytokines (Bay-Richter et al., 2015;
Falcone et al., 2010; Isung et al., 2012; Serafini et al., 2017; Serafini
et al., 2013). However, no biomarkers have been shown to predict SI/
behavior response to intervention, a finding reinforced by the National
Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Research Prioritization Task
Force’s Portfolio Analysis (National Action Alliance for Suicide
Prevention: Research Prioritization Task Force, 2015). Notably, predictor
analyses have the potential to reveal insights into personalized
treatments for suicidal individuals, as well as the neurobiology of SI
response. With respect to antidepressant response, for example, this
approach yielded the observation that individuals with a family history
of alcohol dependence may be more likely to exhibit an antidepressant
response to ketamine (Krystal et al., 2003; Niciu et al., 2014; PermodaOsip
et al., 2014).
The goals of this study were to elucidate trajectories of SI response
and identify predictors of that response, with the ultimate goal of
adding to the growing literature surrounding ketamine’s specific effects
on SI. In particular, we sought to determine whether the heterogeneous
patterns of change in SI after ketamine administration were better explained
by a model with two or more latent groups of trajectories rather
than a single average trajectory, using secondary analyses from previously
published clinical trials. These classes were then used to evaluate
potential clinical, demographic, and plasma biomarker predictors
of SI response to ketamine in order to generate hypotheses.. Discussion
This analysis used a data-driven approach to characterize SI response
to ketamine. The data were best explained by three trajectory
classes: one with severe average baseline SI and little to no response to
ketamine (Non-Responders), one with moderate average baseline levels
of SI and significant response to ketamine (Responders), and a third
with moderate average baseline levels of SI and complete remission of
SI by two days post-ketamine (Remitters). These findings suggest a
diversity of post-ketamine changes in SI that may not be captured under
traditional methods of categorizing response to treatment.
Furthermore, we found evidence that SI response and antidepressant
response could be distinguished from each other; one subset of participants
experienced improvement in SI that was partially explained by
improvements in Depressed Mood, while the other group’s improvements
in SI occurred independently of antidepressant response. With
regard to predictors of SI response trajectory, preliminary results suggest
the individuals least likely to experience improvement in SI postketamine
were those with the most severe SI and a history of self-injury.
Few plasma markers emerged as predictors of SI response in this study,
highlighting the limitations of connecting SI ratings of response with
biological markers.
The growth mixture modeling approach used here underscored the
heterogeneity of SI response to ketamine, which would not have been
captured by simply calculating the average trajectory. The class assignment
from this approach also differed from the definition of response
(50% reduction in symptoms) traditionally used in the antidepressant
literature, which often focuses on a specific timepoint rather
than the entire symptom trajectory. In comparing classification using a
50% response at Day 1 and Day 3 with the latent trajectory classes, we
found representation of almost every SI class across each responder
group, highlighting the potential limitations of the 50% response approach.
Further study is needed to determine which of these approaches
will prove more fruitful. Complete remission of SI has previously been
used as an outcome measure in clinical trials and in a meta-analysis of
ketamine’s efficacy (Grunebaum et al., 2017; Grunebaum et al., 2018;
Wilkinson et al., 2017), as well as in a study examining the relationship
between SI response to ketamine and changes in nocturnal wakefulness
(Vande Voort et al., 2017). One strength of the present study is that this
data-driven approach provides classifications that directly reflect the
phenomena under study as they are, as opposed to what they should be.
Especially when used in larger samples than the current study, this
approach is particularly promising in its ability to provide a more
nuanced understanding of the nature of SI response to ketamine.
Our results also support the idea that SI response in particular can target. First, it should be noted here that SI classes were not distinguishable
by baseline Depressed Mood scores; patients with the most
severe SI did not differ meaningfully in Depressed Mood scores from
those with the mildest SI. Second, while previous analyses of these data
documented that BMI and family history of alcohol dependence predicted
antidepressant response (Niciu et al., 2014), SI response was not
associated with these variables in the current analysis. Third, the antidepressant
response profiles of the SI classes suggest that SI response
and antidepressant response are not wholly redundant. This aligns with
previous clinical trials and meta-analytic reviews of the literature suggesting
that SI response to ketamine occurs partially independently of
antidepressant response (Grunebaum et al., 2018; Wilkinson et al.,
2017). Nevertheless, this independence did not hold true across both SI
response groups. Specifically, antidepressant and SI response were
clearly linked in Remitters, with depression accounting for half of the
changes in SI; however, in Responders, improvements in SI occurred
independently from improvements in Depressed Mood. These discrepancies
could be related to ketamine’s complex neurobiological
mechanisms or to the potentially low levels of clinical severity observed
in the Remitters.
Interestingly, the current analyses found no baseline demographic
variables that reliably distinguished Responders from Remitters. Some
phenotypic characteristics were uniquely associated with belonging to
the Non-Responder group, suggesting that a long-standing history of
self-injury or SI may indicate resistance to rapid changes in SI.
Relatedly, a recent, randomized clinical trial of repeat-dose ketamine
compared to placebo found that ketamine had no effect on SI in a
sample of patients selected for their longstanding, chronic history of SI
(Ionescu, 2017). These results highlight the importance of patient selection,
particularly for suicide risk. It should be stressed, however, that
SI does not necessarily translate to suicidal attempts or deaths; to our
knowledge, no study has yet linked ketamine with reduced risk of
suicidal behavior. Indeed, in the present study the SI Non-Responders
experienced limited antidepressant effects in response to ketamine, but
may nevertheless have improved on other, unmeasured symptoms that
could provide important benefit and relief. As the ketamine literature
develops, it will be important to identify which clinical symptom profiles
are most likely to have a robust anti-SI and anti-suicidal behavior
response to ketamine and which ones may benefit from other interventions.
While we evaluated a range of potential plasma markers previously
linked to suicidal ideation and behavior, in the present analysis only IL5
was associated with the SI Responder subgroup. Ketamine is known to
have anti-inflammatory effects (Zunszain et al., 2013), but the relationship
between antidepressant response and change in cytokine
levels remains unclear (Park et al., 2017). Cytokines have been linked
to suicidal behavior in the past; a recent meta-analysis found that lower
levels of IL-2 and IL-4, and higher levels of TGFbeta, were associated
with suicidal thoughts and behaviors (Serafini et al., 2013); however, toour knowledge IL-5 has not previously been linked to SI. Given the large
number of comparisons and lack of precedent in the literature, this
result may have been spurious and should be interpreted with caution.
A number of other results may reflect meaningful relationships, but the
high degree of variability—and the associated wide confidence intervals—suggests
that larger sample sizes are needed to better elucidate
the nature of any such relationships (e.g. baseline VEGF: χ2 = 6.13,
p = .05, but OR (95% CI) 13.33 (0.93–200.00)). Somewhat surprisingly,
plasma BDNF levels were not associated with responder class.
Previous studies of bipolar, but not MDD, samples found that plasma
BDNF levels were associated with SI response after ketamine
(Grunebaum, 2017; Grunebaum et al., 2017), suggesting that the mixed
diagnostic composition of this study may explain differences from
previous work. Studies exploring the relationship between BDNF and
antidepressant response to ketamine have also yielded mixed findings
(Haile et al., 2014; Machado-Vieira et al., 2009). Other data-driven
approaches have considered both biological and behavioral variables in
characterizing depression (Drysdale et al., 2017); a similar approach
might prove useful for predicting SI response.
The present study is associated with several strengths as well as
limitations. Strengths include the relatively large sample size of participants
who received ketamine, the use of composite SI scores from
previous exploratory factor analyses as opposed to individual items,
and the combination of clinical and biological markers as potential
predictors of class membership. Limitations include patient selection
methods, as these patients were part of an antidepressant trial and were
not selected for active suicidal thoughts, as well as the exploratory
nature of the analysis. As stated above, suicidal thoughts do not necessarily
equate to suicidal behavior, and class membership would thus
not necessarily correspond with an overall reduction in suicide risk.
Another limitation is that results were collapsed across several clinical
trials with slight variations in study design, and findings were thus only
extended to Day 3 rather than a week after ketamine administration. As
a result, only a subset of the sample could be used for predictive analyses.
In addition, plasma—rather than CSF—markers were used, and
the latter might better indicate underlying biology due to proximity to
the brain, though certain markers such as plasma BDNF may be related
to platelet storage, rather than the brain (Chacón-Fernández et al.,
2016). Comparison of results to trajectories of suicide-specific measures,
such as the Scale for Suicide Ideation (Beck et al., 1979), may also
give further insight into specific SI content. Finally, many clinical
predictors were collected upon hospital admission; future analyses
could use formal assessments, such as the Childhood Traumatic Questionnaire
(Bernstein et al., 1994), assessment of personality disorders,
or diagnoses such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as potential
indicators of response.
Despite these limitations, the study demonstrates the utility of a
data-driven approach for characterizing the heterogeneity of SI response
to a rapid-acting intervention. This allows for a more finegrained
analysis of symptoms than would be permitted by traditionalapproaches, such as overall average response or dichotomization at
50% reduction in symptoms. This study identified several findings of
note. These included distinguishing at least three patterns of SI response
to ketamine and finding that subjects who exhibited more severe SI at
baseline were not likely to experience an SI response to ketamine.

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